The Beaux-Arts beauty of the Orpheum theater in downtown Los Angeles was a perfect choice of venue for John Carpenter. It’s ornate styling blends old with new much like the show to come, mixing old movie favorites with new material from his current albums. It seemed like everyone turned up to honor one of the Kings of Horror; the merch line ran into and wrapped around a second room.
Carpenter took the stage in his usual uniform, black jeans, a black shirt and black jacket, his signature white hair tied back in a ponytail. He leaned into the microphone, simply stating “I am John Carpenter,” before launching into the theme from ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK. The crowd exploded as his band tore into the chunky bass line and Carpenter demonstrated his synth mastery, images from the film playing on a screen behind them. He followed that up with one of my personal favorites, the theme from ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13.
Carpenter introduced the next two tracks as new material from his first album of non-film related material LOST THEMES. The band ripped into “Vortex,” a driving synth beat over distorted guitar that could only be a Carpenter track. “Mystery” would have felt comfortable on a Dario Argento soundtrack, with its Goblin-like pipe organ sounding chord progression.
Carpenter explained that his music like most of his movies were inspired by dark fairy tales and stories told around the campfire before banks of fog poured over the audience and the band launched into THE FOG. The entire band put on sunglasses as the words OBEY and CONSUME appeared on the screen behind them. The crowd erupted, with a special cheer when Roddy Piper’s image appeared as the band played THEY LIVE. Carpenter gave a shout out to Ennio Morricone before playing the theme to THE THING.
Carpenter danced as the band rocked out his new single “Distant Dreams.” He talked about the five films he did with Kurt Russell before playing a down and dirty version of BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA. They played a couple more off of the first album “Wraith” and “Night” before the opening line of HALLOWEEN set the crowd on fire. The song was faster and more aggressive with a metallic sounding click underlining the song. Everyone thought this was the end, but the band launched directly into IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS. The band walked off stage to a standing ovation.
The band returned to the operatic sounds of PRINCE OF DARKNESS. Carpenter played two more songs off the new album “Virtual Survivor” and “Purgatory” before asking everyone to “drive safely because Christine is out there.” After which, the band launched into the final song of the night, a rocked out version of CHRISTINE. The band bowed, the crowd again on its feet, Carpenter in the center and his son on one end, two instances of old and new on stage blending into musical perfection.