Thursday, November 3, 2016

Review of John Carpenter Live at the Troxy, London – 31st October 2016

I’m a huge John Carpenter fan. I’ve got a books, CDs, posters and DVD collection of every film he’s ever been involved with from Dark Star to The Ward with everything – and I mean everything – he’s even tangentially been involved in (Vampires: Los Muertos (urgh), Black Moon Rising (okay), El Diablo (still need to see)). 

I was a little hesitant when it was announced a few years back that Carpenter was going to release new music but thankfully when I got round to listening to them I thought Lost Themes 1 & 2 were both very good synth albums whose only problem was that there wasn't a kickass movie to accompany them and firmly place the songs in your brain.

When I found out he was touring to the UK playing the themes from his films and recent albums Lost Themes 1 & 2, I knew I had to get tickets. After all, he was playing on October 31st and what better way to spend Halloween than listening to the director of Halloween playing the theme from Halloween. With it being Oct 31st the venue suggested fancy dress so I decided to go as a combination of three Kurt Russell characters – Jack Burton, Snake Plissken and RJ Macready (see photo – I’m on the right).

The venue was the Troxy in London – a large old fashioned theatre with a seated upper circle and standing room on the ground floor. Me and my friend Mitch got there around 8 but still managed to get comfortably close to the front. There were a few good cosplay entries from people that put in more time and effort than me – a few Jack Burtons (easy – just need the vest), a couple of Michael Myers, a handful of Snake Plisskens, and some guys wearing full on They Live masks (true dedication given the hot and sweaty atmosphere in the venue).
Around 8.30 the band came on. John dressed completely black, thick framed glasses, his long white hair tied back in a ponytail. He seemed in very high spirits, bopping over to his keyboard in the centre of the stage. Throughout the show he'd continue bopping along in the same 'don't give a shit' attitude of his anti-authoritian characters. As to be expected he was a man of few words, never saying more than a one brief sentence to introduce each song, but he seemed very comfortable and happy to be on stage. 

The band consisted of 3 guitarists, 1 drummer, John on keyboard and his son Cody on dual keyboard to the side. They kicked off with the theme from Escape from New York which I loved – it’s my favourite track he’s ever done – but I was a bit disappointed that he’d began with his high point rather than built up to it. Still the rest of the concert was good and the band flitted back and forth between film themes and Lost Themes.
The backdrop to the stage was a huge white screen which projected clips from the films he was playing. It was a good idea and the crowd lapped it up. There were whoops and hollers when certain people and scenes showed up. The first shot of Kurt Russell as Snake got a cheer which was to be expected but so did the first shot of Adrienne Barbeau in The Fog which I thought was a little odd but nice. The whole band put on sunglasses for the theme to They Live which was a fun touch and got a laugh from the audience.

Obviously with Carpenter being accompanied by a full rock band the movie themes were a little rockier and edgier than the original versions but I was happy with their fidelity.

The only thing I wished he had played but didn't was the song 'Big Trouble in Little China' – that would have brought the house down – but I guess he considers it a Coup De Villes song maybe. It seemed a much more obvious choice for an encore than Christine.
The tracks from Lost Themes slotted in fairly well. Unfortunately they didn’t have any clips to play for them which slightly diminished the theatricality when they played them (could they not have used clips from the music videos they did?). I think 'Night' was the only one that struggled to work because it’s such a minimalist song and basically the band sat back while lead guitarist Daniel Davies had to solo the whole song. 4 minutes is an awful long time for anyone (other than Pete Townshend) to do a guitar solo. 

Still all in all, it was a great show and I’m glad I went. If nothing else I'll never forget looking over the crowd when 'Halloween' was playing and seeing Michael Myers nodding along to it. It was like a surreal meta moment worthy of In the Mouth of MadnessI have a feeling Carpenter may have found a second career and I’m willing to bet he’ll come round again when Lost Themes III comes out.
Set list:
1. Escape From New York: Main Title
2. Assault on Precinct 13: Main Title
3. Vortex (from Lost Themes)
4. Mystery (from Lost Themes)
5. The Fog: Main Title Theme
6. They Live: Coming to L.A.
7. The Thing: Main Theme – Desolation (Ennio Morricone cover)
8. Distant Dream (from Lost Themes II)
9. Big Trouble in Little China: Pork Chop Express
10. Wraith (from Lost Themes)
11. Night (from Lost Themes)
12. Halloween Theme – Main Title
13. In the Mouth of Madness: In the Mouth of Madness
14. Prince of Darkness: Darkness Begins
15. Virtual Survivor (from Lost Themes II)
16. Purgatory (from Lost Themes)
17. Christine: Christine Attacks (Plymouth Fury)

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