"For 90s alt rock fans, this is the holy grail": Weezer and The Smashing Pumpkins kick off their UK tour with setlists that are a Gen-X wet dream

Live debuts, surprise covers and all the alt rock hits you could ever possibly want - Weezer and Smashing Pumpkins kick off their UK tour in Birmingham

Rivers Cuomo/Billy Corgan
(Image: © Katja Ogrin/Redferns/Getty Images)

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God bless nostalgia. With touring becoming ever-more expensive and punters being forced to make tactical decisions about what shows to go to, it's hardly surprising we're enjoying a golden age of nostalgia-driven package tours that perfectly cater to Fans Of A Certain Vintage, offering just a little more bang for your buck with the added bonus of bringing together the kinds of bills you could only fantasize about 25 years ago. Enter, The Smashing Pumpkins and Weezer, two of the scene's most enduring - if creatively mecurial - forces uniting for a massive night out that's packing arenas throughout the UK, kicking off at Birmingham's Utilita Arena. 

For 90s alt rock fans, this is the holy grail and the ultimate testament to how diverse the Gen-X alt gold rush was both stylistically and philosophically. In the left corner, Billy Corgan's maximalist, artful yet arch art metal operas, where no concept is too grandiose and everything from classical music to shoegaze can be deployed at the drop of a hat. On the right, Rivers Cuomo's penchant for pure, simple rock with no ostentation, a collision of power pop choruses and massive riffs that somehow blurred the lines between punk, 70s rock/heavy metal and indie. They might inhabit the same broad church of alternative rock, but they sing from very different hymn sheets. 

Even the setlists suggest a wildly different approach. Arriving to a hale My Name Is Jonas, Weezer go for broke with an all-killer, no filler set that burns through the likes of Beverly Hills, Dope Nose, Undone - The Sweater Song and Pork And Beans back-to-back, each song stripped to its bare essentials and played with an endearingly infectious enthusiasm that betrays the band's punk leanings. Not so much in the spotlight as inhabiting the space around it, Weezer are from the fame-shunning stock as Nirvana and it shows in a largely spartan stage set-up, colourful lights and a a spotlight-encrusted Weezer logo the only indulgences that mark the show apart from a club performance or a particularly intense jam session in the garage. 

Needless to say, it's magic. Armed with some of the catchiest hooks in rock history, the crowd respond to the blitzkrieg of anthems with a relentless enthusiasm that charges the room with an electric buzz, Weezer bursting from one song to another with barely any pauses. In turn, although Rivers doesn't address the crowd for much of the set, his wry humour comes through in little bits like singing "Bir-Min-g-HAM, that's where I want to be!" into Beverley Hills, or otherwise slipping choruses from other songs into the set - most notably Troublemaker's chorus into Dope Nose. 

"This is a dream come true!" Rivers breathlessly says, by this point well over halfway through the night after an extra-bouncy rendition of The Good Life. "Weezer and Smashing Pumpkins together! Now we're gonna play a song written by Billy Corgan," he teases, before the band hammer out a colossal cover of Hole's Celebrity Skin, somehow adding to their already impossible arsenal of arena-friendly tunes. 

Weezer Setlist Utilita Arena Birmingham June 7 2024

My Name Is Jonas
Beverley Hills
Dope Nose
Undone - The Sweater Song
Pork And Beans
All My Favourite Songs
You Gave Your Love To Me Softly
Pink Triangle
Island In The Sun
Perfect Situation
The Good Life
Celebrity Skin
In The Garage
Say It Ain't So
Run, Raven, Run
Hash Pipe
Only In Dreams
Buddy Holly

Speaking to Kerrang! ahead of their UK tour, Billy Corgan suggested that Smashing Pumpkins had no interest in just churning out the hits. But, as the first show of The World Is A Vampire shows, they've clearly found some room for compromise, still belting out everything from Today to 1979, Tonight, Tonight and Bullet With Butterfly Wings to massive roars of approval. 

Granted, their approach - and accompanying aesthetic - is still vastly different to Weezer's; the buzzing riff of The Everlasting Gaze sees the Pumpkins stride out one-by-one, while the song is given extra metallic heft that shows they approach from a very different side of alternative music. 

It's not lost on the Pumpkins that they're in the birthplace of heavy metal; before they arrive the PAs blare out a non-stop rotation of Judas Priest songs, and partway through the set guitarist James Iha can't help himself as he starts to strum Sweet Leaf, Corgan joining in by singing a verse. "The Smashing Pumpkins, in the home of heavy metal..." he muses. "I never thought to write a love song about weed. But that's the magic of Birmingham!" 

In turn, the Pumpkins' sound is amped up with seemingly every riff and drum-fill afforded some extra bombast, songs often ending in squalling solos as every member jams with a sense of zeal that could only come from opening night excitement. Granted, there are some metal clichés that could have been dropped - a drum solo capping off U2 cover Zoo Station three songs in feels overly indulgent - but the overall atmosphere is one of utter enthusiasm and joy that only gets amplified when the classics do start rolling in. 

Today is tackled with the same bombast the band applied to Doomsday Clock before it, utterly explosive in both performance and sound, while the likes of Tonight, Tonight, Ava Adore and Disarm come with the gorgeous grandeur that embodied Pumpkins' classic releases. 

True to Corgan's promise that Pumpkins don't want mindless nostalgia, their new songs prove equally massive; the stomping riff of single Beguiled has heads banging enthusiastically as Corgan's kid comes running out to dance along to the song, while Empires deploys a guitar tone that could just as easily pop up in a Ministry song. 

With a hefty 24-song set, the Pumpkins cover the majority of their three-decade-plus career, bringing things home with a sense of literal fuzzy nostalgia as Cherub Rock buzzes along, inducing tonal whiplash when Zero kicks up immediately after and Corgan gnashes his way through the song, holding the mic out as the crowd roar along to every lyric, Corgan's invitation to go for a ride still as thrilling as it was 30 years ago. 

The Smashing Pumpkins Setlist Birmingham Utilita Arena June 7 2024

The Everlasting Gaze
Doomsday Clock
Zoo Station
Thru The Eyes Of Ruby
Tonight, Tonight
That Which Animates The Spirit
Ava Adore
Bullet With Butterfly Wings
Birch Grove
Cherub Rock

Rich Hobson

Staff writer for Metal Hammer, Rich has never met a feature he didn't fancy, which is just as well when it comes to covering everything rock, punk and metal for both print and online, be it legendary events like Rock In Rio or Clash Of The Titans or seeking out exciting new bands like Nine Treasures, Jinjer and Sleep Token.