Sunday, March 2, 2008

The geekiest concert of 2008

I just spent an awesome evening at one of the most enjoyable, and best performed, symphony concerts I have been to in a long time.

Distant Worlds: The Music of Final Fantasy.

Composer: Nabuo Uematsu
Conductor: Arnie Roth

Performances by: 
The Chicago Pops Symphony,
The Chicago Festival Choir

My good friends Jim and Paul from St. Louis drove up for the concert, along with their sister Catherine and friend Brandy. We also met up with Brandon, who plays in our World of Warcraft guild. Half the fun was just hanging out with that crew, of course. I wish I could see them more often!

The performance was superb. I attended the "Dear Friends" concert that was last at Rosemont, and as a Final Fantasy fan I thoroughly enjoyed the music, but as a music critic recognized a few flaws in the performance level. But this show was nearly flawless.

Here's a few highlights from the set list:

Liberi Fatali - One of my fav pieces, the choir was spot-on and was a great opener to get the crowd emotionally into the performance.

Vamo' alla Flamenco - the classical guitar soloist was amazing. I love this scene from FF9, the music gives you a sense of the adventurous but playful spirit in this game, and the performers nailed this one.

Main Theme - the guitar soloist also played for the main theme, was a great rendition of the main FF theme.

Opening Bombing Mission - This one took me by surprise as a most exellently performed piece, better than what was recorded on the Distant Worlds CD.

Fisherman's Horizon - Memoro de la Stono - These two pieces have never been played live by orchestra before, and were a nice addition to the show.

Opera "Maria and Draco" - Absolutely the highlight of the entire concert, the very popular opera piece from FFIII (FFVI jap) got the standing ovation it deserved. The Opera voice trio played perfectly to the crowd, adding some amusing but subtle expressions to their performance that prompted an overwhelmingly positive response from the crowd. As One reviewer put it, "Nothing less than a standing ovation is deserved. Bravo."

Terra's Theme - Another piece not often played live, a superb performance and a favorite of many.

One Winged Angel - The conductor introduced the last song as "And for our final piece... well, you don't need me to tell you..." A cult-classic favorite of Sephiroth fans, and excellently performed by symphony and choir.

I was very lucky to have a VIP ticket, which allowed a brief yet exciting meeting with the composer and conductor after the show (after 2 hours in line) but it was entirely worth the wait to get the awesome pics. It was a blast cracking jokes and talking to the friendly Rosemont staff while waiting in line. To Travis, the ultimate bouncer, who could break a man while blind-folded and with one arm tied behind your back: you rock.

I truly had a great weekend at that show, with friends as geeky about Final Fantasy as I am. What a blast!

If you ever have a chance to listen to the recorded Distant Worlds CD (performed by the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Arnie Roth), you have to turn it up LOUD, close your eyes, and pretend you are sitting in the front section of an auditorium.

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