A perfect evening a perfect setting and Video Games Live, now that’s a high score. Walking down the elevated pedestrian walkway I approached the entrance of the Strathmore. I was generously greeted by there top notch staff and was taken by the neatness and architecture that surrounded me. I was preparing to witness Video Games Live, a symphonic rendering of classic video game music, and boy was I in for a treat.
The concert hall was phenomenal, oval shaped wood paneling with a concession of elevated tiers and balconies. I took my seat and watched the highly acclaimed National Philharmonic orchestra and Chorale prepare. They were conducted by Jack Wall a well know video game music composer who has worked on projects such as Myst, Splinter Cell, and Mass Effect. His appearance on stage was well received and it also meant the show was about to begin. The stage featured three screens which would display game footage synced perfectly to the orchestrated scores. Their first score being a mix of Commodore 64, Atari 2600, and Nintendo tunes. The audience was encouraged to cheer whenever a favorite game was displayed. It sounded amazing; the depth of the pitch and tonality created by the orchestra along with the nostalgia of your favorite childhood video game was pleasant.
Preceding the first arrangement famed video game music composer Tommy Tallarico enters the stage guitar in hand. He discusses with the audience the history and importance of game music and how it could encourage youth to appreciate the classical arts. He then introduced the next composition featuring one of my personal favorite game franchises Mega Man. They started by playing the title screen theme from Mega Man2 which at its apex boast a pretty intricate guitar solo from which it transitions to other famed compositions. They ranged from songs all throughout the Mega Man series. I have long been a big fan of Capcom compositions. It was expertly arranged I was just a little disappointed they didn’t play Bubble Man’s theme.
There were a host of activities they integrated into their show like bringing members of the audience on stage to play Frogger with a live orchestra, a discussion of the history of video games exhibit coming to the Smithsonian, a fan Guitar Hero segment, and even a marriage proposal. It was interesting while discussing the history of video games exhibit they Skyped legendary Pong inventor Ralph Baer. He was asked of some of the benefits of his work and he held up an iphone. Next they played my favorite song of the evening, Shadow of the Colossus. This is one of my favorite Playstation2 games if not all time. The beauty and solitude the game is know for really created an atmosphere and sentimentality that plucked my emotions and was a real tear-jerker.
Now it was time for the excitement to grow. The lighting arrangement started glowing red matching the fire burning on screen. Kratos appeared the audience applauded for it was God of War and this particular arrangement featured an extremely talented vocalist and flute player Laura Intravia. She sang an opera style aria, her vocal range was extraordinary. She could hold high notes with ease and increase the pitch at will. Her hand gestures and expressions were timeless and elegant. Her beautiful voice encompassed every inch of the grand hall. She was amazing. She had a lot more in store and we would soon find out after the intermission.
After the intermission we were greeted on screen by Koji Kondo the music composer to the original Super Mario Bros and Zelda. I guess you know what time was? Super Mario time! This arrangement was clever and featured synchronization between Bowser being stomped and the tubas bellowing thud noises. Preceding Super Mario Bros. Laura comes out sporting a Zelda costume ready to rip awesome flute solos to the theme of Zelda. If anything is better than Laura’s singing it’s her flute playing certainly a high mark. I can’t mention enough this girls phenomenal talent she also does an opera style rendition of Tetris which was equally phenomenal.
They went on to complete more compositions such as Final Fantasy, and Halo. Halo was cool Tommy pulled out a guitar with a sniper rifle attached to it. Before someone in all out Halo gear stormed the stage. Tommy’s guitar playing was on point. He played solos with ease and matched pitches with the orchestra nicely. They closed out the show with a sing along “Still Alive” a funny skit about music and science, it was fun. Video Games live is a great act full of trained talented musicians and it showed. It’s remarkable how far the game music industry has come, and where it is going is limitless.
FINAL GRADE: A+++