John Carpenter Live Review

Christopher Owens travelled to Glasgow to watch John Carpenter. 

Although often depicted as a cold, industrial city, Glasgow has many facets to it's persona.

Yes, you've got the working class football hooligan side to it, but you've also got the bohemian element, the hardcore punk segment and the experimental, arty side as well. It's a city that is big enough to encompass all these elements, and allow them decent spots to express themselves and good attendances.

My journey over was on the ferry. Although flying from Belfast to Glasgow only takes twenty minutes, the ferry offers a stunning view of the Scottish countryside. It takes it's toll (especially if you've only caught a few hours sleep the night before), but it's very much worth it.

Staying in a hostel on Clyde Street (appropriately named as it faces the River Clyde), I made my way to the venue. It would be my first time in this spot, and I was worried about missing it. However, garnished with neon lights that seem more Blackpool than Las Vegas, it's hard to miss the Barrowlands. 

Barrowland Ballroom, Glasgow 19/10/18

Located in the unfashionable East End of the city, the venue itself is a time warp. Everything from the decor, down to the colour schemes, look like they haven't been touched since 1989. Even the tawdry bar sign features a Harp Lager logo that was featured in the ad with the camel. 

However, in an era of O2 Academy venues and their sterile, faceless atmosphere, this refusal to go with modern trends is a breath of fresh air. A refreshing throwback to a different period. And, as well as that, it's routinely voted one of the best live venues in the UK.

Bands like Metallica and Oasis have proclaimed it the best venue they've ever played, and it's reputation means both band and audience go in expecting a great time, and gee each other up.

And it's fair to say there was very little of that needed, as the legendary film director John Carpenter was in Glasgow. Although known for the likes of Halloween, The Thing, They Live etc, he's also a renowned composer, especially of his own films. He's now touring with a band playing these classic themes live, as well as airings from his albums 'Lost Themes I' and 'Lost Themes II.'

The audience were a little different from a normal gig. Sure, there were plenty of metalheads down the front in their Halloween t-shirts, but there were also tons of comic book/movie nerds, power dressing couples from Last Night at the Proms, as well as punks and indie kids. This mix made for a really cool atmosphere, as it felt everyone was in the venue. And the roar they all gave Carpenter as him and his band took to the stage was deafening (in the best way possible).

Coming onstage and going straight into the theme from Escape From New York was one of those moments which could be best described as "I've waited half my life for such a moment." Knowing the film and the soundtrack inside out, the chance to see it performed live by the director and composer himself was something to treasure. And the clips from the film projected behind the band just added to the celebratory atmosphere.

I feel no shame in admitting I became exceedingly giddy and animated when the next song was the main theme from Assault on Precinct 13. Borrowing from Led Zeppelin's 'Immigrant Song', this five note motif has inspired so many electronic, hip hop and dance records. And, in spite of this, the original still sounds utterly eerie and powerful in 2018.

And the whole evening went by in euphoric bliss. Classic theme after classic theme. Especially when they started on They Live. Hearing that blues infused riff with the iconic imagery of the film was overwhelming for me, and I shed a little tear.

Closing with a caution to be careful out there when driving, as Christine was out there was of course
the cue to play the music from his adaptation of Stephen King's novel. And it's hypnotic keyboard lines were the perfect way to end the evening.

Spilling out into the street afterwards, making my way back to the hostel, I couldn't help but marvel at what I had witnessed. In the twilight of his career (he is 70 years old after all), Carpenter has found a way to not only celebrate his legacy, but enhance it as well.

Long live Carpenter, and long live horror.

➽ Christopher Owens reviews for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland.
Follow Christopher Owens on Twitter @MrOwens212

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

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