Billy Corgan: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert

Nov. 20, 2017 | Robin Hilton — Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan is a complicated guy. In the years since that iconic and much-beloved rock band broke up in 2000, Corgan has continued to put out music under various names and projects – including several releases as Smashing Pumpkins, with different lineups – while often stumbling through a bumpy minefield of his own making. To the head-scratching surprise of some longtime fans, he’s gotten heavily involved in pro wrestling, talked conspiracy theories during several appearances on The Alex Jones Show (warning of weaponized zombies in one interview), and, over the years, lobbed innumerable grievances about former bandmates, while trashing other musicians and publicly feuding with a revolving cast of celebrities and public figures.

More recently, Corgan seems to have mellowed. He opted to release his new solo album Ogilala, under his (very grownup-sounding) full name, William Patrick Corgan (though he very recently changed it back to Billy Corgan on streaming services and YouTube), and filled the record with beautifully rendered acoustic songs built on piano and strings.

When he settled in for this memorable Tiny Desk performance with a string quartet he’d just met hours before, Corgan was nothing but a good-natured delight. After years of selling millions of records and playing packed arenas, he showed up in a cab with just his tour manager and, during setup and rehearsals, joked about being all DIY now.

Dressed for winter weather in a heavy scarf, hoodie, down jacket and cap, Corgan opened with a stirring rendition of the 1995 Smashing Pumpkins song “Tonight, Tonight.” It was a transporting moment that left some fans in the NPR offices a little misty eyed. Corgan then followed with two Ogilala standouts, “Aeornaut” and “Mandarynne,” songs about staying strong and true to yourself and soldiering on in the face of a troubled world.

The Smashing Pumpkins always had a soft side, from the more melancholy moments of 1991’s “Rhinoceros” to “Sweet Sweet,” “Take Me Down” and Adore’s gorgeous opener, “To Shelia.” But here the beauty and grace of Corgan’s poetry and songwriting is on full display.

Set List

“Tonight, Tonight”




Billy Corgan (vocals, guitar, piano), Kristin Bakkegard (violin), Livy Amoruso (violin), Paul Bagley (viola), Carol Anne Bosco (cello)


Producers: Robin Hilton, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Nicholas Garbaty, Alyse Young; Production Assistant: Salvatore Maicki; Photo: Jennifer Kerrigan/NPR

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20 Responses to “Billy Corgan: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert”

  1. Bmore Bob says:

    I realize he’s played and sung “Tonight” a million times but it’s got to be an extremely difficult tune to pull off yet he absolutely kills it here. Fucking amazing.

  2. Bmore Bob says:


  3. Sam Carter says:

    This brings back a flood of wonderful nostalgia

  4. chairshoe81 says:

    not even in my top 20 tiny desks ive seen

  5. Richard Swagger says:

    Red hot chili peppers next 🌶

  6. heat seeker says:

    his voice has not changed with age at all, that's awesome.

  7. Moski Serious says:

    That was great! I have missed that voice for a long time! Thanks!

  8. Hits from the Bong says:

    Damn Billy's still got it! Hopefully a reunion next year! I was 17 when Mellon collie and the infinite sadness was released, Miss the 90's!

  9. MegaCrasherMusic says:

    This is one of the best renditions of "tonight, tonight" I have ever heard – and that's coming from somebody who has been around since the beginning. If this is any preview of how the rumored SP reunion tour might go, please take my money!

  10. isaacfarted says:

    A much needed desk concert!!

  11. Geoff Longford says:

    Thats how I play piano but I sound terrible and he rocks.

  12. Александр Заостровский says:

    Это не рок! Это-нытьё!

  13. Александр Заостровский says:

    Middle Ages+Elton John

  14. Rafael Graterol says:

    Surprisingly good… loved the string arrangement

  15. Coriander Womack says:


  16. Wade Haskell says:

    That was really beautiful.

  17. Peter Sutherland says:


  18. Luke Wiese says:

    That guitar sounds fucking phenomenal. So does Billy's voice. So do the strings.

  19. meh says:

    He looks like Roger Clemens now. I liked this performance alot. I saw them at Lollapalooza 94'? and walked out because he was way out of tune, so I wasn't expecting the excellent vocals here.

  20. Family Power Music says:

    You deserve every bit of that 30 – 40 million missed out on Billy. Jesus Christ is this an amazing set. Thank you Thank you man.

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