He’s come a long way from those early days in Stourbridge rock band Pop Will Eat Itself. Who’d have thought that in less than twenty years he’d have helped people battle drug addiction, resurrect wrestling careers, wander across a lonely moon and then leave it all behind to soar far out into the universe. Often, but not always in collaboration with director Darren Aronofsky, Clint Mansell has carved out a reputation as one of the very best film composers around, capable of adjusting his sound to a number of genres without undermining quality.
Stepping front of stage for once, Mansell, accompanied by a supporting cast of eight musicians, took an enraptured Barbican crowd through the highlights of a career that’s already packed with so many it’s almost impossible to choose. His work with Aronofsky formed the bulk of his set, as it forms the key points in his cinematic career so far, but there was still space for a couple of welcome digressions.
Starting where it all began, he opened with music from Pi, their debut feature from 1998, before moving through pieces from Noah, Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler and The Fountain. Outside the Aronofsky canon, there were also brief forays into the superlative Moon and Last Night complete with a pre-recorded Peter Broderick.
After a slightly halting start, Mansell himself moved through the gears, stopping between each film transition to drop in anecdotes and observations from his career. Despite his unassuming persona, he makes for a surprisingly good raconteur. He mused on the difficult process faced during Noah, the challenges of making Pi outside the industry and the process that eventually led from Public Enemy to his most famous composition, ‘Lux Aeterna’.
Interesting though these diversions prove, the music is the real star. Accompanied by three giant screens beaming beguiling imagery in tandem, it spreads across the auditorium holding the mood like Mansell holds a note. He’s capable of building layer upon layer before bursting into the thrilling crescendos of a ‘Lux Aeterna’ or pretty much anything off The Fountain.
It’s easy to see why Aronofsky, himself one of the best modern directors, is so keen to work with Mansell. Listening to his compositions torn away from the images they were originally created to complement, the films still come to mind. Despite the vastly different genres he works across, there’s a distinct feel to each effort. Mesmeric repetition marks his synthetic sound within the context of individual films, but although each piece is very obviously a Mansell composition, he manages to make them all sound different.
So after thrilling an awestruck crowd for the better part of 90 minutes, how do you close? With ‘Death is the Road to Awe’ of course. Taken from The Fountain, it winds its way over the course of eight minutes to an explosive finale that almost brings the house down. After a breathless few moments, Mansell departs with his band and the lights come back to beam down on an empty stage. If only they could have played all night.