May 10 at Disney Hall in Los Angeles was a historical event for lovers of RPGs and video game music in general. It was the very first live performance of video game music in the United States. It also happened to be Nobuo Uematu’s first appearance in the US. Seat 6C in the uppermost level of the right side balcony was occupied by yours truly.
There were a number of special guests, including Uematsu himself of course. As you’d expect, there were huge amounts of cheering and applause when he came in. He’s an extremely funny guy in public… he wore traditional Japanese sandals and a constant smile. The MC for the concert was James Arnold Taylor, the English voice actor for Tidus. He was kinda annoying, he told a lot of corny jokes, but he didn’t talk all that much so it was okay.
I remember feeling this immense anticipation in the moments before the first piece, Liberi Fatali, started. As soon as they started playing it, the whole awesomeness overtook me. I was hearing live game music for the first time ever. The orchestra sounded really damn good too. The concert was over too quickly for me, sadly, but they managed to get in a good variety of songs. The first half of the concert was pretty much the same as the songs they used in 20020220 (aka. FFiC), but the second half had some never-before-heard stuff, including music from the upcoming Advent Children. My personal favorite of the evening was Terra’s Theme. That song, along with the rest of the FF6 soundtrack, was what first got me hooked on game music. In fact, Terra’s Theme was the first VG song I ever learned to play on the piano. I never would have imagined, nearly 10 years ago, that the song that I recorded on a casette tape and hummed to myself at school would one day be performed by a live orchestra, or that I would have been there to hear it in person.
There were a number of surprises at the end. Nobuo came up on stage, of course, to talk about his feelings of the concert. Then, to the surprise of everyone, two more guests came up to stand with him – Yoshitaka Amano and Hironobu Sakaguchi (the creator of the FF series). Sakaguchi said a few words in English (“great concert!”), but for the most part the 3 spoke in Japanese, with an interpreter translating for them. After they said their parts, and the roar of applause died down, the 3 went offstage. It seemed like the concert was at an end, but then we got one last surprise. Some of us were wondering why the choir was still on stage, since the only vocal piece they performed was Liberi Fatali, and that was in the first half. All of a sudden the orchestra started playing again, and a cheer went up from the audience as we recognized the piece from the first few notes: One Winged Angel. It wasn’t the best song of the evening, but it was such a great surprise, I think it was the perfect way to end.
Here’s a listing of what they played:
- Liberi Fatali
- Terra’s Theme
- Theme of Love (from FF4)
- Dear Friends
- Vamo’ Alla Flamenco
- Love Grows
- Aeris’s Theme
- Not Alone
- FF1-3 Medley
- Melody from Advent Children
- Final Fantasy Theme
- One Winged Angel
These were listed in the gorgeous illustrated program I got at the concert for $25, except for the surprise OWA. If I get the chance, I’ll do some scanning so you all can see the purty pictures.
As an FF fan, game music enthusiast, and all-around game lover, I can say that this is one of the greatest events that I’ve ever been a part of. It made me tremendously happy to hear the work of such a talented musician in this personal way. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to be there. Seeing my friends sitting next to me, everyone’s eyes open wide, bodies on the edges of their seats, I know I was not alone in my thoughts.