Silent movies these days are practically the abandoned children of cinema: neglected by kids ("Eeuww, they're in black and white!"), a hard sell even to adults who've seen them ruined over the years by shoddy TV presentation and bad prints. The surest way to convince people of the glories of silent cinema is to take them to an Alloy Orchestra concert — and it just so happens there's one 8 p.m. tonight at The Belcourt.
It's the auspicious launch to The Belcourt's perfectly timed Universal Horror series: the 1925 Lon Chaney version of The Phantom of the Opera. Even if you've seen one of the previous Alloy performances at The Belcourt — their torrid appearance with Fritz Lang's Metropolis (sampled above at a different show) was a thrilling fusion of rock-concert energy and sensitive accompaniment — you haven't seen them all. Their clanging, clattering, propulsive scores change completely, and each film becomes a kind of collaborator.
At the same time, they don't fall back on the cliches of live accompaniment. (I have yet to hear a sad trombone playing "How Dry I Am" for a drunk scene at an Alloy gig.) That gives the movies a context of freshness: the scores bring out the sophistication of the filmmaking instead of reducing the films to curios. The Lon Chaney Phantom, capped by that indelible unmasking scene, should give them a grand opportunity to startle, dazzle and surprise.
CORRECTED, 1 p.m.: Tonight's performance is at 8 p.m., not 7 p.m. We apologize for the error.