July 16, 2016

Concert Review: John Carpenter - Live Retrospective (Playstation Theater, 7/8/16)

It’s not often that I go to concerts anymore. It’s not that I don’t want to go, but access to artists I want to see is a bit more scarce these days. Of course, there are some that I make every effort to go see based on the rarity of appearances. Back in 2013 it was announced that Goblin was embarking on their first ever tour of the United States. This announcement was one of those rare moments, an artist I adore, it was a bucket list moment and the show was utterly transcendent. Two years later I was able to repeat that feeling when composer Fabio Frizzi (The Beyond, Zombie) went on a tour of the US. That, too, was absolutely incredible. Now, in 2016 I was able to scratch another entry off the bucket list, I saw John Carpenter in concert. It was magic.

It was back in February when I first heard about John Carpenter going on tour and as soon as I saw tickets go on sale, I got mine. There was no way I was going to let this opportunity get away from me. The only problem was waiting from the time I got that ticket in February to when the convert actually happened in July. Knowing I had that ticket and knowing that I was going to be able to witness this concert in person made the intervening months tantamount to torture. Then the day came and I could not wait. The concert transcended the usual concert atmosphere, besides hearing incredible music with new arrangements performed live, it was also a family reunion of sort bringing together members of my Monster Mania convention family and my Hudson Horror Show family, all under the same roof in the celebration of the musical genius of John Carpenter.

The show was at the Playstation Theater, previously known as the Best Buy Theater, the Nokia Theater, and probably a few other names. The venue, which sits adjacent to Times Square was a good one, I had never been there before, but felt it was a good enough size to play host to such grandiose music, yet small enough to retain an intimate feel. We arrived at the theater about a half hour before the doors opened, waiting in a stuffy hallway waiting for the doors to open. Once we made our way inside, we made our way to the merchandise table where I was able to snag an autographed vinyl of Carpenter’s Lost Themes II album. We then went into the theater where we saw a sea of people crowding the floor, all anxious for the show to begin.

It was just past 8PM when the lights went down and John Carpenter took the stage, accompanied by his band (which includes his son, Cody, on lead synthesizer). With no introduction they dove right into the first cut of the evening, the appropriate for the location, theme from Escape from New York. That was followed by the main title from Assault on Precinct 13. Carpenter would then go on to introduce himself as a director of horror films. Of course, that is an overly simplistic way of describing the multi-talented genius that he is, but the matter of fact fashion of the delivery.

As the show progressed, I found myself drawn more and more in to it. There is something about John Carpenter’s composing that is just beautiful. The music is complex in its simplicity, is highly effective at creating a mood, gets easily stuck in your head, and is just great music. This goes for both his film compositions as well as his non-soundtrack work on the Lost Themes albums.

From the notes of the first song all the way through to the finale the crowd was way into it, cheering, clapping, and very attentive to every note emanating from the stage. As far as I was concerned, it wa as transcendent as the Goblin and Frizzi shows. The new rock styled arrangements for the pieces sounded absolutely amazing and whoever was running the soundboard had the mix absolutely perfect.

You know, reflecting on the show, I would have to rank it among the best I have ever seen. There was the excitement of seeing Carpenter in person, the witnessing of the music live, the shared experience with friends, and then there was watching John Carpenter rocking out and dancing on stage while throwing up the universal symbol for metal, the horns.

This really was one for the ages. I can now say I have seen three of my favorite composers of cinematic music. Hopefully, he will continue creating new music and there will be future tours to see him again. If not, I will always have the memories of this show.

Set List and Photos:

Escape From New York: Main Title
Assault on Precinct 13: Main Title
The Fog: Main Title Theme
They Live: Coming To L.A.
The Thing: Main Theme – Desolation
(Ennio Morricone cover)
Distant Dream
Big Trouble in Little China: Pork Chop Express
Halloween Theme – Main Title
In the Mouth of Madness: In The Mouth Of Madness
Prince of Darkness: Darkness Begins
Virtual Survivor
Christine: Christine Attacks (Plymouth Fury)

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