By BRANDON JUDEH
For many, the ’90s are a distant memory, it’s boom giving way to despair.
The Smashing Pumpkins have witnessed both ends. Their dark, metaphoric music paved the way for alternative rock’s mainstream success and proved that rock’n’roll was still a viable commodity.
Lead singer Billy Corgan and his band mates, Mike Byrne (drums), Nicole Fiorentino (bass) and Jeff Schroeder (guitar) will make their way into Pittsburgh’s Stage AE Thursday to play their newest album, “Oceania,” in its entirety along with other songs both new and old.
“The audience has enjoyed hearing “Oceania” and we are getting great reviews, the best [concert] reviews I have ever received,” said Corgan in a telephone interview from Chicago.
Those excellent reviews started coming in after Corgan decided to buck the trend of bands to playing one of their classic, or biggest selling albums.
Though the Pumpkins have already reissued deluxe editions of their albums “Gish,” “Siamese Dream,” “Pisces Iscariot” and “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness,” which recently earned Diamond certification, Corgan decided to play the new album.
“Initially I liked the idea,” he said. “We even threw around the possibility of playing ‘Gish,’ but as time went on I realized what was going on. It’s all business.”
This trend, which is often seen as an easy cash grab for struggling bands, strikes a nerve within Corgan.
“What’s funny is my generation (generation X) was rebellious, and now they are OK with conformity,” he said, with a hint of disgust.
Corgan also added that it would have been easy to play an album like the 1993 breakthrough “Siamese Dream,” but if he were to do that, then the expectations for the next tour would have been for his band to perform “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” and every album that followed. He feels this would have hindered the band’s process and could have caused it to move backward instead of pushing forward.
Progression is something the band has always strived for since its early days as a small Chicago band playing in clubs.
Now older and wiser, the 45-year-old Corgan has three new band members, including 22-year-old drumming phenom Byrne.
Corgan says that having Byrne on board is interesting because it’s like having his audience in the same room with him.
“He grew up on technology, he’s from the “Adult Swim” generation, so it’s interesting to hear his perspective on things. He is definitely the best musician in the band. He can handle anything.”
Corgan has more than just this tour on his mind. He is already thinking about ways to improve future treks by continuing to present fresh, exciting things to his long-time fans.
He is throwing around the idea of doing two shows a night: one regular show, followed by a second show, geared toward the more “hardcore” fans. The latter would feature nothing but deep cuts and rarities such as “Geek U.S.A.” and “Galapogos.”
Fans at Thursday’s concert can also expect plenty of non-singles, although this is something that Corgan was once advised against.
“There has been a real shift in the past year,” he said. “At one time I was told “playing hits is important,” but that has not been the case in the past year.
“People want a connection with bands ... Now it is more about how a band plays together, and I think that bands play better live now more than ever.”