Smashing Pumpkins, one of the more famous and influential alternative bands of the 90’s, ended their initial twelve year run in 2000. The original line-up of the band disbanded, even though singer/guitarist Billy Corgan would later revive the group. There was always, of course, a dose of nostalgia for the band that featured the members that made the group so successful during the 90’s. To his credit much of the new material released by Corgan under the Smashing Pumpkins moniker was received with a lot of enthusiasm from the public and the press.
James Iha was the guitarist for the Smashing Pumpkins all throughout their initial 1988-2000 run. After his collaboration with the band ended, he continued making music on his own or collaborating with other musicians, most prominently on recordings by A Perfect Circle and R.E.M.’s MIchael Stipe.
The news of the Smashing Pumpkins reuniting with James Iha was received, as expected, with great excitement by fans of the band and fans of 90’s alternative rock. James Iha joined the band on Saturday and Sunday for a medley of classic, well known songs by the group. On Sunday, original drummer James Chamberlain also joined the group, making it a three quarter of the way reunion. To be fair, until recently Chamberlain was part of the Smashing Pumpkins fold and his departure a few years back (although possibly not permanent) did not seem to happen on any bad terms.
James Iha played on a special set of the concert, with songs mostly from the Siamese Dream album. On Sunday the group also performed a cover of the Rolling Stones’ Angie. Saturday also marked the birthday of the guitar player, with the group celebrating him by having a birthday cake brought on stage and singing him Happy Birthday.
It’s certainly good news to hear that the relationship between the old band members of the Smashing Pumpkins is on the mend. Corgan had reported not having spoken to Iha or original bassist D’arcy Wretzky for many years. But does this mean we are in for a full reunion? And is a full reunion needed?
Reunions of classic bands are certainly very popular these days. The news of the partial Guns n’Roses reunion has been keeping the headlines for months. Reunions usually offer an emotional happy ending for the fans. At it’s best it does bring together musicians that together had great chemistry and were able to create good music. James Iha was certainly an important part of the Smashing Pumpkins, their sound, image and success. But by the same token, Billy Corgan has surprised many by being able to make good records, at a similar level to the band’s classics, since reviving the group. And while the original band members were undeniably talented, Billy Corgan did hold an iron grip on the creative output of the group all throughout their career.
Perhaps it’s best simply viewed as good news that James Iha reunited, at least for two nights, with the Smashing Pumpkins, in a gesture honoring the great work of one of the most troubled and greatest bands of alternative rock.