Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy – BAM Howard Gilman Opera House in Brooklyn, New York 04/02/2011
I was ecstatic to see this show, considering the West Coast got to experience an orchestral Final Fantasy concert as far back as 2005. I had only attended one other orchestral game concert in the past, and that was Video Games Live, and while VGL is a fun show, I was yearning for a more traditional, more professional orchestral take on video game music. So Damian and I arrived around an hour before the show, which started at 8pm. The venue was quite nice. I was surprised not to see any cosplayers, at least in our section (Mezzanine).
At the beginning, long-time Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu came up on stage and the crowd exploded with cheers and applause. It was quite glorious to see this short, old, modest Japanese man, a man whose music defined my childhood, up on the stage. That alone was worth the price of admission. I would’ve loved to get the Meet and Greet package, but $180+ seemed like way too much. Maybe if I was wealthier.
Conductor Arnie Roth came on stage and the orchestra began with the original Final Fantasy Prelude. Hearing the harp was wonderful and gave me shivers. It reminded me of the first time I booted up my first Final Fantasy game, Final Fantasy IV, for the Super Nintendo back in 1998 (latecomer, I know). Following the prelude, conductor Arnie Roth stated how he really wanted to play one small piece before they continued on with the set, and so they quickly played the first few seconds of the Victory fanfare, which was great. Unfortunately you could barely hear those first few seconds because the crowd erupted into applause during it.
Next up was the opening music to Final Fantasy VIII, “Liberi Fatali” played. An epic intro to the game. I sorta wished the video display of the intro synced better with the music, especially during the gunblade battle between Seifer and Squall. Following this was a clip of FF8 in the Dollet portion with Squall, Zell, and Seifer. They were using the Japanese version of the game so unfortunately I didn’t know what was being said in the text boxes. Here the orchestra comedically waited until the in-game Squall got into a random encounter when they started playing FF8’s battle theme, “Don’t Be Afraid.” A great and epic piece.
Next up was a FF11 song, Distant Worlds, with vocalist Susan Calloway, who had used her voice for the main theme of Final Fantasy XIV. A great piece from FF11, which I unfortunately never got to hear in the game because I barely played it. Another FF11 piece was played, “Ronfaure.” Next up was more FF8 (FF8 really was the poster child of this concert), with another great battle theme, “Man with the Machine Gun.” Again, the video used here involving scenes with Laguna were in Japanese. I wished they had used English versions of the game for American audiences. Afterwards, Susan Calloway came back on for the theme song of Final Fantasy X, “Suteki Da Ne,” which was sung in complete English, save for those three words. The clips of Final Fantasy X used really brought me back.
The next song was a classic, the beloved and catchy chocobo theme, which was a joy to listen to. The video clip was charming, with several different Final Fantasy clips (including 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10) of FF characters riding chocobos (and of course, people cheered when the Final Fantasy VII clip came on, *sigh*). The last song before intermission was my favorite of the night, the excellent “Clash on the Big Bridge” (or “Gilgamesh Theme Song”) from Final Fantasy V. It was excellently played, and a lot of clips of Final Fantasy V were used (in Japanese, of course).
After intermission, the orchestra came back for another favorite, Final Fantasy VII’s Opening ~ Bombing Mission. Absolutely love that song. The following song was an odd pick, Final Fantasy VIII’s “Fisherman’s Horizon,” which is a nice, calm piece, but I would have rather had something else played. Susan Calloway came on again for the theme to Final Fantasy XII, “Kiss me Goodbye,” which was composed by Hitoshi Sakimoto. This gave me the reminder that I really should get back into FF12. I’ve been enjoying it despite what others have been telling me. Final Fantasy X’s “To Zanarkand” was next, an iconic piece to a fantastic game.
Final Fantasy VII’s “J-E-N-O-V-A” theme was next, which apparently had been the most-requested battle music to be played at these concerts, next to FF6’s “Dancing Mad.” This was a great piece to hear, and I noticed that they used the arrangement originally done by The Black Mages. Next up were two pieces from Final Fantasy XIII, composed by Masashi Hamauzu: “Fabula Nova Chrystallis” and the epic and memorable battle theme, “Blinded by Light.” I was surprised that they played this, and I enjoyed it. I did feel that it could’ve used a bit more volume and oomph from the orchestra, but it was satisfying nonetheless. Two FF14 songs were played next, which were pretty good and different: “Navigator’s Glory” and “Answers,” which Susan Calloway and the choir performed on.
Final Fantasy VI’s epic intro music, “Terra’s Theme” was next, and after a few displays of Yoshitaka Amano’s FF6 artwork, the iconic intro scene to FF6 with the three Magitek armors marching northward through the snow was displayed. Here the credits were not from the game, but for the concert, which I thought was clever. Again, however, the crowd began clapping for several of the names appearing in the credits, and while I understand their appreciation, it made it difficult to focus on the music. Save your applause for after, dammit!
Following a brief exit by Arnie Roth, he returned and called Mr. Uematsu to come back up on stage, to which again there was thunderous applause. Roth jokingly said that Nobuo Uematsu would sing a solo piece for the audience, but instead he joined the choir for the final piece of the night, and of course it had to be Final Fantasy VII’s “One Winged Angel.” It was a delight to see Mr. Uematsu with the choir doing this epic song.
And that concluded the show! I was really disappointed not to hear any Final Fantasy IV or IX music, but apparently they will be playing some music from IX in tonight’s show. Oh well! I would have loved to hear FF4’s “Red Wings” or FF9’s “Hunter’s Chance” or “Melodies of Life.” The Final Fantasy Prologue music was another piece I would have loved to hear. I would love to see this concert again next year, and this time they should bring The Black Mages with them!
Image taken from Consequence of Sound Live Review
Final Fantasy Prelude
Final Fantasy VIII: Liberi Fatali
Final Fantasy VIII: Don’t Be Afraid
Final Fantasy XI: Memoro de la Stono – Distant Worlds w/ Susan Calloway
Final Fantasy XI: Ronfaure
Final Fantasy VIII: Man with the Machine Gun
Final Fantasy X: Suteki Da Ne w/ Susan Calloway
Final Fantasy: Chocobo Theme/Swing de Chocobo
Final Fantasy V: Clash on the Big Bridge
Final Fantasy VII: Opening ~ Bombing Mission
Final Fantasy VIII: Fisherman’s Horizon
Final Fantasy XII: Kiss me Goodbye w/ Susan Calloway
Final Fantasy X: To Zanarkand
Final Fantasy VII: J-E-N-O-V-A
Final Fantasy XIII: Fabula Nova Chrystallis
Final Fantasy XIII: Blinded by Light
Final Fantasy XIV: Navigator’s Glory
Final Fantasy XIV: Answers w/ Susan Calloway
Final Fantasy VI: Terra’s Theme
ENCORE: Final Fantasy VII: One Winged Angel read