The Smashing Pumpkins at Pine Knob Music Theatre in Clarkston, MI

Smashing Pumpkins @ Pine Knob, Clarkston | Photo by Jena McShane

The Smashing Pumpkins showed a near-sellout Pine Knob Music Theatre crowd exactly why they are considered among the top acts of the grunge era.

Fans were still queuing at the merch tents and trickling into the amphitheater when Interpol took to the stage to kick off the night. With lead singer Paul Banks’ distinctive baritone voice and the group’s rhythmic guitar playing and tight drumming, Interpol provided an overview of their greatest hits including “Obstacle 1,” “Evil” and “C’mere.” 

After an hour, Interpol signed off with their last song of the night, “Slow Hands” from their 2004 album Antics. The hit song had the crowd perfectly amped up and ready for the main event.

Pine Knob was standing room only by the time The Smashing Pumpkins took the stage to a loud roar and launched into “Everlasting Gaze.” The high-energy intro track from their 2000 album Machina/The Machines of God was a signal to fans that The Pumpkins meant business. 

Among the most interesting songs was early in the night when they performed the Talking Heads’ cover, “Once in a Lifetime.” The Pumpkins originally brought the song on tour in the early 2000s and have started performing it again over the last couple of years. Corgan’s version turned the new wave song on its head. James Iha’s heavy metal riffs combined with Jimmy Chamberlain’s pounding drums and Corgan’s angry, screaming vocals take the song to the point where it was more a reinterpretation of a classic than an actual cover. 

As the band started to perform “Disarm,” smoke had filled the stage and a single spotlight shined on Billy. Together with the backing strings, this song created an emotional and ephemeral atmosphere that had the crowd singing along to the chorus. The Pumpkins then dipped deep into their catalog with “Siva,” from their 1991 debut album Gish. Heavy guitar and drums alternated between lulls of the chorus to create a rollercoaster of energy that culminated in a huge cheer from the crowd.  

It was about halfway through the night when Billy was encouraging the crowd to sing along to “Tonight, Tonight” as lightning could be seen flashing behind Pine Knob’s lawn. Billy gave a long pause on the last chorus of the song and the crowd gave another loud cheer almost in an effort to encourage the band that they weren’t about to let the threat of inclement weather ruin their evening.  

The storms continued to threaten but held off as the band drove into their hit “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” from their Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness double album. While most of the members of the crowd had more gray in their hair than they did back in 1995 when the song was first released, that didn’t stop them from banging their heads any less to the scratching guitar and crashing drums.  

Shortly after, The Pumpkins gave fans another interesting cover, this time with Manfred Mann’s “Hubble Bubble (Toil and Trouble).” They kept the original twang in the song but Chamberlain’s impressive drum work and Iha’s heavy strumming gave it an almost metal sound. 

The Pumpkins kept the energy high as they then went into “Jellybelly,” one of the heaviest tracks from the Melon Collie album. While the hard riff and Billy’s impassioned vocals were shining through on the song, they weren’t enough to break up the storm clouds that were fast approaching. The band left the stage to what the crowd had only hoped would be a short break before their encore but were then told that they had to immediately vacate the premises.

Right on cue, and as if to put an emphasis on the Pine Knob staffer’s instructions, the rain started pouring down as fans rushed to their cars. The night was cut short, but it was an incredibly memorable Pumpkins performance nonetheless. 

While The Smashing Pumpkins’ latest tour is coming to an end, they plan to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their 1993 Siamese Dream album by recreating their legendary Tower Records album release concert. The group plans to turn Billy Corgan’s teashop, Madame Zuzu’s in Highland Park, IL, into an old-school Tower Records store where they plan to perform two acoustic sets on September 17th. Fans can claim free tickets to stream the show here

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About Jena McShane 27 Articles
Jena McShane is a Lansing, MI based photographer specializing in candid portraiture, live music, and stormy landscapes.