The Master of Horror John Carpenter proves he’s the master of more than mere scares, as he takes to the stage to perform his classic themes and brilliant new material.
“I direct horror movies,” John Carpenter declares to an ecstatic audience at Bristol’s packed out Colston Hall. “I love horror movies. Horror movies will live forever.”
He’s not wrong. After all, Carpenter’s body of work is nothing short of iconic. As he launches in to a stirring rendition of Halloween’s haunting theme midway through a barnstorming 90-minute set, it’s already self-evident that he’s in good company.
Carpenter may be a man of relatively few words on stage, but when he speaks his receptive audience listens. Well primed for what’s to come, they subsequently launch in to a state of frenzy whenever he does.
The Master of Horror may not have seemed a likely candidate for rock star status a few years ago, but if Carpenter’s last few months of extensive touring have proven anything, it’s that he’s a master of much more than crafting horror stories.
Not that this is particularly surprising, of course. Having composed the scores for the majority of his own films since his debut feature, Dark Star, in 1974, many of Carpenter’s scores have since gone on to attain a legendary status in their own right. Played live, however, they take on another life altogether.
Opening with a blistering performance of the theme from Escape from New York, Carpenter and his band proceed to blitz through a set of themes from the likes of Assault on Precinct 13 and The Fog, the latter appropriately accompanied by a wave of dry ice flooding the stage as scenes from each film beam on to the backdrop.
Tracks from Carpenter’s debut LP, the brilliant Lost Themes, and its recent follow up, Lost Themes II, punctuate a set comprised of well-known and marginally lesser-known themes, but it’s when Carpenter embraces full-blown nostalgia that things really come in to their own.
The band launches into They Live and, fittingly, their sunglasses come out as the film’s iconic subliminal messages fill the screen. Footage of the late Roddy Piper kicking ass and chewing bubblegum follows – a stirring moment that receives rapturous applause.
Renditions of In The Mouth Of Madness and Ennio Morricone’s The Thing score follow suit, with Carpenter later musing on his collaborations with Kurt Russell: “The most fun we ever had was when we went looking for a girl with green eyes”.
The band delivers a blistering version of the Big Trouble In Little China theme and the crowd goes ballistic once more.
The evening concludes with a slightly less obvious trio – the theme from Prince of Darkness is followed by Lost Themes II’s stand-out moment, ‘Virtual Survivor’. Carpenter then leaves the audience with a parting message, imploring us to drive carefully going home. “Christine is out there,” he warns, as the band play out its blaring synth score. Everyone subsequently spills out of Colston Hall shaken. Changed, even.
2016 was the year that Hans Zimmer took to the stage for the first time, effortlessly convincing us that composers could be rock stars in the process. Months later, here stands John Carpenter, convincingly matching Zimmer’s stage prowess, punctuating each rendition of his classic scores with a raised fist as his audience looks on in awe.
Carpenter may be the Master of Horror first and foremost, but he’s more than mastered the stage too, and for any self-respecting fan of his work, it’s a truly glorious thing to behold.