Sunday, 28 November 2010

Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy

All right then, boys and girls. I just thought I'd do a write-up of this super special show because I believed that it would take more than a few poor quality pictures on Facebook to do it justice. My camera actually rather let me down tonight by being rubbish and deciding to run out of battery, meaning I could take roughly one poor quality picture per piece, just so I could remember what was played, so I thought it might better just to write as much about the show as I can recall.
There were a few oddities among the audience, first of all. I saw a couple of people with moogle hats, and a girl dressed as Yuna in the front row (apparently). Just a few moments before the show started, the man himself walked in and took his seat in the audience. Nobuo Uematsu, long time legendary Final Fantasy composer was at this very show. I could have met him too, if I wasn't so cheap as to not pay the extra 50 bucks for meet and greet. He was wearing some kind of funny Firion-esque bandanna, it was awesome omg he looked like a pirate!
It kicked off with the opening theme from Final Fantasy VIII, accompanied by some CGI from the game. Arnie Roth, the conductor, then did a few greetings and good welcomes etc, then he introduced a "very special" piece of music to start off the event, which also turned out to be very short.
That's right, it was the Victory Fanfare!! Oh, how we all laughed and cheered!!
Then we all settled down and we got serious again as the next piece, Enter Zanarkand, was introduced. This got an excited cheer from many people... and I have to say, I found this arrangement, with the accompanying CGI, very epic, emotional and moving, I felt like I could actually probably cry if I wanted to. It was at precisely this moment where I think I fully started to realise the true beauty of symphonic music. I never really had much time for it before, but... there is really nothing that compares to being in a venue like the Sony Centre with good acoustics and being presented with a full symphony playing such fantastic music like this.
Then we went right back to FF8, and this was one of the highlights of the show for me. Instead of being presented with another beautiful FMV, we were shown an in-game cutscene of Seifer calling Zell a chicken wuss, complete with the sound of a random dog barking. After the text dialogue windows disappeared the characters started to move as if someone was playing the game, and the way they moved, complete with that footstep sound that many of us had not heard for years - the fact that this game now looked so RETRO made many of us in the audience burst out laughing!! What's obvious is that humor was clearly intended given the choice of scene they showed us. Then it went to a fight scene with Squall, Seifer and Zell batting a Galbadian soldier, and the symphony went ahead and played Don't be Afraid as more actual in-game footage played out. The way this symphonic beauty was juxtaposed with this fantastic retroness was the essence and magic of this whole event.
Then it went to one of the most beautiful pieces in the series - Aerith's theme. This is one of the tunes I was hoping they would play. It was just as moving as I expected it to be and again, I could have cried if I wanted to. They set it to some of Aerith's scenes from the game - like her and Cloud's first meeting, that bit when they're in the park before Wall Market, one of Cloud's dreams (when she's in that foresty place) and finally, a scene of the time of her death. They didn't ACTUALLY show the bit where Jenova (Sephrioth) comes down to stab her, but they showed the bit just before and after... and as that scene begun, I could hear a girl from a couple of seats next to me reacting as if she didn't want to see her die, and it really did make me realise (again) just how connected people can feel with these fictional characters. In a strange way, I kind of wanted to see the actual death bit as I thought that would have added to the powerfulness of this moment, but maybe that's me just being a dark evil kind of boy.
The next thing was quite a cool melody of some of the main themes from the first three games in the series. Of course, this was complimented by in-game footage which made many of us smile and make those kind of fond noises in appreciation of memories. There was some footage from the opening CGI of the DS version of III, too.
Then they brought on this flamenco guitar player soloist dude, and they played a song from V and flamenco type piece from IX. Excuse me for not remembering or bothering to look up the titles, it's getting late here!
They then played J-E-N-O-V-A - which, apparently is tied with Dancing Mad, in some circles at least, for the most popular battle theme. It's pretty awesome alright! Think they then played some piece from XI (who cares) and then Clash on the Big Bridge from V - which was surprisingly awesome and EPIC, and really made me appreciate the power of a symphonic arrangement!!
They opened the second half with Opening - Bombing Mission, and I can't remember the exact order of the next few pieces, but they played Fabula Nova Crystallis, which was set to the scene from the game with Snow and Serah on that flying motorbike thing near the fireworks and was performed with a soloist singer, and Blinded by Light which is just pure awesomeness!! They also played a couple of pieces from FFXIV, but again - it's a MMORPG, who cares. I lost a little bit of interest during these pieces, but not much. Oh, and they also played Fisherman's Horizon from 8.

Ok... so were you expecting a conventional review from me, really?? =P

The next bit was awesome... a tribute to that most legendary and magnificent of creatures, the Chocobo! This arrangment was interesting, it was like a combination of an interesting new symphonic take on the Choboco music combined with the swingin' version from XIII, as various clips of Chocobos from several of the games in the series were shown. The video was presented suitably light-hearted and comically. C-H-O-C-O-B-O!!
Then they got three opera singers to sing a piece from V, and one from VI. One of them had Maria in the title. Sorry, but I'm just less familiar with those two games!!
Finally, Arnie introduced a favourite of his, Terra's theme! I was like "great, I don't even know this one either"! I was also thinking, damn... we don't get One Winged Angel after all. Still, it was pretty good... and they showed the credits for the show in a very interesting and suitable retro kind of way!!

Oh, but then there was an encore, wasn't there??
Nobuo-san was called to the stage. He was asked if he would sing with the symphony. He then uttered the only two words I've only ever heard him speak, "why not?" Then Arnie said "believe me, you do not need me to tell you the title of this last piece" and... OMG, I knew what was coming... at least, I hoped I did... and I was right.
That's it. They encored with One Winged Angel.
As soon as I heard that opening stab of string chords, I cheered loudly and got excited with everyone else in the crowd. Nobuo-san joined the choir, which was pretty special. This arrangement was pretty much as you expect it to be, and was set to some of Sephiroth's scenes from FFVII and some footage from Advent Children too. It was a fantastic and very fitting end to the show.
I'd do a generic conclusion but it's getting pretty late - just as long as I've made sure I've said that this show was incredible, and beautiful, and moving, and epic, and there were some smiles and lighthearted moments too - it was everything it should have been. It was definitely worth the 100 bucks.

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