Smashing Pumpkins, Jane's Addiction blast through masterful, mesmerizing sets at Garden

BOSTON — The Smashing Pumpkins were absolutely smashing, while Jane's Addiction proved they are still a hard "Ritual de lo Habitual" to break Sunday night at TD Garden.

Proving that less can sometimes be more, Jane’s Addiction delivered a killer, hour-long, nine-song set that was awe-inspiring and flawless.

Whether time makes the heart grow fonder or there just has been a lot of awful bands emerging since their untimely exit, Jane's Addiction sounded better, heavier and more infectious than ever.

At 63 years old, Perry Farrell — the visionary who created the alternative rock lovefest Lollapalooza and the spiritual guru behind Jane's Addiction — is still a space cadet in the best sense of the term. Dressed in all black, Farrell came out wearing a slim hat, bolo tie and country-western cut jacket with illustrations of a lone wolf howling at the moon.

Jane’s Addiction opened with ethereal mood-piece “Up the Beach,” the first of four tracks from 1988’s “Nothing Shocking.” With his bandmates weaving the song’s sonic tapestry before his arrival, Farrell, who has one of the most distinct voices in alternative rock, slinked onstage and seductively cooed the number’s trippy lyrics. And, instantly, the crowd was mesmerized.

Farrell wasn’t the only Jane’s Addiction member who made a fashion statement on stage. Bassist Eric Avery wore a Boston Bruins cap and matching sweatshirt with yellow checkered pajama pants.

On stage, Queens of the Stone Age’s guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen has been filling in for glam-rock guitar god Dave Navarro, who has been sidelined for the latest Jane’s Addiction tour due to his continued battle with “long COVID.” By the time Van Leeuwen let it rip on the guitar during the second number, “Whores,” no one was missing Navarro anymore.

Then again, you also had three long-haired, high-kicking cabaret dancers led by former Pussycat Doll (and Perry Farrell’s wife) Etty Lau Farrell. Looking like extras from “From Dusk Till Dawn,” Etty Lau Farrell led the scantily clad, politically incorrect and very limber ladies into some risqué numbers on monkey bars and hobby horses that would even make Rob Zombie blush.

Strong set ensues

Singing about his insatiable appetites while giving “the man” the middle-finger, Farrell's unorthodox street narrative on “Whores” unfolded in an encompassing dreamlike haze while Van Leeuwen, Avery and drummer Stephen Perkins collectively sounded like they had the strength to flatten everything, including today's poseurs and nonbelievers, in their path. Pretty good for a Los Angeles-based combo that released its major-label, self-titled debut 35 years ago when President Ronald Reagan was still in office.

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Guitarist Josh Klinghoffer — formerly of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and, more recently, a touring musician for Pearl Jam — joined Jane’s Addiction for the psychedelic garage rocker “Three Days,” the first of three songs from 1990’s “Ritual de lo Habitual.” While sonically the song erupted into an all-out metal maelstrom of roaring guitars and pulverizing drums, Farrell’s ode to multiple love partners visually ended with the singer being mobbed by the three dancing ladies and Farrell’s smooching his wife.

Wearing a black leather jacket and black sunglasses and sporting spiky hair while strumming a 12-string guitar, Daniel Ash of Bauhaus and Love and Rockets fame joined Farrell and the gang for the Jane’s Addiction classic, “Jane Says.” Inspired by Farrell’s ex-housemate, muse, inspiration and namesake of the band, Jane Bainter, the title character’s romantic woes that seep into the song about her abusive boyfriend Sergio still sound timeless.

Before exiting, Ash delivered a killer version of Bauhaus’ “Slice of Life,” which Farrell graciously allowed.

After his dark-haired wife and her two blond gal-pals changed their G-strings from black to red, Farrell — who rivals Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder when it comes to drinking wine onstage — lamented how there’s nothing shocking in the world anymore on “Ted, Just Admit It.”

After a revved-up “Stop!” Jane’s Addiction delivered “Been Caught Stealing,” the best song ever written about shoplifting and the second-best song with barking dogs (only behind “Jingle Bells” by The Singing Dogs). Both songs are still absolute hoots.

Most bands would have packed up their bags and gone home rather than to follow Jane’s Addiction but the Smashing Pumpkins came out and they rewarded the faithful.

Smashing success

Unlike Jane’s Addiction, which only played songs from their first three albums (released from 1987 to 1990), the Smashing Pumpkins played songs from eight different albums, going as far back as 1993’s breakthrough “Siamese Dream” and as far forward as next year’s “Atum: A Rock Opera in Three Acts.”

Not only did he sound like “The Great Pumpkin” of yore, Billy Corgan sounded like he has a renewed sense of vigor and purpose to go along with his seemingly inexhaustible creative spark.

