John Carpenter - Troxy, London

  • In Live Review
  • 10:12 on 3rd Nov 2016
  • By Dominic RossDominic Ross
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Rounding off the UK leg of his “Release The Bats” career retrospective, the anticipation is palpable in the beautiful art deco surroundings nestled in East London, the audience waitinig patiently for the raconteur and legend John Carpenter. The venue and lighting is still clinging to the Halloween theme with the stage awash with blood red and orange lighting. On entering the venue, gig goers are advised to download a Release The Bats app and point their camera phones at the advertising posters dotted around the venue, revealing They Live logos such as “Obey”, etc. A neat little touch that keeps the waiting audience entertain while they wait for the man to take the stage.

After a little confusion regarding stage times, Carpenter strolls onto the stage with his Lost Themes band with whom he recorded his last 2 non-soundtrack albums with, one of whom is Carpenter’s son Cody (himself diverging into soundtrack work). It is with a confident swagger and hand in pocket that the nearly 70 year old Carpenter takes to the stage. Greeting the audience, the band launch into the first number, the main theme from Escape From New York. It gives you a taste of what to expect from the evening as Carpenter’s five piece band take what have usually been very minimal synth pieces and, bolstered by the live rock instruments, elevates them to out and out prog wigouts. From the off it's a relentless onslaught of classic after classic soundtrack interspersed with heavier Pink Floyd influenced tracks such “Vortex”, and even taking time to play Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack to The Thing. There is only one criticism that could be levelled at tonight’s gig is that while each soundtrack number is accompanied by a montage of the film itself, which is used to great effect during the theme to They Live, there is nothing accompanying the works from the Lost Themes albums. Carpenter’s music (soundtrack or not) has also been based on the visuals and there are times where the performance doesn’t suck you in like the much loved film work.

After a brisk hour and fifteen minute set, you don’t feel short changed as Carpenter wraps up on his theme from Christine imploring us to drive carefully on our way home. This, along with Carpenter’s dad dancing throughout the show, goes to show that the man himself is showing no signs of slowing down. A fellow, less pleased, gig goer described Carpenter as a niche director who doesn’t make any good films any more and thought there was “too much prog”. However, this has always been John Carpenter. Throughout his career he's done things his own way, without compromise to his vision, with both film and music. If you don’t like it, don’t buy the ticket. If you love it, strap in and enjoy the ride. And remember to drive carefully.

Setlist
1. Escape From New York: Main Title
2. Assault on Precinct 13: Main Title
3. Vortex
4. Mystery
5. The Fog: Main Title Theme
6. They Live: Coming to L.A.
7. The Thing: Main Theme - Desolation
8. Distant Dream
9. Big Trouble in Little China: Pork Chop Express
10. Wraith
11. Night
12. Halloween Theme - Main Title
13. In the Mouth of Madness: In the Mouth of Madness

Encore:
14. Prince of Darkness: Darkness Begins
15. Virtual Survivor
16. Purgatory
17. Christine: Christine Attacks (Plymouth Fury)

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