'90s Nostalgia Hits the Bell Centre in 3 Waves

Do you like cyberpunk themes while you’re out late at night? Cause that’s what Meg Myers is all about. She opened up with a granular synth to cue the band to come on and played a set that hyped up the crowd for the ensuing acts of the night. Poppy then delivered on the heaviness, listening to their studio songs is nothing like hearing them on stage, they were tight, and they were polarizing. Her bubblegum pop voice (which bordered on extremely sultry) mixed with the abrasive big muff tone of the guitars and blast drums was everything that the crowd was looking for in an opening band. They ended off their set with her song  “I disagree”, which entailed the drummer Ralph Alexander increasing his blast speed twofold. 

Then Our Lady Peace took to the stage, opening with an ominous sequencer that filled the entire venue before “The Message” led the setlist.  They stopped in the middle of their second song to thank the crowd for having them on stage and thanked Smashing Pumpkins for the opportunity to play on their tour.  “Innocent” took the mantle of the third song. During the chorus you could hear the crowd on the floor singing “we are, we are all innocent” which took me on a trip down memory lane. After “Innocent,” the singer told a story to the crowd about how as a teenager he snuck into a venue to watch Jane's Addiction. He professed his admiration for them by announcing to the crowd that they would cover “Mountain Song'' from his idol band. “One Man Army” was a bit of a letdown because I was expecting the singer Raine Maida to be able to handle the high notes but he changed the majority of the chorus vocal melody. The band also made a slight slip up which is negligible but noticeable all the same. They played two songs from their more recent albums to stay current: the first one was “Wish You Well” which was from Spr, their most recent album, and the single that followed was “Drop Me in The Water” from Somethingness. 

Despite “Somewhere Out There” falling out of reach with its live expectations, many fans in the crowd could be seen waving their lighters to the beat of the ballad. 

Easily the most memorable songs (and least disappointing) from their set were “Clumsy” and “4am."  All in all I would’ve just liked to hear Maida’s voice more in the mix, but then again I think there was a reason for that as there had been many reports of him not being able to hit the high notes. Lastly, during “Starseed”, he barely sang the chorus sections and made the crowd do it; much to the our chagrin.

And then, everybody’s attention was diverted to the main attraction of Smashing Pumpkins. Do you like pad synths? Well then you would have loved the intro theme to the Smashing Pumpkins set. If I could describe it in one word?: symphonic. If you thought that the people were cheering for Our Lady Peace during their hits, you should’ve seen them during “Bullet With Butterfly Wings.” 

“Bonsoir Montréal, nous somme Smashing Pumpkins” in a shitty French accent right into “Today” which filled the venue with the sounds of teenage angst in a North American suburb. They have improved a lot since their last venture into Montreal in 2019. I remember Billy Corgan just playing the songs and barely interacting with the crowd. This couldn’t be further from the truth this time: he was dancing, pointing to random crowd members and interacting with them. Their set had just the right amount of heavy and soft songs; playing the softer tracks during moments where they felt people’s ears would tire out and they were spot on. Truly the mark of a seasoned band that has experienced many decades of touring.

One song from the setlist was a curveball in two ways: they took the song and turned it into their own, and the fact that they, Smashing Pumpkins, would dare stray from the 90s post-grunge that they were. That song was “Once in A Lifetime”, originally from the new wave band Talking Heads. They also didn’t hesitate to play their more recent songs, as “Solara,” “CYR,” and “Beguiled” made the set. Halfway through the show, Corgan and Iha struck up a conversation with each other, and thanked the crowd, remarking how “never in a million years could we imagine that we would be up here with you"; proceeding to perform the fan favorite Tonight, Tonight.

After “I of the Mourning” Iha introduced the band, playing up the banter levels again before starting the iconic “Cherub Rock.” What followed were some of the biggest hits in '90s post grunge history: after “Cherub Rock;” there came “Zero,” and then “1979.” I don’t know which of these received the loudest applause but Corgan, Iha, and Chamberlain, if you’re reading this, thank you for the memories. You made me cry. 

It's as if the night was a race for who was edgier: Poppy, Our Lady Peace, or Smashing Pumpkins? With Poppy/Myers’ sultry industrial sound and OLP having the monopoly on Canadian edginess, Smashing Pumpkins retained their first-place status as the “God is empty, just like me” persona. 10/10 would watch them again for the third time.