Dear Friends

Last night I went to the “Dear Friends: Music from Final Fantasy” concert at LA’s Walt Disney Concert Hall. It was a really great experience.

We arrived shortly before 7pm for a 7.30pm start. Getting there was no problem at all and the parking was ample. Great venue. Many many fans were there (of course); we saw a few in costume as we came in and made our way down the queue for the merchandising stall.

The queue was long… not the longest I’ve been in by any stretch, but long enough. The merchandising stand was in fact the only bad part about the concert; small stands, way overpriced programme ($25!) and they ran out of t-shirts in any size except small. And there was no CD on sale! I didn’t get anything in the end.

I bought the tickets online at the beginning of March, through a website which gave me “take it or leave it” choices on prescribed seats each time I went through the process. I hit the site multiple times and took the first tickets offered in my chosen price range. I figured (rightly) that for a concert and venue like that, no seats would be bad. Ours turned out to be about the best in the house, short of sitting next to Uematsu-san himself! We got front row centre in the terrace section which gave us a great overview of the orchestra, and prime view of the 3 huge video screens hung above.

Nobuo Uematsu received cheers and a standing ovation when he came in and subsequently any time the audience’s attention was focused his way. James Arnold Taylor (the voice of Tidus from FFX) presented the pieces in groups of 3, and through the evening he had a few jokes with the gamer audience (e.g. “forgetting” which instalment of FF a certain piece was from – and eliciting a chorus of prompting).

The first half featured half a dozen or so pieces, highlights of which were fan favourite “Terra’s theme” from FFVI and “Dear Friends” itself from FFV. The orchestra (the Los Angeles Philharmonic) also performed the love theme from FFIV although to my ear the oboe interpretation was a little free at the start. Perhaps I am used to listening to the version I have on CD.

After a short intermission (we didn’t bother to go outside of the theatre) we were treated to more, including Aeris’ theme from FFVII and a medley from FFI-FFIII. The audience couldn’t hold back a cheer when the Chocobo theme made its appearance! A short teaser for the upcoming “Final Fantasy VII: Advent’s Children” during the piece of the same name also drew murmurings as we saw a shot of Cloud’s sword, stained and dull with age. The programme finished with the “Final Fantasy” main theme.

Well, everyone knows that an concert doesn’t finish with the end of the programme, and this was no different. After a brief word from the conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Uematsu-san came up on stage grinning and playing the crowd’s applause and laughter. His first words (“Good Evening. I am Nobuo Uematsu”) drew a big laugh even before the interpreter repeated them in English. He thanked the crowd and all his supporters both musical and in the gaming world, and he introduced (to gasps and murmurings as the crowd recognised them) Hironobu Sakaguchi, creator of Final Fantasy, and Yoshitaka Amano, chief artist of the series.

At one point Amano-san clearly had a lot to say and went on for a long time in Japanese (drawing laughs from the crowd each time he seemed to stop only to continue), and we cheered the interpreter as much as Amano-san himself. After a final address from Sakaguchi-san, the orchestra launched into the unannounced finale: “One Winged Angel” from FF7. The Los Angeles Master Chorale also performed this piece, as had done with the opening piece. We noted that the vocal volume was a little low, perhaps because the video screens were partially blocking us.

It was my first time at the Walt Disney Concert Hall and it was impressive. The LA Philharmonic also more than lived up to expectation. I found it interesting to wonder what their reaction was when they first found out that they would be playing videogame music. How many of them have even played videogames, let alone heard of Final Fantasy? But it’s true, as Uematsu said, that music has no boundaries. All in all it was a fantastic night out and a marvellous, groundbreaking concert.

One Response to “Dear Friends”

  1. silvercougar says:

    holy shit! An Elbeno post! *faints*


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