The Smashing Pumpkins are a smash hit at Bridgestone Arena

The psychedelic rock band delivered a surprisingly philosophical set during their Nashville stop.

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Miguel Beristain

Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlin perform at the Bridgestone, captured on Oct. 10, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Miguel Beristain)

Abigail Kwon

Picture a piece of creamy white paper that’s been crumpled up, run over by a pickup truck, thrown in a cycle of laundry, dried in the sun and smoothed out. That is precisely the sound of The Smashing Pumpkins. The 34-year-old rock band delivered a gritty, authentic and captivating show at the Bridgestone Arena on Oct. 10th—it was anything but what I had expected.

As a self-identifying Swiftie whose playlists are dominated by Lorde and Stevie Nicks, I’m not afraid to admit that I typically listen to pretty vanilla music. Regardless, I am a lifelong fan of The Smashing Pumpkins—my fingertip calluses were earned on a borrowed Fender learning the riffs in “Today,” and most nights of the week I go to sleep in an overpriced thrifted Smashing Pumpkins shirt. My expectations for the show were sky-high when I entered Bridgestone Arena, and they were easily met when I walked out.

Let’s set the scene. First of all, I’m pretty sure the crowd was the source of 90% of the revenue of piercing parlors in the Nashville area. Seeing people with lip, septum and eyebrow piercings left and right had me itching to schedule an appointment at Icon. The floors were sticky, and a haze of e-cigarette smoke filled the air.

Smashing Pumpkins members perform at the Bridgestone, captured on Oct. 10, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Miguel Beristain)
Smashing Pumpkins members perform at the Bridgestone, captured on Oct. 10, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Miguel Beristain) (Miguel Beristain)

Los Angeles-born rock band Jane’s Addiction kicked off the night, and they commanded the arena with a mesmerizing, sensual and surprisingly emotional set. Frontman Perry Farrell is 63 years old and is going on 36 years strong with the band. The group played their greatest hits in a stream-of-consciousness style, broken up by dedications to country icon Loretta Lynn, a denouncement of Kanye West’s recent antisemitic comments and quick pauses to take swigs of a mystery drink in a tall black bottle. 

The songs blended into one another, and while I couldn’t understand most of what Farrell was saying, I knew I agreed. During “Jane Says,” Farrell shouted that “it’s hard to be tied to heaven and earth at the same time, but that’s the way it is, folks.” 

The Smashing Pumpkins exploded on stage with three hits: “Empires,” “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” and “Today.” Lead singer Billy Corgan rocked an all-black outfit and enthralled all the metalheads headbanging along to the songs. Throughout the set, Corgan paused for spectacular solos from drummer Jimmy Chamberlin—whose fills practically redefined drumming for me—and guitarist James Iha. The songs meandered between screamo-esque metal and milder acoustic tunes. Among my favorites were “1979” and “Tonight, Tonight.” Basic, I know, but hearing the classics in person completely changed the meaning of both songs for me. Corgan’s intense diction made the words one thousand times more impactful. Suddenly “1979” was more than a sick bass line combined with unintelligible words; I was sixteen again, restlessly wondering what direction life would take me as I walked the line between adolescence and adulthood.

Jeff Schroeder and Jack Bates perform, captured on Oct. 10, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Miguel Beristain)
Jeff Schroeder and Jack Bates perform, captured on Oct. 10, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Miguel Beristain) (Miguel Beristain)

Throughout the entire set, I felt mentally entangled in the band’s riffs, solos and ad-libbing. The crowd reciprocated the band’s energy with verve and enthusiasm so intense and raw that it was practically tangible. To fill an arena with thousands of devoted fans after making music for 34 years is a feat, but I understand completely why every audience member was there. 

The visual aesthetic of the concert perfectly matched the setlist and energy of the night. Unsettling images from black-and-white silent films backed Corgan as he sang “Zero.” Red and yellow spotlights sliced through the arena during “Today” and lyrics were plastered on the giant screen during “Cherub Rock.”

There was some sort of subliminal, deeper message that was communicated between the band and its audience of thousands that I can’t quite put my finger on, but I know that I’ll spend the next month trying to unpack it. The good news is that the band will be touring through the month of November. I’ll be looking for tickets to see them live again over Thanksgiving break, and I highly recommend you do the same.