Sunday, April 1, 2012

Distant Worlds : Music of Final Fantasy - March 31st 2012, Toronto

For a long time video games have had a great array of great tunes that are as catchy as the gameplay itself, with some of them being as beautiful as the gameplay itself. It was only a matter of time before the great tunes of video games made themselves to concert form where everyone could enjoy orchestral or other variations of their favourite tunes. I myself, got the pleasure of experiencing a concert dedicated to one of the most beloved RPG franchises out there, with some amazing music from one of my favourite video game music composers. This concert is...

Distant Worlds : Music of Final Fantasy

Starting in 2007, Arnie Roth has been conducting all the iterations of Distant Worlds, which features music from most of the Final Fantasy franchise, many of the most memorable and well known songs by composer Nobuo Uematsu. On March 28th 2012, they came to Toronto for the 25th anniversary of Final Fantasy. Arnie Roth was once again conducting and we got the pleasure of having Nobuo Uematsu present as well, which made the concert even more exciting.

Everyone wants to buy some Distant Worlds merchandise

The event was held at the Sony Centre and was jam packed with people. There were also many people dressed up as characters from Final Fantasy. I always enjoy seeing others cosplaying as it shows their passion for the game and source material, not to mention it looks/is a whole lot of fun. If I had a Final Fantasy costume I would have certainly brought one myself.

Two passionate fans dress up as Hope (left) and Lighting (right) from Final Fantasy XIII

Tickets were pretty much sold out but I managed to get a early set of tickets all the way back in December. There was even a chance to meet with Nobuo Uematsu but we didn't book early enough sadly. In the Sony Centre, there was unfortunately no program to go with the concert, mostly because they wanted to make the song selection a surprise for the fans. I think that worked a lot better because I wasn't expecting certain songs to come up and when they did there was usually great applause.

My brother and my view from our seats to the orchestra

The concert started with the prelude theme of Final Fantasy. I have to admit the starting notes gave me chills. In fact I pretty much had chills throughout the entire song, it mixed a beautiful orchestra and an amazing chorus. It was the perfect opening to the concert, and I am pretty sure I had a really stupid grin on my face as I was listening, but it just sounded too wonderful. They were able to mix nostalgia and beauty right into that opening piece perfectly.

Distant Worlds II : Prelude of Final Fantasy

They then went to another well known song from Final Fantasy 8, Liberi Fatali. Like the prelude, this song was played in such an excellent manner and fit with the style of the original song. I am just going to say right now so I don't have to repeat myself that every single song they played stayed true to the original song and made it sound wonderful with orchestra and some choir music. There are orchestral versions of the songs and Distant World soundtracks already released, but hearing it up close and live is a completely different experience.

FF8 : Liberi Fatali

Before continuing on, they gave us the Battle Victory theme, much to the applause of the entire audience. It was easy to see Arnie Roth was very passionate about conducting Final Fantasy Music, he repeatly talked about how much he was digging through the all the songs for new music to add to the roster of ever growing arrangements.

FF 10 : To Zanarkand

Afterwards, they gave us many other songs, including from Final Fantasy 9, "you're not alone", Final Fantasy 4 "Love theme", FF 8 "Fisherman's Horizon, FF 10's "To Zanarkand", FF 11's "Ronfaure", FF 13's "Blinded by Light", and before the intermission the "Chocobo Theme".

Distant Worlds : Swing de Chocobo

I want to highlight another great aspect of the concert. Behind the orchestra, you can see a screen which displays footage that matches nearly perfectly with the Orchestra. Based on the song, they show footage from the game that the song originated from, and matching with the music in a very engrossing manner. I was engaged by the visuals and the music, because seeing the visuals go with the music allowed you to see how the beautiful music truly resonated and fit with the games. Not only that but it brought back nostalgic memories, not to mention the footage used was also handled very well. Most notably in the "Chocobo Theme", they used it very well, gaining tons of laughs from the crowd due to how they were able to integrate the cheery music and the footage from all the games in the series. It definitely helped make the experience what it was, without the visual aid the concert wouldn't be the same.

FF7 : Opening ~ Bombing Mission

The intermission followed, and soon after we were ready to go at it again. Usually Arnie Roth would annouce what music is being played next but didn't even do so and simply started with the music right away. People immediately recognized it as the "Bombing Mission/Opening Theme" of Final Fantasy 7 and people immediately cheered for it. It reinforced again how dedicated and passionate these fans are about the music. Being in a crowd like this for a concert is so much more invigorating because you know everyone in the concert loves these games and their music, the composer and conductor love them as well. There is passion for this series all around the room.

FF6 : Terra's Theme

Most of the 2nd half was dedicated more so to Final Fantasy 6 and 7, as the next song was "Aerith's Theme" from Final Fantasy 7, followed by FF 8's "Man with the Machine Gun", FF 5's "Battle on the Bridge", FF 6's Dark World (Which featured Nobuo Uematsu on the keyboard, playing piano and using atmospheric sounds), FF 6 had another song title "Maria and Draco" which was essentially a play in the game which featured 3 great soloist singers that all had very strong, "opera" qualities. The song all by itself tells a story without need for visuals which made it quite a bit different than all the other songs. FF 6 went one more time to finish with "Terra's Theme / Main Theme" of Final Fantasy 6.

Nobuo Uematsu & Arnie Roth on stage, so brightly lit that my camera can't handle it so they are glowing like crazy

Thankfully though it wasn't really the end and Arnie Roth teased us with one more song with the promise that we had to sing along. He had someone play the tune of the lyrics and everyone immediately recognized it was FF 7's "One Winged Angel". He even had Nobuo Uematsu say the lyrics of "Se - Phi - Roth", much to his embarrassment and the audience's laughter. Nobuo Uematsu joined the rest of the chorus at the back as Arnie Roth had the orchestra do their encore for the audience. A great conclusion to the concert it was, featuring the most intense orchestral and visual performance of the concert. The video fit perfectly with everything the orchestra was doing and was edited in such a good fashion while the orchestra was putting their hearts into making the song sound as amazing as possible. I have heard "One Winged Angel" on discs but hearing it up close, live, is just way better. Same goes for every song played.

FF7 : One Winged Angel

Unfortunately we couldn't rouse them to get a second encore, as the audience was cheering for minutes on end, getting several bows from both Arnie Roth and Nobuo Uematsu. Overall though, the experience was just incredible. It's a way different atmosphere than other concerts I have gone to. That's possibly due to the nature of the audience and the age. The average age of this concert was quite low, maybe high teens or low twenties? But you could tell there was so much passion for the game and music throughout the audience and you could tell both composer and conductor were just as passionate. It made it way more fun than any other concert I have been too.

I don't know when or if they are ever going to come back to Toronto, but I know if I ever spot them coming again, I will be trying to get the first tickets possible. Not only that but I wish to meet any of the Final Fantasy composers if I have the chance. I would rather not miss the chance again. I am dying to see some other video game concerts as well. I know the atmosphere will be just as positive as this one. There is just something about a gaming concert that brings people together, there is just this great energy in the air.

Anyways I am tired, it was fun and hope people who read this get some incentive to see a video game concert. It's amazing.

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