I saw this wonderful concert at the Mann Center last year, and it was the highlight of a summer that was otherwise a bit forgettable. And this concert was kind of a special thing for me at the time. For one, it was the first concert that I ever went to. And I was also a gigantic Zelda fan, though not as much as before, and it was one of the few of its kind to ever pass through Pennsylvania at all.
Despite my reservations, it turned out to be wonderful anyway. The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra brought fan-favorite compositions to life with plenty of gusto and fanservice, while catering to the parents and non-fans in the audience as well.
So it's now the middle of summer, I've gained a few new friends and I'm a senior now. I never thought I could experience it again, but it came back anyway, to the same venue, with the legendary Philadelphia Orchestra taking the PSO's place. Will it top last year's extravaganza?
The funny thing about the concert is that it breaks every rule that the symphony traditionally abides by, taking more of a festival-like atmosphere than your typical concert. Pre-show, there's plenty of people walking around in costume waiting for a photo-op. Some were rather impressive, while others still had a homespun charm to them. Besides the multiple Links and Zeldas of all shapes, sizes and colors, there were two Skull Kids running amok(on a full moon, no less), two Tingles for some reason or another, a Happy Mask Salesman with a full backpack, and last but not least, the Groosenator himself.
The sheer energy of the crowd is undeniable. Again, the audience usually forgoes the complete silence demanded of regular orchestral concerts, and it produces an atmosphere roughly similar to that of a rock concert. And who would blame them, when there are people who have come all the way from Florida(according to Streetpass, at least) just to see their favorite hero on stage, set against a world-renowned orchestra?
The actual concert started with a few surprise pieces. Namely, Link's Awakening and Spirit Tracks. The former strings together famous tracks from the Gameboy original, transforming the chirpy music found there into a seven minute epic, including renditions of Mabe Village and, you guessed it, Ballad of the Wind Fish, performing the last song rather differently than last year. Spirit Tracks was slightly hurt by my lack of familiarity with the game, but it was beautiful anyway.
The meat of the concert is the 4 movements, corresponding with a specific timeline path: Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker, Link To The Past, and Twilight Princess. While the Wind Waker and Twilight Princess movements can be heard in the Skyward Sword bonus CD, ALttP and OOT are entirely unique to the concert. The Link to the Past movement is probably one of the most moving songs of the entire setlist, nearly bringing me to tears in the end credits portion. The Wind Waker uses very celtic elements, OOT sounds pretty much what you would expect, but Twilight Princess is... bombastic. There's a lot of moments that will give you major goosebumps, is what I'm getting at.
Besides the four movements, the opening, and Gerudo Valley, few songs were retained from last year. Conspiciously missing is the Majora's Mask medley and the Ocarina songs. What we have now, though, is a moving rearrangement of Dragon Roost Island, performed with the right combination of nuance and bombast to feel just right, and making up for its conspicous absence from the WW medley. And, for the last song, a Skyward Sword medley that was actually listenable. There's a reason that caused one of the two standing ovations of the night, the other one being caused by A Link to the Past.
Overall, this is a must see for any self-respecting Zelda fan looking for an unforgettable night out. The music, the visuals, and the showmanship of lead conductor Eimear Noone work together to bring Zelda to life. I'm also not against it becoming a regular thing, much like the Distant Worlds concerts and Video Games Live, since everyone deserves to see it. Yes, even you.
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