Consoles to concert halls
Two things that don’t happen nearly often enough: young audiences getting excited about live orchestral music and video games receiving the artistic respect they deserve. Thankfully, Video Games Live is hard at work to remedy both.
Created and fronted by video game industry veteran Tommy Tallarico, for the last decade Video Games Live has been using symphony orchestras to to bring video game scores to life, and employing plenty of showmanship to keep audience members on the edge of their sets. On April 4, this awe-inspiring spectacle wowed a packed house at the Count Basie Theatre, 99 Monmouth Street, Red Bank.
The three-hour event served as a comprehensive look at the rich and varied history of video game music, from an opening medley of old school arcade classics (think “Frogger,” “Joust,” “Donkey Kong”) to modern marvels, such as selections from the “Halo” and “God of War” franchises, all accompanied by projected footage from the games.
The tent-pole titles garnered huge audience reactions: the cheers of excitement at the start of the U.S. premiere of the show’s “Pokemon” franchise segment were almost frighteningly ecstatic, and the “World of Warcraft” (2004) section was met with similarly rapturous applause. But some of the tried-and-true favorites, most notably “One-Winged Angel” from the “Final Fantasy VII” (1997) soundtrack, had a perfunctory feel to them, sounding accomplished while lacking much urgency.
The high point of the evening was the spotlight given to relatively lesser-known titles, such as the Playstation 2-era cult classic “Shadow of the Colossus” (2005), which Tallarico referred to at the show as “one of my favorite games ever of all time,” and the unabashedly gorgeous scores of “Chrono Trigger” (1995) and “Chrono Cross” (1999).
Gaming is, at its core, an interactive art, and so appropriately there were plenty of chances for the audience to get engaged with the proceedings, including a costume contest and a pre-show “Guitar Hero” contest that lead to the winner performing on stage with Tallarico and the orchestra.
There were also special guests on hand for the big night, including “Castlevania” (1986) composer and New Jersey resident Kinuyo Yamashita and “Halo Anniversary” composer and New Jersey native Tom Salta. Special mention music also be made of singer, musician and Jersey girl Laura Intravia: she wowed the crowd during her flute medleys of music from the “Mario” and “Zelda” franchises, and she pretty much stole the show when she took the microphone for the theme song from “Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater” (2004).
The evening wrapped up with Intravia on vocals and Tallarico on acoustic guitar, leading the crowd through a sing-along of Jonathan Coulton’s “Still Alive” from “Portal” (2007). “This was a triumph,” Intravia sang, “I’m making a note here: ‘Huge success.’” The crowd in Red Bank couldn’t have agreed more.
-- Alex Biese