Billy Corgan and The Smashing Pumpkins perform Sunday night at the TD Garden in Boston.
Billy Corgan and The Smashing Pumpkins perform Sunday night at the TD Garden in Boston.

Looking like Uncle Fester’s understudy with his shaved head, raccoon eyeliner, monk’s cloak and army boots, Corgan — the singer, songwriter and guitarist for the Smashing Pumpkins — was melancholic, melodramatic, morose and oftentimes masterful during the band's hour and 50-minute, 20-song set. Whether he was playing manic preacher, doomed soul or hopeless romantic, Corgan whined, snarled, howled, screamed and sang with an urgency and intensity that kept the audience entranced.

The Pumpkins, which also includes founding members Jimmy Chamberlin and James Iha on drums and guitar, respectively, alongside guitarist Jeffrey Kim Schroeder, touring bassist Jack Bates and background vocalist Katie Cole, opened with “Empires,” from the band’s upcoming 12th studio album “Atum: A Rock Opera in Three Acts.”

Despite the song’s unfamiliarity, “Empires” certainly did rock and might have all it takes to become a staple of the band’s live shows in the future. But, for the second and third numbers, the Smashing Pumpkins rewarded their diehard fans with the evening’s first one-two (and, sometimes, one-two-three) punch combination.

The raging rocker "Bullet with Butterfly Wings," from 1995’s multiplatinum, double-disc smash "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness," is still a great number that the audience head-banged and shouted along with. In Corgan’s nihilistic eyes, “The world is a vampire” and “Despite all my rage, I’m still just a rat in the cage.” What makes this bleak world an irresistible one to visit is its emotionally charged and extremely catchy melody.

Followed by the cheery “Today,” off the band’s 1993 breakthrough “Siamese Dream,” Corgan showed off his warm, nostalgic side and his uncanny ability to capture a delicate, fleeting moment and preserve it in a nifty pop song.

Corgan strummed a white acoustic guitar with a big black star on it during the nocturnal opus “We Only Come Out at Night,” also from “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.”

The Great Pumpkin (aka Corgan) had one forgivable Charlie Brown “knucklehead” moment when he covered the Talking Heads’ new wave classic “Once In a Lifetime” and transformed it into an unrecognizable grunge rocker that obliterated the cheeky paranoia and charm of David Byrne’s original.

Before the end of the dirge-like, unrequited love ditty “Eye," Corgan took a moment to greet the audience in a way that only Corgan could do — “Boston, welcome to the show. We’re so happy that you’re with us tonight. Thank you from the bottom of my broken heart.”

With a giant red star blinking overhead, Corgan gave a menacing, maddening performance on “Ava Adore” as he craftily strung together contradictory sacred and profane images while presenting his promise of undying love as though it's a death pact. Not only did Corgan have the audience belting out the “We must never be apart” refrain, several scarecrows were wheeled on the stage for no apparent reason.

The tender and beautiful “Tonight, Tonight” showcased Corgan’s masterful songwriting skills and his gift for inherent melody. Played acoustically by Corgan and Iha, this stripped-down gem resonated with an immediacy and urgency that made it one of the crowd’s favorites and a singular standout.

When Corgan hit the audience with a song that was good but not great or unfamiliar but still rocking and promising, the Smashing Pumpkins always came back in a big way. And two thirds into the concert, the Pumpkins hit the audience with three irresistible tunes — the cathartic, neo-psychedelic opus “Cherub Rock,” the disillusioned rocker “Zero” and the delicious childhood daydream set to music, “1979,” all of which were sing-a-longs with the audience, with "1979" being the most massive.

In the homestretch, Smashing delivered three more yet-to-be released songs (“Beguiled,” “Neophyte” and “Harmageddon”) with two “Siamese Dream” tunes (“Silver(expletive)” and “Disarm”) sandwiched in between.

“Silver(expletive)” was arguably the most explosive number of the night by either the Smashing Pumpkins or Jane’s Addiction.

If he didn’t reclaim his righteous place as an alternative-rock god (and guitar god) prior to this number, Corgan certainly did by song’s end. On this loud and noisy (both in a good way), 10-minute epic, Corgan’s guitar playing sounded like a Tommy gun one moment, a roaring dinosaur on a feeding frenzy the next.

Strumming a black acoustic guitar with a giant white star (he must have a collection of these), Corgan dropped all of his defenses and confessed all his childhood pain and hurt on the lost little boy lament, “Disarm,” which was made even more poignant by old snapshots of Corgan as a kid flickering on the screen behind him.

This article originally appeared on Telegram & Gazette: Smashing Pumpkins, Jane's Addiction blast through TD Garden show