Feature: Smashing Pumpkins at the Newport

From the November 29, 2012 edition

Four years ago, Smashing Pumpkins performed “a special acoustic Halloween show” at Newport Music Hall. Nobody was sure what that meant until show time, when Billy Corgan and company strode onstage in costume (Corgan was a geisha) and launched into an hour of slapdash oldies like “Monster Mash,” “Wipe Out” and “Hang on Sloopy.”

After a 20-minute break, the band burned through 14 fully amplified Smashing Pumpkins originals. It amounted to what Corgan called “a pretty legendary show” by phone this week. But not everybody appreciated the joke.

“It was so funny,” Corgan said. “People are still mad about that. We were just trying to have some fun. I mean, Smashing Pumpkins on Halloween.”

The band returns to the Newport this Tuesday in the thick of the holiday season, but don’t expect Christmas carols this time out. Corgan and his current collaborators are performing their latest album, Oceania, in full, followed by a set of fan favorites. Since reviving the Smashing Pumpkins name in 2007, Corgan has been adamant about not becoming a nostalgia act. This approach is a way to meet in the middle — and to appeal to shrinking attention spans.

“We feel it’s a good trade off,” Corgan said. “If we’re going to down this one road this far with all-new material, let’s try to make the second half fun and easy and not to prove some point that doesn’t need to be proven.”

From Corgan’s perspective, he hasn’t abandoned his contrarian streak. He sees Oceania, widely hailed as his best work in years, as the product of going against the grain.

“You reach a point where it’s fine to be contrarian, but if you have nothing to show for it? To me, Oceania was the prize of all that contrarian work. I’m proud to say that I think I’ve made a really quality record in a time when most people are not making quality records. And I mean new and timely, like 2012. Not, ‘It’s 1997, wink wink, it’s 2012’ records. Like, it’s a new record,” Corgan said.

“ Now that we’ve actually come out with something valuable, we’re willing to expand with that publicly and make that commitment publicly and say to the audience, ‘Look, we can play old songs and that’s well and good, but if you can’t invest in this and we can’t invest in this, then why are we here?’”

Read the full interview with Billy Corgan here.