Weezer and The Smashing Pumpkins, Utilita Arena Birmingham, 07/06/24

The night and day of alt rock deliver a double knockout on the first night of their twofer tour

This wouldn’t have happened back in the day. Anyone listening to Weezer in the mid 90s was definitely standing in a very different corner of the playground to The Smashing Pumpkins fans. Power pop and goth rock just had very different clothes. Then again, they were both standing in the corners of that playground, and they definitely both would have been beaten up by the same kids (the Oasis fans…). 

30 years later, the differences are far less obvious than the similarities – and everyone old enough to have grown up with them both has come around to the idea that all alt rock is a force for good. Weezer were always far more edgy than they were given credit for anyway, and The Smashing Pumpkins tend to cry more than they scream – so The Smashing Weezers (The Wheezing Pumpkins?) now sounds like the perfect idea in 2024: two halves of the same gnarly Gen X pancake, now served up in an arena with actual seats in it. 

First up is Weezer (always the bridesmaid in the UK – after subbing both Fall Out Boy and Green Day the last time they were here on the Hella Mega tour in 2022). Opening with ‘My Name Is Jonas’ before namedropping “Birm-Ing-Ham” into ‘Beverly Hills’, they’re out of the gate swinging. The first night of any tour can sometimes be the place for finding your feet, but a few songs in and Rivers Cuomo is already Freddy Mercury-ing the mic stand to a sea of bouncing black T-shirts. What other crowd would try and start a mosh pit to ‘Only In Dreams’ (only for it to awkwardly peter out when they realise there isn’t a drop)? 

Nodding to their co-headliners with a cover of Billy Corgan’s ‘Celebrity Skin’ (written for Hole, here given a perfect power pop reskin), and adding just a snippet of a single track (‘Run, Raven, Run’) from their most recent SZNZ EP series, the rest of the set is pure nostalgia. When you’ve got The Blue and The Green albums in your pocket, you’ve got a pretty big arsenal to draw from – and a closing run of ‘In The Garage’, ‘Say It Ain’t So’, ‘Hash Pipe’, ‘Only In Dreams’ and ‘Buddy Holly’ feels all but unbeatable.   

But we’re only just getting started. Neon “W” pulled down, Jimmy Chamberlin’s behemoth of a drum kit wheeled in, The Smashing Pumpkins stalk on to the synth sounds of ATUM. Corgan is dressed in a black and red priest’s smock and combat boots, looking like an Inquisition Uncle Fester, and he’s wielding his guitar like a minigun. ‘The Everlasting Gaze’ hits like a bomb, rolling hard into ‘Doomsday Clock’ as the walls start crumbling. 

Playing for over two hours, here we’re getting The Smashing Pumpkins’ own Eras tour: spanning 10 albums and giving us metal Pumpkins, prog Pumpkins, psyche rock, synth-pop, college rock, operatic and shoegaze Pumpkins together. Two songs in we even get a U2 cover (‘Zoo Station’). 

With ATUM getting almost as much of an airing as Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness, the message here is relevance, in stark contrast to Weezer’s breezy retro set. Cuomo got the crowd moving more, but Corgan gets them roaring louder – indulging a Whiplash Chamberlin drum solo early on but stealing the highlight of the night for himself on ‘Gossamer’ with the kind of guitar solo that feels almost religious. 

“This is the birthplace of heavy metal,” grins James Iha, almost launching into ‘Sweet Leaf’, just for the Brummies. “Who else could have written a love song about weed? That’s the f*cking genius,” adds Corgan, who’s always acknowledged his love for Sabbath. Things get cute when Corgan’s son runs on during ‘Panopticon’, jabbing his fingers in his dad’s mouth and trying to pluck at the guitar before heading to the side of the stage to do some colouring in for the next half an hour. Running back on after a closing run of ‘Cherub Rock’ and ‘Zero’, Corgan lifts him up to the mic to deliver the last words of the night, “I’m done”. We all are. 

The first time The Smashing Pumpkins toured with an indie band we got the gentlest diss-track in lo-fi out of it, but this time it all feels right. Weezer and TSP now makes total sense. Maybe all alt-rock really is equal. Then again, Interpol are supporting them on the rest of their European tour, and that’s just weird.

Weezer and The Smashing Pumpkins continue their co-headline tour in the UK and Ireland until June 14, stopping at London, Dublin, Glasgow, Manchester and Cardiff. Find tickets here.

Photo credit: Katja Ogrin/Redferns