Everyday is Halloween

Heading into Golden 1 Center last Tuesday night, my wife and I witnessed hundreds of crows darkening the sky above the K Street entrance. They kept coming. Weird. In hindsight, this had to be a spell, likely cast by visiting musicians ready to take the stage soon.

The Smashing Pumpkins, recently reuniting three-fourths of its classic lineup, performed songs exclusively from their first five records as part of the ambitious, 38-date Shiny and Oh So Bright Tour. The tour commemorates the 30th anniversary of the band’s formation and quick ascent to alt-rock darlings alongside Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and others.

Hurried anticipation fueled the just-short-of-a-speed-walk trek to the front entrance, and my mind interjected with the memory of standing in line behind Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love (who were fans of the music just as much as the rest of us) at the Hollywood Palladium during the Siamese Dream tour in ’93. Overhearing a conversation on the way up to the arena, I learned that frontman Billy Corgan suffered a food poisoning bout which cut the band’s set short in Oakland the night before. Would it affect tonight’s concert? I guess we were about to find out.

Corgan appeared first with just a guitar to perform the opening track to Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness in front of a giant video screen, which flooded the arena with childhood photos and Super-8 footage of Corgan.

But oddly, the visuals were also of us, the fans. Colorful notes and scribbles danced on top of images warning that the innocence of childhood could and would be broken at anytime, giving way to the experience of our shadow selves. Pretty heavy stuff to start out the show, but what the hell. Halloween came early this year. Next, the band launched into why I had shown up in the first place: the “take no prisoners” attitude the band had on the Gish-, Siamese Dream- and Pisces Iscariot-era recordings. Bring on the lush walls of guitar backed by the punchy finesse of one of my favorite drummers, and let the games begin.

Brushing away any doubt about his health, Corgan sounded strong and driven. Tight from weeks of rehearsal, the Pumpkins were having fun and stayed near each other throughout a two-plus hour set of carefully chosen, mostly anthemic songs, with the addition of a few noteworthy covers. As David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”’s first chords began to ring out, we were all singing along creating a moment, part-eulogy and part-joy. Equally surprising, causing a shared “no way” whisper in the arena, was the moment “Stairway to Heaven” and its all-too familiar chord progression began to play. We were under their spell. The crows outside had been summoned, the incantations had been spoke, spirits were rising and the songs were LOUD.