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    All photos by John Miller.

    The lights of KFC Yum! Center dim, shut off. Only cell phone screens illuminate the pitch black. Then two walls on the stage separate, a crack of light opening. A bald man saunters out into the darkness. The crowd cheers. Even at a distance, he is easily recognizable. That bald head and his hunched shoulders give him away. Billy Corgan stands at the front of the stage, looks around at his fans screaming his name and starts the show with “Disarm.”

    My seat gives me a side view of the show. I’m surrounded by 35-year-olds in Smashing Pumpkin T-shirts. It feels like I am intruding on their memories. As Corgan sings solo on stage, his childhood pictures flash on the giant screen behind him. School pictures, vacation photos and holiday snapshots are all vandalized with devil horns and words like “outcast” drawn over them. When Corgan ends a ballad, the screen changes from his childhood pictures to various album art from Smashing Pumpkins records. The iconic image of a woman emerging from a golden star from the album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness appears, and the entire arena lets out a deafening roar.

    I have always claimed to be a Smashing Pumpkins fan. I listen to a song here and there on road trips and cleaning days. But I am out of my league among this crowd. They came here to relive their adolescence with a band that turned weird into cool.

    The band takes the stage, each of them draped in black. The more I look at Corgan, the more I see Nosferatu. I think that’s what he’s going for. They play the hits with no lag time in between. The couple next to me sways, each of them with one arm wrapped around the other and one arm flailing in the air. They know the words to every song, much like the rest of the audience. I hope for a mosh to break out during “Siva,” but I think the crowd is past their moshing years. Wouldn’t want to risk a black eye and have to explain it to the daycare teachers on Monday.

    But that didn’t stop Smashing Pumpkins. They played the same as they did 15-plus years ago. They took a break from their music to play a tribute to David Bowie. Corgan, dressed in a silver cape, belted “Space Oddity” while the crowd sang along. It was a well-done cover, and woke the crowd back up for more originals. The high-energy show kept going for a little over two hours. I found my 24 year-old stamina wearing out, and decided it was time to call it a night. I left the crowded Yum! Center forgetting which decade I was in, and continued the Smashing Pumpkins jam session in my car on the way home. 

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