The movie “Smile” has nothing about Danny Elfman. During Oingo Boingo’s time, he frequently adopted a demonic smile that you could easily imagine became a late inspiration for the hit horror film. He hasn’t had many opportunities to show us those helicopters in the 27 years since he finished a Boingo farewell tour and hit the music stages full-time. of movie. But when he released a music video for his rock comeback single “Happy” last year, the smile was there, back in action and twisted into something even scarier for the new digital age.
When he performed at Coachella for two weekends last April and took his shirt off, onlookers took note of his buff and how he took care of himself, to say the least. we can say. Luckily, perhaps more importantly, he also took care of his devilish smile.
At his two sold-out shows at the Hollywood Bowl over the weekend, Elfman began the 115-minute set shirtless, having previously characterized his mid-run undress at Coachella as a spontaneous act that happened while he was racing in manic energy. And so, as he frequently appeared in close-up on the big screens at the Bowl – although not as often as one might expect, given the extent of the show’s rather spooky visual pieces – there were chances are you’ll find yourself hoping for edits long enough to study the value of a full torso of tattoos, many of which were in the macabre vein he visually favors, with… wait, was that an adorable collie tattooed on his left pec? Yes, of course, a collie. Elfman is not everything on the skeltons, or the Skellingtons.
During Saturday’s set, there wasn’t much time or need for distractions, with barely a breath between most of the 32 picks and high blood pressure characterizing almost all of them. But if you had let your mind wander, you might have allowed yourself to remember how long it had been since he had done anything like this – at least for his contemporaries in town, compared to the children who saw the first ineration of his return to the desert last spring – and how unfamiliar some of the people in the film industry he works with must be with his distant rocker past. Had he invited some of the string players and other musicians he employs in his symphonic film work? (That is, those who weren’t already on stage as part of his mini-orchestra and choir?) Now that they saw one of the busiest and seemingly friendliest composers of Hollywood reborn as a maniac… was any of them scared of him now, just a little bit?
Probably not, because the guy who once sang “Nothing to Fear (But Fear Itself)” (and sang it again this weekend) really isn’t a scary presence, despite his creepy teeth and all that imagery. aerials full of moderately disturbing viscera and deteriorating flesh. Elfman doesn’t really play the role of a demon. If you’re looking for meaning in this madman’s expression, it has less to do with him being a doer of sinister deeds than the look of a guy who’s been disturbed by what he sees and writes as a continuing social dystopian on the road to certain death. Other than that, like his counterpart Jack S., he’s a really nice guy.
Elfman had warned that weekend Bowl shows should not be considered a family variation of the “Nightmare Before Christmas” screening/concerts he did on Halloween at the same location in 2015, 2016 and 2018, and in a last year detour to downtown’s Banc of California Stadium. His main point was that the current act, with its courser language and hearty airy gut animation, isn’t “family friendly.” But, in fact, he delivered three songs from that movie’s score early on — “Jack’s Lament,” “This Is Halloween,” and “What’s This?” – which is really about all the musical “Nightmare” everyone needs in one night, unless you’re a Sally fanatic. And anyone who saw 2021’s live iteration of “Nightmare,” which featured Boingo’s “Dead Man’s Party” as a surprise, hard-rock encore, and thought, “What’s this? weekend.
And anyone who wanted to hear a substantial amount of his film music, although there was at least a small opportunity for that in the past, with the fully orchestrated “Elfman/Burton” shows (officially known as “Danny Elfman’s Music From the Films of Tim Burton”) in which he participated from 2014. There was Burton-ianness aplenty at the Bowl, with the childish madness of “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure”, the comic menace of “Beetlejuice,” the omen of “Batman,” the ridiculous joy of “Mars Attacks,” and the spooky sweetness of “Edward Scissorhands” and “Alice in Wonderland,” all depicted in snippets ranging from too short to a little too short. Also sneaking in as one of many additions since Coachella was an example of Elfman/Raimi, with the insane sweep of “Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness” offering a fresh take on what he was up to. (No “white noise”, alas.)
