Last Night: Smashing Pumpkins and Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds at the Woodlands Pavilion

Billy Corgan and James Iha of the Smashing Pumpkins.
Billy Corgan and James Iha of the Smashing Pumpkins. Photo by Violeta Alvarez
Smashing Pumpkins, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
August 25, 2019

Barely five seconds into “Disarm," the third single from the Smashing Pumpkins' sophomore album, vocalist Billy Corgan halted his band's performance with a wave of his hand.

At that moment, you could have heard a pin drop inside the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. Was Corgan on the brink of an outburst? Was he about to skip one of the group's most beloved songs?

Pairing the Pumpkins' (almost) original lineup with Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds had the potential to be a train wreck. After all, both acts are led by outspoken, sometimes prickly front men. Would Houston be the setting of the tour's collapse?

Not even close.

Corgan had failed to secure a cable in his guitar, and it had fallen out almost immediately. As he bent over to reconnect it, guitarist James Iha, who had been grumbling about the humidity all evening, muttered, "It's so hot here, shit's bound to fuck up."

With the cable re-attached, the show resumed, but not before everyone onstage shared a laugh with the audience.

Unlike last year, the Pumpkins' boasted a lean and focused set during their latest visit to the Bayou City. After beginning the show with two of their most iconic tracks — "Today" and "Zero" — the band transitioned into some newer material: "Solara" and "Knights Of Malta."

But at no point did Sunday night's performance feel self-aggrandizing or bloated. Instead, fans were treated to an expertly crafted balancing act that included plenty of well-known hits while showcasing some of the band's recent work.

Joined onstage by Iha, original drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, bassist Jeff Schroeder and a group of touring musicians, Corgan sauntered around for nearly 90 minutes, clad in a black tunic. Even his son joined the party momentarily during the fourth song of the night.

Save for during a few deep cuts — namely "Tiberius," "G.L.O.W." and "Blue Skies Bring Tears" — the nearly sold-out crowd's attention was glued to the stage all evening. And during the likes of "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" and "Ava Adore," the Pumpkins sounded as cutting as ever.

When this tour was announced, it was met with plenty of flak from snarky music bloggers. And while we can't speak to any other stops, Sunday evening's performance in The Woodlands went off without a hitch. For all the drama that precedes the band, Iha, Chamberlin and Corgan seemed genuinely happy to be sharing a stage together.

click to enlarge Noel Gallagher flanked by The High Flying Birds. - PHOTO BY VIOLETA ALVAREZ
Noel Gallagher flanked by The High Flying Birds.
Photo by Violeta Alvarez
Before the Pumpkins, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds performed material from their last two releases followed by nearly half a dozen covers.

Gallagher displayed clear contempt for the crowd during his band's set, making fun of a fan wearing a KISS t-shirt and calling a handful of people in the audience liars after asking if anyone in attendance owned a horse.

Despite his attitude, The High Flying Birds put on quite a show. Their set began with the first five tracks from 2017's Who Built The Moon, performed in succession, followed by two of their latest songs, "Black Star Dancing" and "This Is The Place."

"So that first part of the show was for us," Gallagher said about 30 minutes into the show. "The second half is for you. Enjoy."

He then began to strum his guitar, and the opening chords of "Wonderwall" were met with cheers. Following the most popular song he has even written, Gallagher played three more Oasis cuts before ending his performance with a cover of The Beatles' "All You Need Is Love."

And while an Oasis reunion is unlikely given that there's still no love lost between Gallagher and his brother Liam, perhaps the last song performed was an indication that Noel is no longer looking back in anger, which is a start.

(Smashing Pumpkins)
Knights Of Malta
Bullet With Butterfly Wings
Fire And Rain (James Taylor cover)
Ava Adore
Tonight, Tonight
Blue Skies Bring Tears
Cherub Rock
The Aeroplane Flies High (Turns Left, Looks Right)

(Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds)
Fort Knox
Holy Mountain
Keep On Reaching
It’s A Beautiful World
She Taught Me How To Fly
Black Star Dancing
This Is The Place
Wonderwall (Oasis cover)
Little By Little (Oasis cover)
Stop Crying Your Heart Out (Oasis cover)
Don’t Look Back In Anger (Oasis cover)
All You Need Is Love (Beatles cover)
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Matt is a regular contributor to the Houston Press’ music section. He graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in print journalism and global business. Matt first began writing for the Press as an intern, having accidentally sent his resume to the publication's music editor instead of the news chief. After half a decade of attending concerts and interviewing musicians, he has credited this fortuitous mistake to divine intervention.
Contact: Matthew Keever