Smashing Pumpkins, Jane’s Addiction tour a double dose of rock that has endured for decades

Over three hours and 27 songs at the United Center, it was hard not to recall the first time you heard ‘Today’ or saw the ‘Been Caught Stealing’ video.

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Billy Corgan sings with Smashing Pumpkins on Saturday at the United Center, backed by the band’s original drummer, Jimmy Chamberlin.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times, Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Everyone had a story Saturday night at the United Center. In the merch line, some were reminiscing about their first time seeing Smashing Pumpkins play the Metro in ’92. In the women’s bathroom, there was a mini high school reunion where old friends recalled wearing out their cassettes of Jane’s Addiction’s debut, “Nothing’s Shocking.”

Since it kicked off in early October, the Spirits on Fire Tour featuring the two ’90s mainstays has become a music fan’s scrapbook pasted together with decades of sentimental glue, perhaps to the chagrin of Billy Corgan, who has often vocalized his thoughts on dreaded nostalgia. But he tapped into his memory bank on this night, asking bandmate James Iha if he remembered the early “Gish” days, with Corgan then sharing he could recall “every moment” over the past three decades of the band.

As the Pumpkins and Jane’s combined three hours and 27 songs played on throughout the night, it was hard not to recall the first time you heard the former’s “Today” or first came across the latter’s wild video for “Been Caught Stealing.”

The pairing of the two bands for the first time on a bill together since 1988 feels like a birthright moment, an inimitable double dose of some of the most solid music and musicians that rock has birthed in the past 40 years, not the least of which were drummers Jimmy Chamberlin and Stephen Perkins, true stars of the show. It was hard to forget that on the other side of the country on this night, a handful of bands were being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and here on stage at United Center were two legacy acts just as worthy.

“It’s so great to be home,” Highland Parker Corgan said midway through the Pumpkins’ set, bowing to the crowd and thanking them for 34 years of support. (Saturday’s show also felt like a homecoming for Lollapalooza founder Perry Farrell, who recently inked a new 10-year contract with the city.) Of course, the pinnacle moment in the Pumpkins’ set came during a pared-down, acoustic version of “Tonight, Tonight” featuring just him and Iha surrounded by a backdrop of twinkling stars on a wraparound video screen. It’s almost a given the Pumpkins will play the song in Chicago, as the giant echo of the proud crowd singing back the lyric “the city by the lake” is unique to our town.

The Pumpkins also had a few local guests, including photographer friend Dicky Shay (who once also worked on “The Oprah Winfrey Show”), who Corgan said saved the tour a few weeks back by flying in with forgotten passports, as well as Corgan’s two young children, who came out for a dance-along to new song “Beguiled.” But it was the guest appearance of local saxophonist Frank Catalano on “Silverf- - -” that was a prime moment, adding an alluring and dark jazzy layer on top of the explosive live song.

The 17 tracks were an excellent curation of the Pumpkins’ well-hewn discography, similar to the setlist from an intimate show at Chicago’s Metro in September as part of the venue’s 40th anniversary celebrations, where the Pumpkins got their feet wet so many years ago. Surprises on this night included “Eye,” their “Lost Highway” soundtrack contribution and a sublimely heavy cover of the Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime” that was drenched in the Pumpkins’ psych rock and metal influences. It was another great example of the band’s incredible guitar frontline made up of Corgan, Iha and Jeff Schroeder that remains pivotal to the band’s sonic identity. (There was still no D’arcy Wretzky to round out the band’s full original lineup, as Jack Bates continues his stint as the touring bassist while Katie Cole fills in on backup vocals.)

Before the Pumpkins, it was a relief to see Jane’s Addiction take their rightful place Saturday night after a few issues that have marred the tour. Notably, guitarist Dave Navarro has not been able to join due to issues with long-haul COVID, and more recently the band had to cancel a few stops due to an undisclosed injury suffered by Farrell.

Though they were in fine form on this night, with the talented Troy Van Leeuwen (Queens of the Stone Age) doing justice as a fill-in for Navarro and original bassist Eric Avery rounding out the compatible-as-ever lineup. The band tore through 10 songs that showed the unmistakable range that has always bucked trends and made Jane’s un-categorically diverse.

“We can do it all,” Farrell said at one point, introducing a “folksy” stripped-back take on “Jane Says.” His penchant for jazz scat vocals on this night also added unusual flair on a few songs, as did his wild banter that took on everything from the price of wine to his thoughts on spanking. Mid-set stunner “Three Days” was the prize of the performance, slinky and dangerous in its approach, added to by the choreography of Farrell’s wife Etty Lau and her tribe of dancers. The song was also full of long-sweeping solos that showed off incredible musicianship, begging for rumors to be true the troupe is working on new music.

Untitled

Jane’s Addiction Set List

Up the Beach

Whores

Ocean Size

Ain’t No Right

Three Days

Jane Says

Stop!

Ted, Just Admit It…

Mountain Song

Been Caught Stealing

The Smashing Pumpkins Set List

Empires

Bullet With Butterfly Wings

Today

We Only Come Out At Night

Cyr

Once In A Lifetime (Talking Heads cover)

Solara

Eye

Ava Adore

Tonight, Tonight

Stand Inside Your Love

I of the Mourning

Cherub Rock

Zero

1979

Beguiled

Silverf- - -


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