“Hello. Good evening. I’m John Carpenter.” From a distance the man with the shock of white hair stood behind a keyboard in the centre of the stage may well bear a passing resemblance to an older, bespectacled and moustachioed Emmett Brown from the Back to the Future Trilogy, but we all know precisely who he is. He is a man who needs absolutely no introduction. Apart from anything else, the first three songs he and his band have already played tonight – the main title themes from Escape from New York and Assault on Precinct 13, followed by March of the Children from another of the man’s classic films, Village of the Damned – had very quickly confirmed his identity.
And he is absolutely dead right. He is John Carpenter. And he is one of the greatest film directors of all time and a man who has also scored most of his own movies. And what is even more, he is here tonight bringing a touch of old-school Hollywood gravitas to Tyneside to perform some of that incredible, indelible cinematic music of his alongside what he describes as “the soundtrack to movies in your mind”, a selection of songs he has recorded more recently and which have never made it into the cinema.
It is the eve of Halloween, the night before the general release of the sequel to the 1978 film of the same name and one that is commonly regarded as being John Carpenter’s masterpiece. Carpenter may not have directed this latest instalment in the Halloween franchise but alongside his son Cody Carpenter and godson Daniel Davies (son of The Kinks’ guitarist Dave Davies) he did compose its soundtrack. And the main title theme from the new score duly makes an appearance tonight. The penultimate song in the set, the song retains that instantly recognizable, very eerie 5/4 twinkling piano motif. The passing of 40 years has done nothing to dilute its sinister effect.
By then John Carpenter and his band – his son and godson on their respective keyboards and guitar, augmented admirably by John Konesky also on guitar, bassist John Spiker, and drummer Scott Seiver – have taken us on a grand tour of Tinseltown’s dark and frightening underbelly. We hear the main title theme from John Carpenter’s 1980 supernatural chiller The Fog, Coming to LA from his 1988 science-fiction horror film They Live and the Ennio Morricone-composed main theme to another of Carpenter’s more scary films, The Thing, all of which come wrapped in those very familiar creeping synthesiser riffs and snarling guitars complete with their thrilling sense of apprehension and impending doom.
But it is after Halloween that things start to get really interesting. The violence, horror and sheer chaos of In The Mouth Of Madness is brought to exhilarating life through the heavy metal-inspired tumult of the film’s main title theme. The fear etched across the star of the film Sam Neill’s face on the projected backdrop reflects the unmistakable paranoia that courses through the music. Similar nastiness and terror is evident during the first encore Body Bags, where we watch clips of actor Stacy Keach’s hair-transplant-gone-wrong unravelling behind John Carpenter and his torrent of ominous synth-laden sound. It is little wonder that the legendary director chooses to never watch any of his old films.
And it all comes to a dizzying close with Christine as the bright red 1958 Plymouth Fury that gave the film it’s name drives round town under the cover of darkness wreaking her vengeful fury whilst accompanied by Carpenter’s pulverising score. Lest you should forget, the man is called John Carpenter. He is the Master of Horror. And the Master of Horror-Movie Soundtracks. And you should accept no substitute.
Photos: Simon Godley
More photos from this performance can be found HERE