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Danny Elfman lives forever

“I’m so happy, happy.” 

There is no better way to describe Danny Elfman’s Halloween show at the Hollywood Bowl on Saturday, Oct. 29 other than surreal. From the moment Elfman took the stage, I felt like I was in a dream. I have been an Oingo Boingo fan my entire life — if you didn’t already know — and I always knew that I would never see them in concert. 

After breaking up in 1995, Elfman focusing on his career as a film composer, and after many interviews expressing his disinterest in listening to his old music, I accepted that I would never see him play my favorite songs. I have watched their unforgettable performance at the US Festival in 1983 hundreds of times, virtually transporting myself into the energetic crowd in hopes of living out my unattainable dream. For years, it was all a fantasy, but it seems as if all the years of scouring YouTube, collecting their records and wishing I lived in the ‘80s manifested itself into something otherworldly and completely unforgettable.

Saturday’s performance was intense, insane and utter perfection. Elfman promised “everything from Boingo, to Batman, to Big Mess and Beyond” and he more than kept his promise. Running on stage, the 69-year-old musician — with all of his beautifully intricate tattoos on display and fiery red hair ablaze — was ready to let us into his world.

“I mixed up some s*** that should never be done at the same place and at the same time. I know it makes no sense, but neither do I. So, for good or for worse, this is me,” he said.

Danny Elfman at The Hollywood Bowl on Oct. 29. / Willoughby Thom | The Observer

The show opened with the haunting melodies of “Sorry,” the title track of his most recent album, “Big Mess,” and a unique version of Oingo Boingo’s classic, “Insects” (1982). Two songs in, and I wanted these moments to last forever. Elfman’s set was equally divided between his film scores, Oingo Boingo material and new songs from “Big Mess,” creating an incredible musical fusion and performance, further proving his indisputable artistic and musical ingeniousness. 

Elfman went on to play ten Oingo Boingo songs including early B-sides; songs included “Nothing to Fear (But Fear Itself)” (1982), “Insanity” (1994), “Only a Lad” (1981) and notably, “Ain’t This the Life” (1980). It was an extra special surprise to see Elfman break out his homemade balafon — a West African gourd-resonated xylophone — to play “Grey Matter” (1982). Although they were evenly distributed throughout the evening, I felt like I was transported back in time to one of Oingo Boingo’s famous Halloween shows

Supporting Elfman was a cast of legendary musicians such as Josh Freese, Stu Brooks, Nili Brosh and his long-time bandmate Steve Bartek. In addition to these invaluable individuals, he was also backed by a nearly 50-piece orchestra and chorus, giving further depth to every song’s live sound. 

Danny Elfman and Steve Bartek at The Hollywood Bowl on Oct. 29. / Willoughby Thom | The Observer

Between songs, Bartek conducted the orchestra to play some of Elfman’s most iconic film scores from movies like “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Beetlejuice,” “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” and “Edward Scissorhands.” Even though Eflman’s performance as Jack Skellington was absolutely impeccable, it was fun to hear a traditional yet hardcore version of “The Simpsons” theme song, one of his most successful scores.

While I am less familiar with his newest album, songs such as “Kick Me” and “True” were executed with beautiful rage. Elfman’s menacingly charming demeanor gives us further insight into his mysterious psyche. His chants of “Kick me!” and “Love me!” will continue to ring in my mind.

Overall, Danny Elfman’s Halloween Homecoming was not only surreal, but a well-deserved celebration of his artistry. Out of all the shows I’ve been to, this was one of the best.

Thank you for making this tender lumpling’s dream come true.

Contact Willoughby Thom at wthom@nd.edu