There really isn’t much more to be said about John Carpenter. You either know who he is and have seen his films or your life is not as good as it could be. He is the Master of Horror responsible for making some of the classics throughout the seventies and eighties that influenced the whole industry. On a more personal level I’d count three of his films in my top ten of all time: Halloween, Escape From New York and The Thing so if you’re looking for an objective review of his live show you won’t get one here – this tour is 100% fan service that delivers at every level.
Glasgow Barrowlands is absolutely rammed as I arrive just before stage time at 8:30pm. The gender split is so heavily male that I think there may be more women working for the venue than in the crowd. That said, it’s an interesting mix – a lot of film fans who may not usually be the type of folk who go to see live music at Barrowlands are here, amongst the more expected rock and metal fans. Carpenter and his band take the stage and we open with the Escape From New York theme, behind them a huge cinema screen shows clips from the movie cut together to fit the music. It’s such a perfect start and the crowd are immediately on board.
Next comes Assault From Precinct 13 which I always remember was used on the nineties computer game Xenon 2 soundtrack after being remixed by Bomb The Bass. Again, it’s a classic theme that only on seeing live did I realise how tough it is on the drummer who has to hammer out the same beat for five minutes.
Carpenter finally speaks after the second song advising that there will be no vocals in this show. Which is exactly what I expected but also a shame that we won’t be hearing his ridiculous falsetto voice on the closing song from Big Trouble In Little China. I think I am in the minority of those would even enjoy that – Carpenter’s soundtracks have always been his atmospheric and moody scores, crammed with 80s synths – something that has come back in recent horror films like It Follows or with retrowave bands like GUNSHIP.
When the eighties tinged rock of They Live starts the band don the infamous black sunglasses and intercut with the footage are the statements that the shades reveal: CONSUME, SUBMIT, MONEY IS YOUR GOD, etc. It was all very retro, and even though I had recently watched They Live it made me nostalgic to watch it again.
Of course, Carpenter has also released a couple of solo records recently: Lost Themes 1 and 2 and we get a couple of those thrown in too tonight. The standout for me being Vortex with it’s mix of cheesy rock guitars and eighties arpeggiators it fits perfectly in with the rest of the setlist.
Another highlight was, naturally, when we got to Halloween. Carpenter has recently revisited the soundtrack for the latest film version and we get both versions tonight. Scenes from the new one and the revamped score before all of a sudden the band drop out and the haunting and familiar original Halloween theme emerges. The crowd shriek out in delight – this is, ultimately, what we came here for.
On reflection it’s a strange gig to review, as I said, I can’t be objective. On one hand we’ve just stood watching Carpenter push a few keys on his keyboard all night while the band (including his son Cody on lead synth) did most of the heavy lifting, and on the other it was an absolute fantastic experience that thrilled everyone there by giving them exactly what they’d come for. Perfection.