Danny Elfman Leeds Arena

Cometh the hour, cometh the man, so they say, and it has never had more resonance to me than when Danny Elfman stepped out on the stage at Leeds Arena on 8th October, to perform as Jack Skellington! But wait I’m getting ahead of myself…

It is rare to see the music of one of your heroes performed live with a vast orchestral accompaniment. I have been lucky enough to see all three Lord of the Rings film scores performed at the Royal Albert Hall in recent years, so I know how awe inspiring these kinds of events are.

It was with very little hesitation then, that I purchased my ticket to see Danny Elfman’s music from Tim Burton’s films performed by the BBC Orchestra and Maida Vale Choir at the newly opened Leeds Arena.

The show played as a loving tribute to an astonishing back catalogue of work from both of these men. We started right at the beginning with Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and rifled through every single film the pair have worked on in the last 28 years.

This included Batman, Mars Attacks (complete with live Theramin!), Sleepy Hollow, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride, Planet of the Apes, Frankenweenie, Dark Shadows and Alice in Wonderland, all accompanied by clips and concept artwork from the movies. Whilst all of these were beautiful beyond words, reflecting all the trademark Elfman quirks and gothic underpinnings, they were not the highlights of the evening.


Everyone has their favourite songs by an artist (in this case movements), and for me with Danny Elfman they come from Big Fish, Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas.

When the music from each of these films was performed only 50 yards in front of me I don’t mind telling you it was a hugely emotional experience. The insane intricacies of the Beetlejuice opening credits had me nodding my head as if I were at a metal gig, the sweeping grandeur of the Big Fish score as Will places his father in the river had tears flowing from people all around me, and seeing the Ice Dance from Edward Scissorhands come to life as never before was quite possibly one of the most moving experiences I have ever had. All of these things hit home just how important Elfman is to the world of cinema. His influence, innovation and understanding of story cannot be overstated.

Then came the fun!!! The moment the night had been building to. The stage goes dark and the giant screen floating above it projects the title; “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and the man himself strides out on stage; the first time he has performed for an audience in almost 20 years. We were treated to 5 songs from the musical fairy tale with Danny Elfman on lead vocals! And he didn’t just sing, he performed; like the spirit of all those years not being a frontman (as he was in the much acclaimed band Oingo Boingo) was unleashed! He writhed around the stage and danced and emoted and blew us away with a note perfect performance as Jack Skellington.

After spoiling us with performances of ‘Jack’s Lament’, ‘What’s This?’, ‘Jack’s Obsession’ and ‘Poor Jack’ he then gave us an encore as Oogie Boogie to perform ‘Oogie Boogie’s Song’ in which the conductor of the orchestra himself played Santa Clause!!!

It is a very strange feeling to see one of your idols perform on stage. It is at once humbling, stirring, overcoming and in this case, life affirming. I am in debt to Elfman and Burton for many things I create now, and I will continue to be for the rest of my days. So I say a huge thank you for all those incredible works, and an even greater thank you for offering me the opportunity to spend a night in your company.

Kudos Mr Elfman!

James is a movie obsessive with a particular love for scores and screenplays. He has written for numerous blogs, sites and cinemas and has been involved in several screenwriting projects. He can usually be found in front of a large plasma screen devouring Westerns, 80s pulp, Jimmy Stewart movies or anything by the Coens.

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