Live Review: Joker – Live In Concert at Hammersmith Apollo

Ever thought it would be nice to have some live music accompanying a film? Or that it would be an interesting experience? We arrive at tonight’s opening night of Joker – Live in Concert not knowing what to expect: will this be more of a gig or a cinema experience? The Apollo in Hammersmith, with its beautiful art deco style building, cone-like chandeliers and comfy cushioned seats provide the perfect setting for such an experiment. 

You will have been to many a gig with visuals projected on screens to back up the music. Tonight’s experience is the other way around. It starts off like a regular gig, with some interaction when the conductor tells us all to check behind our seats as 50 lucky punters have had a memento of the evening hidden there (sadly not behind ours – though we wonder what this could be). The orchestra then performs their overture, giving us a taster of the musical delights that are to come. Once the music stops, the Apollo seems to then turn into a regular cinema event, albeit on a grander scale and without the crunching of popcorn.

Throughout the show, the orchestra are so talented that you often don’t notice them. They perform the music to perfection with bang on volume levels, it was clear a lot of effort had been put into this. The music fits so well we are left wondering if the score was composed first and the film made to fit it, or vice versa.

The orchestra comes into its own most in the scenes where there are fewer/no background sounds, notably following the train scene, where Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker does a silent dance and again when he meets Bruce Wayne (who many will know later grows up to be Batman) and is on the outside of the gates, looking in. An outsider.

Another highlight comes when Joker takes to the stage as a comedian and the live orchestra are in front of the screen, on another stage themselves. Both in the film and on stage tonight there are matching lamps, which is a nice ‘life-imitating-art’ touch. Another such moment occurs when Bruce’s father, Thomas Wayne, finds himself at a concert venue which is very similar to tonight’s Apollo, adding further to the immersive experience.

The stark contrasts in the film are what make it so appealing: Tragedy/comedy, hope/despair, sanity/insanity, trust/deceit, invisibility/invincibility, nobody/somebody, rich/poor. These are complemented, intensified and augmented by the powerful quiet/loud dynamics of the orchestra.

Mid-way through tonight’s event there is an intermission, where instruments are lain on their sides, beers topped up and some of us go for a loo break. The orchestra seem to welcome this comfort break too.  Here we see advertised on screen that not only are band The Hollies still going but that there are other similar hybrid peformances to tonight’s, including orchestra-accompanied screenings of Toy Story and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.

After the orchestra plays their outro alongside the film credits, composer Hildur Guðnadóttir graces the stage to much applause.

So in answer to the question: is it more gig or more film?  It’s a bit of both. The more important questions being: is it an enjoyable experience?  To which the answer, is in our opinion, yes. For our eyes as well as our ears.

You can catch the show on the remaining UK tour dates in October and November here.

Review by Caroline Low

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