Arriving at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, we were greeted by a US customs officer who
asked where we were headed. We replied Chicago, and he says to us "You're going to see the
Smashing Pumpkins, aren't you? You thought I wouldn't know but you look like Smashing Pumpkins
fans". Strangely, we were wearing suits at the time, which is not typical rock fan garb.
At about 12:30 pm or so, we arrived at O'Hare Airport in Chicago, and headed toward the subway
to head for the Days INN- Lincoln Park. We finally arrived at the hotel around 1:30 pm or so, and
found the lobby packed with Pumpkins fans including numerous Netphorians. Anthony West, a
Fanphoria contributor, soon greeted us there, and we showed him that we brought the video for
viewings later. Aaron Puga and his friend, Doug soon came into the lobby- they would be our
roommates for the first night at the hotel. We all went to go to check-in. To my surprise, my
credit card was declined, I had miscalculated the price of the hotel with exchange- and it went
slightly over my limit. Luckily, Doug had a credit card with a large credit line, saving us from losing
our room. Afterwards, we headed up our room to get settled in before the concert, and then we
went to get some money from the bank machine and mingle with some of the other Pumpkins fans
When we went to take out money at the Walgreen's across the street from the hotel, and buy
some extra travel stuff we needed, we found a crazy guy bugging everyone in the store. It's not
that I hadn't encountered beggars before but this guy was particularly mentally ill, and was
bugging both the customers and the cashiers for money until he got kicked out of the store.
Back at the hotel, we decided to find where Tim Rea and the rest of the Vancouver SP list were
staying. Coincidentally, Tim, Travis Clark, and most of them were in the next room. We
hung out in their room for awhile, talking, and taking pictures. At about 5pm or so, we got ready to
go to the concert. Before going to the United Center, we went to KFC to get a bite to eat. We
talked about our expectations for the concert, and about the surreal ness of being in Chicago -that
it didn't feel like it was actually happening. We then hopped on the subway to downtown. Soon
enough we were standing in downtown Chicago, with the endless skyscrapers towering over us
waiting for the bus to the concert. It was an awesome site seeing the skyline at such a close
proximity, I wish we could have explored downtown more- well next time we will, as I don't plan this
to be my last adventure to Chicago. Well anyway, the bus arrives and we jump on, and it is
absolutely crowded. The bus driver tells everyone to keep hold on their belongings.
We arrive at the United Center, and the masses have already gathered and continue to gather
around the arena. Just as we are about to cross the street, someone calls my name. I turn around
and see that it's Craig Saarie, another Fanphoria video contributor, and he thanks me for giving the
video to the pumpkins and so on. He would be the last Fanphoria person I would meet on the trip.
We parted company and we crossed the street to the United Center. Myself and Tim went to look
for our respective ticket buyers, Tim found his but mine had already bought a ticket. Unfortunately,
no one would even take my extra seat in section 231 for free.
Eventually found some Siva people, including Mr. Aaron Grant himself (the webmaster of Siva and
a long time internet friend of mine), Natasha Elise, Jackb0ot(a poster on Siva from the old days),
and Chris AKA Teebo, among others. Aaron gave me my Zero shirt that I had sent to him to avoid
custom charges and to ensure that I got it before the concert. I put it on to complement my silver
pants- the first time I had really wore them in public ;) After several unsuccessful attempts to get
rid of our extra ticket, we headed into the arena. We scrambled to find the new shirts, and found
none were left of the Machina II and "End" shirts. We found some of the "End" shirts on the upper
level but they sold out in front of our eyes to our dismay.
Shortly thereafter, we found our seats for the show
and the Pumpkins started. The crowd screamed as
Billy decked in white, James, Jimmy, and Melissa
arrived on the stage for their acoustic set. They
started with the epic, "Glass and the Ghost Children"
-one of the best live performances of it that I have
ever heard. Soon the Pumpkins followed with
beautiful renditions of "Today" and "Stand Inside
Your Love". Billy and company soon followed with
an inspired rendition of Mellon Collie's "Thirty-Three"
, and the forever beautiful, "To Sheila". To end the
acoustic set, they brought out an old classic,
"Drown" from 1992's Singles Soundtrack.
