Smashing Pumpkins @ Challenge Stadium, Perth (26/07/12)

Splendour in the Grass may be well underway but Perth got a sliver of the action at Challenge Stadium with long-time rockers Smashing Pumpkins performing their Oceania set in its entirety.

The early birds rocked up to see local supports Sugar Army. The band acknowledged how foreign the concept of playing at a stadium was for them, nevertheless the home grown talent appreciated their supporting slot and utilised the great acoustics of Challenge Stadium. The entire venue was dimly lit throughout the set with the stage mostly filled by a red tint that matched the burgundy skinny-legs on stage. Sugar Army introduced the single Hooks for Hands which will appear on the album due in September.

The band was tightly co-ordinated and musically justified their spot on the stage. Vocalist Patrick McLaughlin responded to a member of the audience who asked when they are touring with “Hopefully in September”. As the house lights returned, the entire floor of the venue was filled with heads all the way to the back in anticipation for Billy Corgan and his cronies to hit the stage.

Only a moment before 9:15pm, the house lights and music shut off in sync to queue the screams from the crowd. The Smashing Pumpkins got stuck into the music without messing around. An enormous air balloon appeared behind the band with bright lights projected onto it. The digital effects that floated across it for the rest of the set ranged from flashes of lightning to floating bodies and an array of atmospheric and abstract imagery. The band opened with comeback song Quasar, which was instantly recognisable with that familiar opening chord resounding throughout the venue. The set remained upbeat with loud drums but not masking Corgan’s melody to Panopticon – more evidence that The Smashing Pumpkins are back in action.

The set slowed down a notch as the album progressed. The title track’s introduction received applause from the crowd as the band performed a bellowing rendition of Oceania reaching all corners of the venue. A spotlight was fixed on passion-filled Corgan as he sang through it with his eyes closed.

35 minutes into the album performance, Corgan thanked the crowd and announced that the band was “about halfway through Oceania ” and without further ado, the band continued with the record. After a slower few tracks, the atmosphere lifted with Glissandra. Again, the acoustics were spot on for this track and the music was a taste of the old-school days. The impressive bassist Nicole Fiorentino engaged the crowd during the songs – even more so than Corgan. As the final album song faded, the crowd screamed and applauded in unison for the performance of the new album (and with the realisation that the ‘hits’ section of the set had finally arrived).

The band introduced the nostalgic quarter of their show with a cover of Bowie’s Space Oddity. The punters expressed their excitement with arms flailing in the air left, right and centre. An unexpected circle-pit developed near the front of the recently formed mosh pit. Venue security rushed into action after having a very easy first hour.

The next handful of tracks was cathartic for the patient crowd who had been respectful during the first part of the show. Tonight, Tonight and Bullet With Butterfly Wings were the highlight tracks of the night with strobes flashing around Corgan and the band. The man of the hour thanked Perth again and addressed the crowd after a highly satisfying performance of Today. After describing his last five days in Perth as “wonderful”, the giant mesmerising balloon turned white and the band left the stage. The house lights remained dark, indicating that it was up to the crowd to bring the Pumpkins back on stage.

The band returned for a handful of tracks extending the set to a decent two hours. Zero received a heavy reception from the wild fans who were now smoothly crowd surfing and getting into more trouble with security. .