Monday, April 28, 2014

Concert Review: Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy

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I was fortunate enough to take Conklederp out to the symphony last Saturday night, and it was not just any symphony, but music from the Final Fantasy series of video games performed by the Oregon Symphony conducted by longtime conductor of video game symphonies, Arnie Roth.

This is the third Final Fantasy concert that I've been to over the years, the first being from the "Dear Friends" concert series back in 2004, then Conklederp and I saw the Distant Worlds tour in San Francisco in 2010.  Along with the Play! video game concert series, listening to symphonic video game music has been a dream of mine since I first heard about and listened to the Final Fantasy: Symphonic Suite when I was in high school.  The fact that these concert series are a continuing affair makes me very happy.

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What makes me even happier is that, for the most part, is that the music is taken seriously.  I say, "for the most part" because there were some rather "fun" things that seem to naturally go along with a concert of video game music.  The first is that people showed up in cosplay.  We saw a number of people dressed up as characters from Final Fantasy VIII and there was even a father and daughter who were dressed up as White Mages.  It's very rare that you go to the symphony to see people dressed up as characters of the subject matter.  Thankfully there were not any buster swords, or at least any that I was witness to.  The other "fun" thing was an attempt at audience participation during two of the songs.  I say "attempt" because during the 2010 concert, the audience did sing during parts of the songs that they were cued to sing by the conductor.  At this concert however, there was practically no noticeable participation.  I cannot say if that was just because it was Portland, or because I didn't feel the conductor did a good job of including the audience in the parts that I could tell would have been the audience participation sections.

The last non-traditional aspect of the concert was that there was a video screen above the orchestra that would show scenes from the game that the selected piece was from.  The strangest thing for me, at least, was that the game footage did not contain the American localization, but the Japanese one instead.  Granted most of the footage was of cinematics and did not contain text, but from FF IV - X, any text on the screen was in Japanese.  I wonder why this decision was made, if maybe it had to do with copyright or some other legal issue.

What I felt to be the highlight of the evening was the performing of the Opera from Final Fantasy VI.  I say "Opera" because the entire in-game opera was performed, vocals and all.  The performance was very well executed as it included a narrator off to the side of the orchestra giving context for those unfamiliar with the game and the story of Draco, Maria and Prince Ralse.  There was even a narrated ending to what would have happened had not Locke and company planted Celes as Maria with Setzer stealing her during the wedding scene; and I guess Ultro crashing the party too.  The story finishes, in typical Final Fantasy VI  style with Draco, being mortally wounded during the duel, stabbing Prince Ralse through the heart and crying out as Maria escapes that he loves her.  God damn you Nobuo Uematsu and Square, damn you for wretching my heartstrings over and over again.

If you look at the lyrics for the 20 minutes of operatic music, there really is not a lot of singing and once you realize this, I began to feel for the three singers on stage who were not doing anything during the periods of non-singing.  It reminded me of how I feel when showing someone a youtube video or having them listen to a song and within a minute, I start to feel that they are probably bored and why did I pick this song for them to listen to and second guessing all my life decisions and why I didn't go to bathroom before eating that bag of bran muffins.  You get the idea.  That aside, my only critique of the performance actually had to do with the sound production and not the performers.  Confirmed by Conklederp and Salty Liver (who also attended with her fiance), that it was hard to hear the singers when the orchestra was playing in full force.  Ultimately that was my only gripe the whole evening.

Lastly, I would like to applaud Arnie Roth on the selection of songs for the concert.  While most of the songs were from the later Final Fantasy games (VII and on), there was a selection from the NES era of games, but only going back as far as Final Fantasy IV.  I am sure that there could have been a number of songs from the earlier Final Fantasy games had not the Opera from Final Fantasy VI been included, but that is a concession that I was more than happy to make as, again, hearing the opera in person was simply amazing.

In closing, I wanted to give a set list of the songs that were performed for the concert.

Final Fantasy Series: Prelude
VIII: Liberi Fatali
FF Victory Theme (Intro)
VII: Opening - Bombing Mission
IV: Theme of Love
V: Main Theme
VIII: Love Grows
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII: Light Eternal
VI: Phantom Forest
IX: Not Alone
FF Series: Chocobo Medley 2012


FF Series: Battle & Victory Theme Medley
XI: Fighter of the Crystal
VII: Aerith's Theme
XII: The Dalmasca Estersand
X: Zanarkand
VIII: Don't Be Afraid
VI: Opera 'Maria & Draco'
FF Series: Main Theme

VII: One-Winged Angel


1 comment:

  1. I have to tell you, I'm getting chills reading the setlist. It could also be the iced coffee I'm drinking. Even with all the shit I talk about FFVII, I bet Aeriths' theme was just amazing. As well as the Theme of Love from FFIV (which I imagine to be either Edgar's theme or Rosa/Cecil).

    I don't remember any of the music from FFVIII, but I bet I'd remember if I heard it. Sigh. Happy Memories.

    Was the Opera sung in English or Japanese?