After a short rest, the Pumpkins came out rocking, with Billy now his black goutier on- his usual
outfit of the Machina era. They started off with a charged version of Machina II's "Glass' Theme",
and the pounding, "The Everlasting Gaze". They then brought out some old favorites like 1995's
"Bullet with Butterfly Wings" and ending it with a tease of the Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime".
Digging out a single from the attic, the Pumpkins performed the Gish classic, "Rhinoceros". They
followed with the energetic epic, "Thru the Eyes of Ruby" and the hidden gem of Siamese Dream,
"Mayonaise". The crowd sang along to the fan favorite, creating a intense atmosphere in the
Then, Mike Garson, the touring keyboardist broke into a harpsichord version of "If There is a God",
which was soon followed by the urgent wave of "Cash Car Star", another Machina II track. Coming
off a fabulous performance of the song on Leno, the crowd was pumped when they heard the track.
Soon after, Jimmy Chamberlin pounded away at his drums, and began an alternate take on "Zero"-
a version charged with energy as Corgan snarled out the lyrics. The crowd clapped along with the
beat as the band broke into "Rock On" which soon morphed into Machina's "Heavy Metal Machine".
The best version of the song that I have yet to hear. A fitting song to play just days before the
band's final performance, with Billy proclaiming "Let me die for rock n' roll".
Moving from electric back to acoustic, Billy thanked the crowd for coming and for supporting the
band for the last 13 years. He broke into a solo rendition of one of his favorite songs, Mellon Collie
and the Infinite Sadness's "Muzzle". It's one of my favorite songs from the band, and the crowd
sung along as Corgan spoke each line. One of many highlights of this second last concert from the
band. Pianist Mike Garson start an improvised synth intro that was both beautiful and haunting,
and with a stroke of his hand- Billy began "Disarm", the 1994 hit. After an outro, the band burst
into "Tonight, Tonight". The song found new energy and intensity, a truly inspiring performance.
The band continued rocking with the psychedelic "Siva", and an extended version of the epic
"Porcelina of the Vast Oceans", ending the first set before the encore.
For the first encore, the band brought out two hits from Pumpkins past- Siamese Dream's "Cherub
Rock" and Adore's "Ava Adore". During the break between the songs, guitarist James Iha
introduced the band. Billy Corgan joked that James was "all the way from hell" before breaking into
"Ava Adore", a version reminiscent of their performance at the 1998 Muchmusic Video Awards. The
band soon after left the stage but the crowd knew that they were at least going to get a second
After taking another break, the Pumpkins came back on stage, this time with Billy's father, William
Corgan Sr. Most of us expected the band to break into "The Last Song", a song performed
originally with his father. Instead, they played a touching version of "For Martha", the Adore epic
written for Billy's mother. A moment in time, one can't easily forget. The big surprise and highlight
of the night was the rarely played "Starla" from 1994's Pisces Iscariot. Those who knew the song
sung along to this sonic masterpiece.
Before leaving the stage of their final arena
concert, the Pumpkins as James Iha coined it
came out for "One Last Jam". With drummer
Jimmy Chamberlin out from behind his neon
drum set, and guitar in hand, and Billy Corgan
sporting a Chicago Blackhawks jersey, the band
played "1979". Their hit song from the height of
their career, and an energetic acoustic
performance from the band. So this ended my
last dance with the Pumpkins after a fantastic
career, my years with the Pumpkins I will never
To talk about the rest of my trip to Chicago
would be anti-climatic, and is best left for
another time. It is a story unto itself. From the screenings of Fanphoria in my hotel room to the
late night talks with all the fans, from our acoustic sing-alongs in room 408 of the Days Inn to our
final goodbyes, I will never forget it. In the spirit of the Pumpkins, and in the experiences had in
Chicago, I have created Act 4-The Echo Rings Forever On, to never let anyone forget what the
Smashing Pumpkins have done, and to keep the revolution going a little longer. A shameless plug I
know, but I hope you all can be involved in it.
By Steven Pukin