A Danny Elfman experience leaves San Diego stunned

There are few who deny that what Danny Elfman does, he is the best. A singer-songwriter, a film composer, a keyboardist, percussionist, an 80s icon… by 2023, what hasn’t Danny Elfman tried his hand at?

Turns out, he’s not finished.

What started as a pre-pandemic inkling has turned into the most eye-capturing, enveloping experience the world has ever seen… a true show, with guitar-shredding and drum-banging and mind-melting visuals — all with orchestral intermissions, naturally. From BOINGO to BATMAN to BIG MESS & Beyond, Elfman showcases tastes of his ENTIRE CAREER, live and direct. He even confesses onstage that none of the music makes sense when played together; boy, did it make sense to us!

Opening for the San Diego date at the Chula Vista North Island Credit Union Amphitheatre was progressive darkwave band, Boy Harsher. Their mix of upbeat jams and apathetic sonnets were the perfect appetizer for the main course, plus lead singer Jae Matthews is always a delight to watch with her coy smiles and boss attitude.

As the sun set, the stage turned over to the master himself — Mr. Danny Elfman. A full orchestra, original Oingo Boingo guitarist Steve Bartek, and… is that Nine Inch Nails / Paramore drummer, Ilan Rubin?! Just the members taking the stage was already. And there he was, in all his glory: Elfman came out in close to pitch dark, but his almost glow-in-the-dark red hair was recognizable even to those enjoying the lawn section. Stripping off his shirt and grabbing his guitar, we got served Boingo first with the most affective and emotive performance under green and red lights. First off, being 70, this guy is RIPPED for his age (buff as hell with a six pack!!); second, he’s incredibly agile, jumping and banging and crawling around. Whatever Elfman’s secret sauce is for a long life looking good and kicking ass, we all could use that recipe — STAT.

And his immersive rock opera of a concert looked as good as he does.

He wasn’t lying when he said he would serve up his entire resume on a platter. Every song’s first few notes emitted squeals from the crowd, as we went through Spiderman, Batman, Beetlejuice, Alice in Wonderland, a beautiful tribute to the late great Paul Reubens (RIP), and, of course, a completely phenomenal Nightmare Before Christmas medley. The Simpsons theme made an appearance — injected with a hardcore guitar battle in the middle that took the audience by surprise — and I personally cried when the orchestra got to the overture of Edward Scissorhands. With movie visuals of Johnny Depp’s ice-sculpting, who said it was too early for snow in San Diego?

Boingo songs like “Insects”, “Nothing to Fear (But Fear Itself), “Grey Matter”, and “Insanity” made the cut before the show came to an all-too-soon close with the Halloween hit that cemented Oingo Boingo in musical fame forever, “Dead Man’s Party”. Damn, it was cool to see it performed with Bartek! As an 80s baby/90s child, that’s as close to the real deal as I can get! Leaving the stage for a quick break, Danny Elfman and band returned for a mighty encore: two more Boingo songs, “Who Do You Want To Be” and “No One Lives Forever”. WHAT AN EXIT! Danny Elfman, you are a god among mere musician mortals.

Photography by Kristy Rose

Share this article


Become a Patron

Tour dates for danny elfman

Get music updates in your inbox

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments