11 years ago, The Smashing Pumpkins decided to call it a day, and I caught them on their Sacred & Profane tour on Halloween night at the Manchester Apollo. It felt quite special to be part of the experience that was supposed to be the end of one of the biggest alternative acts of the ’90’s.

Until Billy Corgan decided that SP was to be resurrected some time in 2007. Great.

Saw them again, this time sans Iha and MadM, and with the new guys Jeff Schroeder and Ginger Reyes, at Notts Arena in 2008 during which time Corgan threw a hissy fit leaving us stumped halfway down the set. I think at that point, I probably had deleted all my Pumpkins tracks on iTunes. Bukammaen marah!.

I guess when I heard SP was returning to the UK this year and playing a club-sized venue in Sheffield, it was like “all is forgiven”, despite Corgan now being the sole original member of the band. Even Ginger left following dropping a sprog. Now, we see Mike Byrne on drums, and the delectable Nicole Fiorentino on bass duties (saw this tagline on Twitter or FB – ‘Smashing Pumpkins: employer of pretty female bassists since 1988’).

Now, the problem of the throwing of my own hissy fit after that fateful Notts gig was that I was ill-prepared, setlist-wise, for this show. They kicked off early (they did the same at the last 2 SP shows I’ve been to) with a new track. And then they played another new one. It was then that I realised that if the band started playing obscure B-sides (or even that unfamiliar track 9 from that 11-track record), I’d be none the wiser. That’s exactly what happened when they played Starla from Pieces Iscariot, I was like, “Hmm, must be another new one”.

Corgan didn’t say much, if anything at all. Then came the surprise early on – flippin’ Geek USA, man! I felt like dancing like those clowns in that vid. Not surprisingly, a moshpit of sorts started somewhere inthe middle, made up of late 30-sumthings that didn’t look like they were of the grunge generation. Muzzle from the Mellon Collie was another pleasant surprise which they played soon after.

Nicole and Mike seemed to fit right in, and it didn’t take long before I didn’t mind that this is SP Mk IV that I am watching playing live. Mike didn’t have that flitting jazziness of Chamberlin’s drumming but he was one solid drummer nonetheless. Window Paine was another one that I thought was new. Hah. By this time, I began to stop guessing. To give them credit, as much as Corgan et al. were playing tracks from their upcoming record, Oceania, and their concept album, Teargarden by Kaleidyscope (available free from their official site), a sizeable number of songs on the evening’s setlist were from their existing back catalogue, but only up to their Mellon Collie record. I was more enthralled with their Siamese Dream revisits like the calming Soma and the incendiary Silverfuck. And they had to end the main set with Cherub Rock. What more can you ask for, eh?

Sheffield must’ve been good, because thankfully, the band re-emerged for an encore of Zero and Bullet With Butterfly Wings. At the end of the set, Corgan came up to both corners of the stage, gesturing his thanks to the punters, who in turn reciprocated with a resounding applause of appreciation. Only those in the middle of the O2 managed to grab the picks Corgan threw to the crowd, though.

A few days later, I listened to an interview of Corgan with Zane Lowe on Radio 1. In it, Corgan gave his frank appraisal of how he does things and how he has been playing every single instrument bar the drums for the SP records. Have a listen and see what you think.

Photos from my Flickr here.

O2 Academy, Sheffield set 18.11.11: Quasar / Panopticon / Starla / Geek U.S.A. / Muzzle / Window Paine / Lightning Strikes / Soma / Siva / Oceania / Frail and Bedazzled / Silverfuck / Pinwheels / Pale Horse / Thru the Eyes of Ruby (+ “I am One” pre-solo breakdown + solo) / Cherub Rock // [Encore] Zero / Bullet With Butterfly Wings