As at Coachella, it would be hard not to single out the seemingly impossible recreation of the ‘Simpsons’ theme – made possible here with the inclusion of a 12-member choir, among many other moving parts – as perhaps the point. culminating. The facsimile wasn’t exact: It was the theme for the extended “Simpsons” remix, with an unexpected climactic guitar-shredding track from Elfman and fellow guitarists Nili Brosh and Wes Borland lining up as a trio on the front of the scene.
There was no set-up for any of these pieces…no “and then I wrote” explanations, or much discussion at all. More often than not, movie tracks lead to rock tracks lead to movie tracks without a second of hesitation. At Coachella, Elfman explained that he was trying to beat the clock, locked into a 58 and a half minute frame that required cuts of seconds here and milliseconds there to go up and down and still fit in everything he hoped for. . press under the buzzer. In the Bowl, he had no such demands, with double the set list at roughly double the time. But being in a hurry remained his moment, and it was a rush to hear his classic homages to Bernard Herrmann being pushed straight against and into selections of new materials that sometimes lean towards hyper-metal with strings.
Sometimes it looked like he was making a joke out of some of the juxtapositions. For example, with the “Simpsons” theme coming right into Boingo’s signature song “Only a Lad” from the early 80s… Was Bart meant to be the murdering boy in question, in the concert’s unspoken sequence of events? ? It probably wasn’t a coincidence – let’s hope Elfman didn’t really want to see the little fry.
“Only a Lad” was one of the only numbers, if not the only one, played completely without strings (or so it seemed so; he wasn’t always keen to say exactly what was happening on stage when Elfman kept sometimes the lights dim to draw the audience’s attention to the visuals on the screen). Years of exposure to KROQ on the original horn-filled version had rendered any sting moot, but from this occasion it was transformed into a more frenetic and less bashful punk-rock number. That went for a lot of the songs, even with strings, by the way – treated during Elfman’s new album and most Boingo alumni as collectively just another menacing member of the band.
Elfman wasn’t afraid to challenge the crowd with generous amounts of “Big Mess”, or difficult amounts, given that it’s not the friendliest music he’s ever made; he’s a big producer, as they say. “Native Intelligence” proved to be the most melodically satisfying choice of the nine new songs. (There’s a reason why, on Elfman’s recent “Bigger, Messier” remix/sequel, Trent Reznor chose that song…to make it a largely acoustic cover, rather than a festival EDM.) Somehow, for those who were ready for it, the show culminated with its very first number, the “Sorry,” which takes no prisoners, which is basically several minutes of angry climax. The crowd may not have been able to immediately pick a melody from all that instrumental and lead vocal intensity, but the cheers indicated they knew they had just lived. Somethingin the form of a headliner who put their craziest and most intense act at the top of the set.
The often grotesque visuals could also have been off-putting, if audiences weren’t so clearly prepared for Halloween, but more seriously, Elfman takes his Dia de los Muertos seriously than most mainstream entertainers. There’s precedent, anyway: the symbolic gore in its video stream may have reminded a veteran viewer of the horrifying animation that’s accompanied Pink Floyd’s “Welcome to the Machine” since the Wish You Were Here tour. “.
So why does Elfman seem so happy about death, if it’s not just a game for him, as it is for others who use similar imagery? Introducing the final encore, Boingo’s “No One Lives Forever,” Elfman pointed out that “no matter how hard you try” to prolong life, it won’t matter “a little bit in the end…You know where we are going, aren’t we? Elfman delivered this latest case as if having the end in sight was good news.
But having that particular show’s finale in sight wasn’t, with two hours still not feeling big enough after nearly 50 years of music-making that implied a 25-year lull in rock’s end. There’s never been a show like this because there’s never been a career like this, incorporating the fun and danger of rock ‘n’ roll and movie-based highs that place him among the credible ranks of the great markers of history. Trent might be able to do it, but the wild dynamic that differentiates different aspects of a career wouldn’t be so extreme. No one crossing these rarely overlapping worlds has been able to dress as much for life as if it were Halloween. The fact that it succeeded as a cohesive concert experience made the show successful, and not just because it filled its rock tank after an epic drought. It was almost like Christmas, with or without the canned snakes.