Photo credit: @thesolsticebare on Instagram
On Saturday, August 30th, Billy Corgan played Ravinia in Highland Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Billy took the stage at approximately 8:10 p.m. with the sun setting on a sticky Saturday night, dressed in a dark pin-striped suit and black shirt, as if ready to conduct a symphony. He walked to the mic, acknowledged the crowd, and then went back to the piano. He opened with “Chicago,” an unreleased ode to the city that certainly got the crowd’s attention as they continued to take their seats. Billy previously performed the song on the WGN Morning News two weeks earlier to promote this one-off event. At that time, it was performed on acoustic guitar.
He followed with “Today” and “Disarm” by himself on acoustic guitar to further pull in the crowd. He followed the two hits with a set of more obscure songs that played very well in the stripped-down setting, with just himself and Jeff Schroeder on acoustic guitar. Billy then mentioned that in 1997, he wrote an album about loss, primarily his mother, and followed that introduction with “Perfect” and “Let Me Give the World to You,” which was not on the album Adore, but was recorded for the album and is part of the deluxe re-issue of the album. Sadly, only one more track from the incredible album that would have suited the setting very well would be played the rest of the night.
After “Prairie Song,” Billy walked back to the piano to begin the Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness suite he had promised in previous blog posts. It began with the instrumental title track which sounded beautiful in the setting. Billy remained at the piano for “To Forgive” and surprisingly “Muzzle” as well and then returned to acoustic guitar for “Tonight, Tonight,” leaving the lyrics as the original “in your city by the lake, the place where you were born.” “Galapagos” was another surprise, but was followed by the rarest of the rare. Billy introduced “Methuselah” as the only track that he wrote for the album but never played for the producers. He added that it was written about his father, “Bill Sr.” with whom he was not speaking at that time and this was the first time the song was being played live. That was followed by an emotional “Thirty-Three” and “1979,” ending the mini-set commemorating the amazing 1995 album. It certainly left any fan of the album wanting more.
“Now (and Then)” from Billy’s solo album, TheFutureEmbrace, followed with Billy dropping his instruments and grabbing the mic, supported by Jeff and a backing track. Billy remained on the mic only for a dark, amazing and unexpected performance of “The Beginning is the End is the Beginning.” “The Crying Tree of Mercury” followed and essentially warned the crowd to prepare themselves, because Billy then introduced Matt Walker on drums and all hell broke loose. Until this moment, the crowd had been subdued and respectful—a true suburban crowd. At times, you could hear a pick drop between songs, but then the pounding rhythm of “Ava Adore” began and Billy was like a liberated beast (no, not like a rat from a cage). “I’ll pull your crooked teeth, you’ll be perfect just like B.C.” he screamed at the crowd. This was the most free and relaxed Billy seemed all night and it was infectious.
Billy, Jeff and Matt were then joined by the band Ex-Cops and Sierra Swan for “Pinwheels” through the remainder of the set. “Stand Inside Your Love” followed, with Amalie Bruun from Ex-Cops taking over lead vocals. She remained on lead vocals for a cover of the Poppy Family’s oldie, “Which Way You Going, Billy?” which seemed as if it came as a surprise to Billy. The main set ended with Billy introducing the final song as a “pre-Halloween treat” from the upcoming album, the song “Burnt-Orange Black.”
The audience anticipated an encore and the band returned for two more songs. The night ended at approximately 10:30 p.m. with Billy’s brother and the entire cast of Resistance Pro on stage in full wrestling wardrobes for “Of a Broken Heart.”
Overall, the event was a great retrospect of Billy’s extensive catalog. Although no two fans will ever agree on the perfect setlist and it may have been better to end the night with some well-known songs, such as “Cherub Rock” or even “Today” being moved to the final spot, I felt privileged to attend the highly-anticipated one-off show and experience these songs in a unique setting. Although The Smashing Pumpkins may not sell out arenas anymore, Billy can certainly grab an acoustic guitar and play anywhere he wants.
Today (The Smashing Pumpkins song)
Disarm (The Smashing Pumpkins song)
Turn Your Way
As Time Draws Near
For Your Love (Zwan song)
The Rose March (The Smashing Pumpkins song)
Perfect (The Smashing Pumpkins song)
Let Me Give the World to You (The Smashing Pumpkins song)
Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (The Smashing Pumpkins song)
To Forgive (The Smashing Pumpkins song)
Muzzle (The Smashing Pumpkins song)
Tonight, Tonight (The Smashing Pumpkins song)
Galapogos (The Smashing Pumpkins song)
Thirty-Three (The Smashing Pumpkins song)
1979 (The Smashing Pumpkins song)
Now (And Then)
The Beginning Is the End Is the Beginning (The Smashing Pumpkins song)
The Crying Tree of Mercury (The Smashing Pumpkins song)
Ava Adore (The Smashing Pumpkins song)
Pinwheels (The Smashing Pumpkins song)
Stand Inside Your Love (The Smashing Pumpkins song)
The World’s Fair
Of a Broken Heart (Zwan song)