Aside from writing reviews for this illustrious website, I’ve published a book of horror short stories and have been playing music for over twenty-five years. Suffice it to say, I nearly shit my pants when all three things came crashing together and I was given the chance to review the Montreal stop for the John Carpenter Anthology Tour. For those not in the know, Carpenter has had a career that has spanned decades in both horror films (directing) and music (writing the majority of his movies scores). At age 69, he’s enjoying stepping out from behind the camera to entertain the likes of us mere serfs. It was a treat to watch the master at work and I’ll tell you why.
Blue light bathed the crowd as a long and low solitary synth note announced the beginning of the show. The light bled to purple as the band, dressed in all black, took the stage. A stomping kick drum began amid the joyous cheers from the audience. The sharp guitar came in to offset the syncopated beat. The keys began the lead line for “Escape From New York.” After one iteration, the entire band dropped in on a heavy note at the come-around for the riff. It was then that the screen behind them illuminated to show the beginnings of the accompanying movie. It was on. As the first tune petered out, drummer Scott Seiver riffed on the Phil Collins-type electric intro of “Assault on Precinct 13.” Once again, the screens played a selection of quick clips from the movie as the crowd swayed along to the gritty tune.
Mr. Carpenter directed it all from his place behind his Casio keyboard. He’d point out to the different musicians, telling them when to take their starring roles. He would wind the crowd up between songs with minimal direction. It was a superb set-up, which I have no doubt he painstakingly put together. I loved the visual soundtrack behind the songs, taking clips from each movie and playing them alongside the songs. I was especially impressed with the lighting used to amplify the moods. Very rarely were more than two colors used during a song, and each had a haunting hue, further enveloping the audience in a state torn between terror and delight.
At this point, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the dancing that I saw on stage. There were two standout performances. The first would be Mr. Carpenter himself. When he wasn’t pointing at his band to cue them in, he was pointing at the audience, eliciting cheers from the chosen group. Next, he was so damn cute when he danced; well, more of a half-shuffle, half-march in place. It was like watching a drunk uncle try to shimmy out of his pants because if he bent over, he’d fall. Soooo cute.
Second was the body movement of lead guitarist Daniel Davies. I watched him rip through delay-ladened solos with ease while ripping up the dance floor. He’d nail a note with a high, wailing bend and contort himself to match the sound. During those oh-so hairy-chested moments, he’d be stomping along. His standout performance came during my favourite song of the night, “They Live: Coming to L.A.” It’s a slinky blues tune, the attitude matched by the sunglasses sported by the band, that is one long guitar masterpiece. And Davies delivered; he even amped up the intensity up during a clip of the six-minute punch-up that prompted many shouts of “Fuck Yeah,” one of which came from yours truly.
Written by Aaron Deck
Photography by Thomas Gentil
*edited by Kate Erickson