The Horror Master Performs all of his Spine Chillers Live and Spares none of the Nostalgia
John Carpenter: Anthology Tour
Trocadero Theatre, Philadelphia Pa
I think I was a John Carpenter fan way before I knew who John Carpenter was. I think you may need to be a fan of John Carpenter to completely understand that statement, but I remember when I was a kid and would see a John Carpenter movie, I would be captivated and horrified, but I could not take my eyes off of the screen. While my eyes were visually digesting the imagery, the rest of my body was taken hostage by the score. It took a few repeat showings of some of his classic movies until I found out he wrote and performed most of the scores as well. I don’t know of too many people that can pull off what Mr. Carpenter can. I have the highest respect for him as a multi-faceted artist. Not only were his movies incredible (in horror, hilarity, or other) but the soundtracks and scoring were perfect.
I have such an appreciation for Carpenter as a filmmaker and a musician due to the fact that he seems to take a project from start to finish and make it magical. Don’t believe me? Let’s take Halloween. Possibly one of the scariest horror movies out there. Now try to think of how scary that movie would be without having your skin crawl from that damn theme song. It makes the movie a 13 out of 10 on the scare-scale and sky rockets the amount of nightmares for us all. So after hearing that The Legendary John Carpenter was putting together a live performance of some of his movie themes accompanied by live montages and all in a live setting, I was thrilled. I was also thrilled to hear he was touring in support of his new “Anthology” record.
To be clear about what the “Anthology” album is; Mr. Carpenter takes his themes from movies, slightly updates them and plays them in a live band setting. Previous versions of his movie themes were multi-tracked studio performances. He has now infused those themes and added some additional magic by adding a live band feel. Don’t fret fans of those electronic drum kits used so memorably. They are still there and have been sampled to live midi drum pads. So those classic electro drum fills that roll down the series of electro toms? Still there in all their glory.
The line for the show literally stretched over two blocks outside in the rainy November Eve. In a way, it was almost the perfect weather. I was amazed as I walked about a block for my place in the line. The generations of people present and sporting Carpenter swag of all types was incredible. Don’t get me wrong, I see rock shirts on people everyday, but to see all these people sporting Carpenter swag made me feel like I was part of some elite group that was almost too cool for school. They Live Sunglasses, Christine Hoodies, Escape from New York Eye Patches, and Halloween Shirts of every style made this show seem like a movie premiere and actually seemed to change the atmosphere from that of a concert to almost something else I wasn’t sure of yet.
Upon entrance to the theater, I was impressed and excited to see the stage was setup for the John Carpenter live band and not another warm up group. As the theatre filled I was amazed to see a different breed of fan and excitement. I overheard people all around me discussing art, Film, Music and other experiences you don’t get to hear at normal shows and it just added to the feeling of the elite fan family. Just before 8:30pm I saw a stage crew member come out, open up and turn on everyone’s standard issued MacBook Pro and surprisingly open up MainStage as the performance program of choice.
Shortly after 8:30pm Mr. Carpenter and his band of musicians descended calmly onto the stage and began to open up w/ “Escape from New York”. The film montage was a nice refresher for anyone who needed just a bit of visual to the show. Everyone sounded tight, but as I looked at each member they all had the same look on their face. Pure Enjoyment and Amazement. Each of these musicians looked like they won the lottery. Not only are they having a ton of fun playing songs they all enjoy, but they get to do it w/ The Man. As each song ended, I experienced something I never really heard often at a live show. Silence. As the song ended and the crowd applauded, the attention went immediately back to the band and all that was heard while waiting for the next song was the hum of the guitar amp. The audience was in total respect and just wanted to genuinely experience each note without interruption. It was incredible.
The show lasted approx. 1 hour 20 minutes and all of the favorites were played w/ small anecdotes from Mr. Carpenter in between. Each song usually included a small dance of enjoyment from the maestro while waiting to play his signature parts. He was assisted by an incredible band including his Son on Lead Synth and God-Son on Lead Guitar. He also snuck in a few tracks from his “Lost Themes” and “Lost Themes II” album and I was totally pumped to hear them. I can’t think of anything that was really missed and the show felt complete even it was only 1 hr 20 min. I left the theatre thrilled that I got to experience his artwork in another presentation format and now his works actually sit even more complete in my mind.
As I drove home, I wondered which Carpenter Classic I was going to review first and just compare how that section of the show played back against the original soundtracks. If Mr. Carpenter and his band comes around again, I will surely plan to see his live shows as many times as I have seen all his movies. The ticket was worth every penny and the experience was near priceless.
5 out of 5.