Billy Corgan has led the Smashing Pumpkins back from the desert wanderings embodied in strained musical experimentation and collapsing lineups to a satisfying place for the band and its fans.
In concert Saturday at the Agganis Arena, the Pumpkins performed their new album, “Oceania,” in its entirety and followed that with a second hour of hits and album cuts culled mainly from the band’s ’90s commercial peak.
In airing “Oceania,” Corgan and his crew that now consists of guitarist Jeff Schroeder, bassist Nicole Fiorentino (formerly of Ludlow), and drummer Mike Byrne proved that they are not tethered to the past. The staging of the material dazzled, with the grand sweep of the tunes accentuated with an elaborate visual display anchored by a giant orb suspended over the stage. That globe served as a projection surface for lights and videos that enhanced the psychedelia oozing through “Oceania.”
But “Oceania” is not a quiet brand of trippy. The opening song, “Quasar,” was a tumble of guitar squall and vocal hollers, ironically summoning the spirits of peace with a blitzkrieg attack.
The band forged similar juxtapositions throughout the “Oceania” songs. “Panopticon” was a slice of optimism rubbed raw by volume. Even the album’s frothier moments such as “One Diamond, One Heart” spouted jagged edges live. Whether breaking down in “Pale Horse” or looking up in “Wildflower,” the Pumpkins kept swirling together the scrappy and the grand.
Corgan has always been at his best translating personal tumult into arena bombast, and his return to that sort of song on “Oceania” makes the new material feel instantly comfortable.
The Smashing Pumpkins transitioned out of “Oceania” with an elongated and dark version of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” swapping its original comic-book tone for graphic-novel grit. The band then revived the caustic rave-up “X.Y.U.,” which became a platform for Corgan’s guitar heroics.
Then came a suite of alt-rock glory as the Pumpkins ran through “Disarm,” “Tonight, Tonight,” and “Bullet With Butterfly Wings.” The lesser-known “A Song for a Son” offered an epic detour before the band returned to its hits, culminating with the ode to emptiness “Zero,” a perfectly Corganesque way to end such a full-bodied show.
England’s Morning Parade opened with a set of polished prog-pop. The band easily shifted from twitchy dance grooves to mellow introspection.Scott McLennan can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ScottMcLennan1.