Danny Elfman @ North Island Credit Union Amphitheatre [8/03/23]
Photos by Alex Matthews
It’s a crisp, Summer night in Chula Vista and I’m ready for Spider-Man.
I’m also ready for Batman, Doctor Strange, The Simpsons, Oingo Boingo…I’m ready for it all. Or at least I think I am. I honestly don’t know what to expect from this show as I’ve never seen a hybrid movie score/rock show in my life. Nevertheless, I’m eager for Elfman.
After a slow and epic build up of distortion, Elfman and his band launch into his song, “Sorry.” Elfman’s accompanied by a full choir who give the track an ethereal lift. Just as the track is about to transition from its extended intro, the band suddenly stops playing. The crowd cheers and for a moment it’s unclear whether this break is intentional or not. After about 30 seconds of silence from the stage, Elfman takes the mic and calmly states, “Shit happens…sorry.” As a seasoned performer, this misstep doesn’t rattle Elfman. Once again, the band starts playing. The audience does not seem to mind this mistake at all as an electric energy still radiates from the crowd.
Much to my delight, Elfman hits us with his Spider-Man theme early into the set. This song hits me in all the right places emotionally. Growing up, I’d play the theme and hop around, pretending to be the web-slinger myself. The Sam Raimi films have always been my favorite Spider-Man movies and this is largely thanks to the outstanding score by Danny Elfman. To no surprise, the orchestra absolutely kills the piece live and I make a mental note to rewatch the trilogy in the near future.
Soon after this, the band plays the song “Breakfast Machine,” a touching tribute to Paul Reubens (Pee-Wee Herman). Going from work off of his 2021 solo album, Big Mess to classic Oingo Boingo tracks to Spider-Man to Pee-Wee Herman all within the first handful of songs of his set really demonstrates just how far-spanning Elfman’s career in music has been. I don’t know what to expect from this show as it just keeps evolving. One that remains consistent however, is the high-quality visuals on the massive screens. These do wonders to complement the musical works.
All of a sudden, we’re transported into the land of Nightmare Before Christmas. Elfman and his band run through the highlights of the soundtrack. Nightmare Before Christmas was my favorite movie when I was seven years old. Long before I ever bothered to look up who made the music of my favorite movies, Danny Elfman already had a profound impact on my life. Hearing the Nightmare Before Christmas songs live, much like the Spider-Man theme, just fills me with child-like joy. The way Elfman transforms into Jack Skellington (both visually and vocally) accompanied with the visuals on the screen truly makes me feel as if I’m in the movie. Funnily enough, as Elfman transitions away from Nightmare Before Christmas and into his next song, “Devil Take Away,” I can’t stop imagining that Jack Skellington is the one singing this rocked-out banger.
As the opening notes of The Batman Theme play, it becomes clear to me just how hyped the audience is. We’re all cheering and I hear someone screech “Batman!” at the top of their lungs. Needless to say, people have been waiting for this one. Unlike probably most of the people in the crowd, my greatest association with Elfman’s Batman theme is not from Tim Burton’s 1989 film but rather from 2008’s Lego Batman: The Video Game. Immediately, the music transports me back into my childhood once again as I recall the feeling of dismantling supervillain plots, brick by brick.
Elfman continues to dazzle for the rest of the show, playing the outrageous Beetlejuice theme, an incredibly psychedelic Simpsons’ theme, as well as several Oingo Boingo and solo hits. As the show begins to wind down, Elfman takes a moment to introduce his band. Much to my surprise, he finishes off the introductions by revealing that Steve Bartek, the original guitarist of Oingo Boingo, had been conducting the orchestra for the whole show. Bartek, now with a guitar in his hands, rattles off the opening riff to Oingo Boingo’s mega-hit “Dead Man’s Party.” Being the anthemic hit that it is, this song ignites the crowd. Everyone loudly sings along and enjoys the banger of a song.
All in all, Danny Elfman’s performance gave me something priceless: a chance to revisit my childhood.
Alex Matthews (Photos) Socials: