The Smashing Pumpkins’ “The World is a Vampire” tour hit Long Island’s Jones Beach Theater Wednesday night with Interpol and Rival Sons supporting. The band is celebrating the 30th(!) anniversary of the release of the era-defining masterpiece, “Siamese Dream.” As their performance would prove, the songs on that album as well as The Smashing Pumpkins’ catalogue as a whole consists of a multitude of timeless anthems.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Rival Sons, but as soon as they walked out and Scott Holiday had a double necked guitar strapped to him, I knew we were in for something good. The band started quiet and mysterious, building a slow but steady vibe that made you lean forward in anticipation while they played an extended intro to “Feral Roots.” By the time vocalist Jay Buchanan sang the first verse, the crowd was ready to hang on his every word.
Rival Sons were tightly knit as a unit but loose and free flowing with their sound. The members were comfortable exploring musical tangents while having the confidence that their bandmates would catch onto their wavelength and follow along. For many bands it takes a song or two to get warmed up and into a grove; Rival Sons were locked into their element from the very first note.
I can’t recall the name of the third song that they played, and the setlist as you’ll see below this article is incomplete so I don’t want to call out the wrong track, but want to note the power of Jay Buchanan’s vocals during the performance, particularly during that song. The passion in his delivery mixed with his ability to hold notes for extraordinary lengths was a thrill to watch.
After a fantastic 45-minute set, Rival Sons took a bow and turned the stage over to NYC’s own Interpol. This set was a long time coming for me as a fan. I first got into Interpol back in high school after “Turn on the Bright Lights” was released, and that album as well as their two subsequent releases were on constant rotation during my college years. Many core memories are effectively soundtracked by this band. Yet for whatever reason I had never seen them live.
Better late than never, I suppose, but when they were about halfway through their first song, “Toni,” I was asking myself what took me so long. The feeling only intensified when they played “Obstacle 1” immediately after.
Interpol had a coolness about them in their stage presence, the members delivering their parts with precision but without leaning into theatrics and dramatic movements to sell their contributions. And there was no need to; the music spoke for itself.
The band’s setlist leaned heavily into “Antics” but included tracks from almost all of their albums. A particular standout for me was “Rest My Chemistry” from Interpol’s 2007 release, “Our Love To Admire.” There are many great core memories of mine tied to that track and I was thankful to get to experience it live. The band closed their 14-song set with fan favorite “Slow Hands”, capping off an electric performance that got the crowd hyped and ready for the main event of the evening.
The Smashing Pumpkins took the stage after an intro by “Atum” and opened with “The Everlasting Gaze” before launching into “Doomsday Clock.” The band was fast and furious, their sound unmistakable and their aura legendary – it was magic from the very start.
Despite the magic, I’ll admit that when I first heard that The Smashing Pumpkins were covering “Once in a Lifetime” on this tour, I was unsure. I love The Smashing Pumpkins – but I also love Talking Heads. Could these two worlds collide? The answer is yes. The cover was done in an epically heavy fashion as only the Pumpkins could and I ended up loving it. The same can be said for their cover of Manfred Mann’s “Hubble Bubble (Toil and Trouble)” later in the set which absolutely blew my mind. It was a true highlight of the set.
For those that don’t know, Jones Beach Theater is literally on the water. A portion of the seating as well as the stage is surrounded by the ocean behind it, making it a truly unique venue for experiencing live music. Fans in the GA pit at this show can certainly attest, as the high tide brought in enough water to fill a good portion of the section with ankle-deep water. The flooding began during Interpol’s set and remained for The Smashing Pumpkins. James Iha noticed midway through the Pumpkins’ set, taking a moment to express his sincere confusion and simultaneous respect for those braving the elements to watch the band’s performance. The fans didn’t seem to mind one bit.
Iha and Billy Corgan’s acoustic version of “Tonight, Tonight” sounded beautiful. “Tonight, Tonight” was the song that my wife and I danced to at our wedding, as it was the first time I’d seen the song live since then. I admittedly watched the whole song from the screen of my iPhone as I recorded it to send to my wife and share the moment. It was the only time I took out my phone for the whole show – the rest of the time, I just soaked it all in.
The Smashing Pumpkins setlist was a mix of new material with plenty of classics, including “Jellybelly” which I was stoked to hear. The band closed with a series of fan favorites like “Hummer” and “1979” before ending with an extra heavy version of “Zero” that sent the crowd home happy, myself included.
Shooting Rival Sons’ set was a concert photographer’s dream, at least from a ease and relaxation standpoint. There was more than enough daylight to keep my ISO low and my shutter high. There were stage lights, but they offered more of an accent than a full on production which I appreciated.
The songs were long which gave me plenty of time to shoot, and the songs were vibey which made it a blast to listen while taking the photos. The members were expressive but they didn’t move around the stage too much, so I was able to take my time with each member. Guitarist Scott Holiday and vocalist Jay Buchanan offered plenty of interactive poses that photographed well, and I was able to have my pick of options later. Overall this shoot was everything I want – good music, good vibes, and good photos.
There was still some sun left, albeit minimal when Interpol came on. They had plenty of stage lighting to compensate, and so I was able to get my shots with minimal issues. Frontman Paul Banks was wearing a pair of reflective sunglasses that were fun to capture. I was trying to time it right to get the crowd in the reflection, at some points even getting his pedal board. Guitarist Daniel Kessler started out on the keys before switching to guitar so I felt pretty good about
The Smashing Pumpkins required us to shoot from front-of-house, which is effectively behind the GA pit. I came prepared with a 100-500mm lens rental and used it on one body with my 70-200mm on the other. I ended up using the 100-500mm for almost the entire time, as it allowed me to get super tight shots despite being a distance away.
Much to our delight, we learned upon arrival that we’d been granted approval to shoot the first five songs as opposed to the first three. Somehow, the five songs seemed to fly by as quickly, if not more quickly than the three song timing that I was used to.