Article by Alyx Jones
Edited by Sam Hughes
For those of you who aren’t yet aware of Video Games Live, you are missing out! Video Game music concerts are growing in popularity with many different concerts covering popular game franchises, the most popular including: Zelda, Final Fantasy and Pokemon. Video Games Live has been running for over 10 years, bringing everybody’s favourite game music to the stage. It’s always an incredible experience to witness and relive your favourite gaming melodies, which of course wouldn’t be complete without a few guest appearances from much-loved composers.
The venue (Troxy), for Video Games Live this year, was an interesting one. Originally the event was set to take place at O2 Shepard’s Bush Empire, however the venue sadly had to be changed due to essential roof repairs. All original tickets that were purchased were still honoured, however the seat numbers and price tiers were not. Troxy itself had a strange layout on the night, whereby the stage was raised far higher than normal, so lower ground seating was barely existent, and even the front row of upper ground seating was far from the stage. It did leave a strange gap between the stage and the audience, and since the event involves lots of audience participation, it was sad to be slightly removed from the action. Although it is made up for by the meet and greet after the show!
Eimear Noone was the incredible conductor for the evening. She has conducted every single piece of music for Blizzard games and will also be headlining the IDIG, three day game music festival, along with Video Games Live. A perfect choice for the concert! She was joined by the British Sinfonietta orchestra, a relatively small and new orchestra.
Early on in the show we were lucky enough to be introduced to the lovely Austin Wintory and the fabulous Victoria Atkin (the voice of Evie Frye) for the world premiere of Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate music live. It’s really refreshing to experience orchestral music for games that isn’t just “Hans Zimmer” epic. Wintory described his pitch to Ubisoft for the job as “Rather than having epic battle music, to have Viennese Waltz inspired music” and to reflect the assassins musically as “How a cat plays with a mouse, yet the mouse doesn’t yet know he is prey”. Matched up with the visuals of 19th century London, it was a really stunning performance with Wintory at the head, conducting. Wintory also stayed on to conduct Peter McConnells music from Grim Fandango, something I never thought I would experience, and probably never again will!
David Wise and Robin Beanland joined the orchestra on stage to play trumpet and saxophone for the music to Donkey Kong Country. Donkey Kong is a hugely popular game and the music is incredibly influential to many modern day titles, however the mix left a little to be desired as the special guests on the stage were sometimes difficult to hear, when they should maybe have been the focus of the piece.
We were also treated to the Tetris Type A music, also known as “Korobeiniki”, a traditional russian folk song. Laura Intravia, gave an absolutely stunning vocal performance, accompanied by a choir, who had learnt the russian lyrics especially. It stylistically added a really nice contrast to some of the other pieces from the show.
Laura Intravia then reappeared after the break as “LauraFluteLink” to play the flute for a collection of music from Zelda. She made numerous appearances throughout the entire show, definitely an incredible asset to Video Games Live.
When it came to the Overwatch trailer, it was a little bit of a miss with the audience (understandably). Although it’s a nice idea to have a live orchestra to a trailer, the reality was that the backing track was about 90% of the mix and overpowered the live music. It felt like a bit of a marketing tactic rather than a special experience, especially considering the trailer itself is over a year old.
When the Skyrim logo flashed across the screen and the choir took their feet. Anyone who knows the “Dragonborn Theme”, eagerly awaits the powerful male chants to enter. However, the choir was far too quiet and was overpowered by the orchestra. It’s a real shame, as the choir is the focal point of the piece. The whole concert did have a few moments such as this, where either the backing track or sound effects overpowered the orchestra. The quality of the playback for the audio to match the visuals wasn’t the best, it was particularly apparent when playing back narrated or spoken passages as the voices sounded somewhat distorted. There were also points where the strings weren’t audible enough and the beautiful detail and clarity of hearing a live orchestra was lost.
It was however, really cool to end on the song “Still Alive” from Portal, it was certainly fitting as the credits song in the game and is maybe appropriate to the night overall anyway. It’s not the best Video Games Live concert I’ve attended and it’s a shame to write that because I know how incredibly awesome the show is when it’s on point. There really was a lot of enjoyable moments in the show, especially seeing Tommy Tallarico receive not one, but two, Guinness book of world records awards! It was just the aural equivalent of watching the show through slightly smudged glasses, but onwards and upwards. Keep supporting Video Games Live because it’s an awesome concert series and hopefully it will be back next year, bigger and better than ever!
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate (conducted by Austin Wintory)
Grim Fandango (conducted by Austin Wintory)
Donkey Kong Country (With David Wise and Robin Beanland)
Kingdom Hearts (With classic Disney visuals)
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Command and Conquer: Red Alert
Tetris (Type A)
Zelda (With Laura Flue Link)
World of Warcraft (Crowd created “Malach”)
Skyrim (Dragonborn Theme)
Super Mario Brothers
Final Fantasy VII (One Winged Angel)
Portal (Still Alive)
The Sound Architect