John Carpenter @ Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 22 Oct

Live Review by Claire Francis | 01 Nov 2016

There are three stars of John Carpenter's Saturday night showcase at Usher Hall: the backing band, the material, and the inimitable Horror Master himself. Opening with the familiar crashing chords that signal 1981's Escape From New York, followed swiftly by the title theme to Assault on Precinct 13, tonight's event celebrates Carpenter as both an iconic director of cult horror flicks, and a masterful composer in his own right.

In something of a late career change, last year Carpenter released Lost Themes, an album of irresistably nostalgic sci-fi electronica. A follow-up release in April this year, plus a remix album and a full international tour sees Carpenter embracing the alternate path that was there from those foreboding first chimes of Halloween. Clad completely in black, standing front and centre in his trademark dark sunglasses, Carpenter looks made for the stage. With a shuffle of nonchalant dance moves the band burst into Vortex, one of Lost Themes' most foreboding tracks. The audience recognise the intro and welcome the new material with cheers of applause, the powerful riffs and glacial keys painting a typically Carpenter-esque kind of gloom.

"For most of my career I've composed the music for scary movies," the legendary director drawls across the expansive Usher Hall. "Ghost stories!" The classics come thick and fast, from a bracing rendition of The Fog's title theme to a gripping performance of Ennio Morricone's famed work from The Thing, with Carpenter announcing, "We'd like to play the opening titles in his honour."

A giant projection screen flashes with accompanying clips from his films, a guilty pleasure both grotesque and gelastic. Throughout, the backing band drive the show with faultless musicianship and Carpenter gives them due credit, singling each member out for a round of applause. A journey that weaves together the best of Carpenter both old and new, the Horror Master introduces the final track of the evening in his typically suspenseful fashion: "Please drive carefully going home – Christine is out there!."