[Review] John Carpenter’s Anthology Tour is Synth-Sesational!

John Carpenter is currently on tour in support of the Sacred Bones collection Anthology: Themes 1974-1998. Since announcements of his first tours in 2016, fans the world over have been patiently waiting to cross this performance off their Horror Bucket List. Carpenter has always been recognized for his unique self-composed, and performed, movie scores. Countless artists have credited his themes as inspiration for their own work, including Trent Reznor who recently recorded his own re-imagining of the Halloween theme. Echoes of his iconic synth-driven sound can be heard in all facets of pop culture from Stranger Things to It Follows. With a body of work that stretches across several decades, more than a dozen films, and two albums of original material, it was only a matter time before he began touring as a musician. Playing to a packed house this last weekend, we were fortunate enough to see him perform at Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall.

Accompanied by footage from each film, Carpenter and the band took the stage and quickly moved into Assault on Precinct 13 (1976). A favorite among musicians in that time, the track introduced everyone to Carpenter’s minimalist, yet commanding compositions. In fact, it’s reported that Donald Pleasance only agreed to play the role of Dr. Loomis in Halloween (1978) because is daughter was such a fan of his Assault on Precinct 13 score. Somehow, the theme seems to perfectly capture both the heat and tension of a gang-riddled city, and the cruel hopelessness of a dark urban warzone.

   

The band played selections from most all his films, including new additions to the show like Village of the Damned (1995) and Body Bags (1993). Among them of course was They Live (1988), a personal favorite of the 9 year-old standing next to me during the show. I spoke to him and his father beforehand, and it’s safe to say that dad’s doing his best to ensure the next generation will not be without horror nuts. There’s no hiding that we love Christine (1983) here at NOFS. It’s easily our most re-watched Stephen King adaptation. And of course, saving the best for last, Carpenter and the band closed out the night after four encore numbers with Christine Attacks (Plymouth Fury).

Naturally, we eager to see some of our most loved movie scores with a live band, but it was John Carpenter‘s Lost Themes that I was looking forward to most. I’ve always enjoyed listening to Lost Themes I & II while I write, or driving around the city late at night. They have always felt like the soundtrack to a dark adventure, because as Carpenter declared to the audience, they are “the theme songs to the movies in your mind”. 

Recorded over a period of time, the tracks were written by Carpenter and his son while playing videos games. Though often assumed to be a collection of unused music, cut from his films, Lost Themes is a series of instrumental pieces that tell a story all their own. Resembling the music that accompanied some of his most notable films, Carpenter’s Lost Themes deliver as much paranoia as the scores to Escape From New York (1981) or The Thing (1982). To hear these songs live, louder than any home theater could ever accomplish, there was a strong sense of doom that filled the concert hall, broken only by a roar of applause. If we ever have the opportunity to ask him a question, I’d like to know whether John Carpenter prefers to hear the shrieks of a movie theater audience, or the screams of a concert crowd.

 

 

More information on remaining tour dates can be found HERE on John Carpenter’s official website.

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JonOnAString

Jonathan is Co-Host and Co-Creator of Nightmare on Film Street. He’s also a coffee grinding, craft beer drinking, bearded lady in disguise. His favorite horror movies are Evil Dead 2, The Thing, & Videodrome.