04/03/2020

๐ŸŽป๐ŸŽถ London Video game Orchestra: The Classics! – 23/02/2020 | "In summary…the London Video Game Orchestra rocks!" ๐ŸŽป๐ŸŽถ @lvgorchestra

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Being the kind sort I am - and knowing the amount of time Faye has spent listening to orchestral versions of classic video game music on Spotify – I managed to snag a couple of tickets to this London Video Game Orchestra show when they were released at the tail end of 2019 and booked our hotel and travel plans way in advance.

I knew that the LVGO was an amateur orchestra who had formed in 2019 and had only previously played two shows, beyond that, I had no idea what to expect. I also admit that this was my first time seeing a live symphony orchestra, my only prior experience being seeing smaller orchestras playing alongside rock bands and vocalists so I was really excited to drink in the ambience.

Arriving at Stratford Arts centre, it was clear that this was a very intimate venue with only a few hundred seats. We were only a couple of rows from the front and within about twelve feet of the conductor. With there being around 70 musicians on stage, I’d estimate that a large portion of the audience was made up of friends, relatives and some journalists, making for a really convivial atmosphere. Naturally, as is my curse at any video gaming event that I attend, there was a person near me that had clearly forgotten to make use of his can of Lynx Atlantis followed by a quick blast of Hai-Karate but that was the only ‘sniffy’ comment I have of what turned out to be a wonderfully transportive evening.

Our host and the conductor for the evening was James Kierle, who was almost vibrating with barely-concealed excitement and nervous energy for the night. After a brief tuning-up, the orchestra launched into their opening number, Final Fantasy VII: Prelude (written by Nobuo Uematsu & arranged by Galen Woltkamp-Moon) which is for me, one of the most emotive and memorable pieces of music in gaming.

From the moment that harpist Irantzu Agirre Arrizubieta began plucking those falling notes and the string section came achingly into the fold, I was completely ensconced in the melancholic fog. I even momentarily forgot about the violinist I fancied. 
Following this -and the first of many well-deserved, rapturous rounds of applause- there were some pieces that I wasn’t as familiar with but still felt oddly familiar and texture-rich, these were Secret of Mana Suite (written by Hiroki Kikuta, arrangement by Ben Emberley) and Panzer Dragoon: Flight (written by Yoshitaka Azuma, arranged by Chris Carter – I assume not the X-Files bloke). 
Then came one of my personal highlights, Donkey Kong Country Suite (written by David Wise, Eveline Fischer and Robin Beanland, Arranged by Andres Soto – a name you will hear of again!) which ran the gamut from swing to that gorgeous, contemplative section of music from the underwater levels, one that really resonated with me and a part of the evening that I was looking forward to since first seeing the concert programme.

Following these pieces were Chrono Trigger: Main Theme (written by Yasunori Mitsuda, arranged by Anni Movsisyan) and the final track of the first half, and something that couldn’t really be missed, Super Mario Suite (written by Koji Kondo and arranged by Marcus Hedges, another name that I urge you to look into). Obviously, everyone was hips deep with the Mario music as it is one of the most seminal game soundtracks of all time and it was a real treat to hear the LVGO play the main themes from the first three games as well as the Overworld theme.

As I grabbed a couple of drinks in the interval (the Barefoot Shiraz was calling my name in a thousand ancient languages but I opted for an icy Corona instead) I reflected back on some of the things that James Kierle had said in the breaks between songs. He was passionate about the quality and importance of these game soundtracks and drove home the point that just because they were recorded on limited hardware doesn’t diminish from the high level of their composition. Pretty soon it was time to again take our seats for the second half of the show…or ‘Level 2’, if you will.
Sonic the Hedgehog Medley (written by Masato Nakamura and arranged by Richard Jaques) was the perfect way to get us all back in the groove and took us on a journey from Green Hill Zone through to the final boss battle, in a ‘sonic’ sense, at least.

I was especially keen on Labyrinth Zone as it had been stuck in my head a full week before the show. I must admit, a full orchestral version of this did sound slightly better than my whistling in the shower and the visuals presented on the giant backdrop behind the orchestra just made me want to replay every game mentioned throughout the evening all over again.
Without commenting on each, individual track, the latter half of the show consisted of:
Banjo-Kazooie: Spiral Mountain (Written by Grant Kirkhope, arranged by Marcus hedges)
Golden Axe Medley (written by T. Nakabayashi, Y. Takada & J. Tel, arranged by David Aylmer and James Kierle)
  • This one holds a special place in my heart, the Data Discs vinyl version that we have often gets a serious spin.
Ducktales: Moon Theme and Title Theme (written by Hiroshige Tonomura & Mark Mueller, arranged by Andres Soto)
Kirby’s Adventure Medley (Hirokazu Ando & Jun Ishikawa, arranged by Shogo Sakai)
Legend of Zelda Classic Medley (Koji Kondo, Mahito Yokota & Michiru Oshima, arranged by Tatsuya Sokooshi
Street Fighter 2 Medley (Yoko Shimomura, arranged by Mark Choi)
  • This was very special and, judging from the comments by members of the orchestra on Twitter following the concert, a saucy one to play!
The show then ended on Pokemon Medley (Junichi Masuda, arranged by Andres Soto)
It truly was a wonderful evening that made me realise the depth of some of the tunes that had been part of my gaming genetic makeup for decades. Conductor James Kierle ended the evening by teasing us with news of the next concert (June 2020) which would have a theme of ‘open-world and adventure’ which, if it involves anything from The Witcher 3 would result in me attending the show ‘sans pantalon’.
Chatting on the way back to our hotel and in the room, where we listened to more orchestral versions of video game soundtracks on Spotify - which is surprisingly rich with them, good - (don’t worry guys, I got a couple of bottles of Barefoot Shiraz for the room, panic over) we discussed which games we’d love to hear live and, just in case any orchestras read this I’m going to list them here:
The Secret of Monkey Island
The Dizzy Series
Landstalker
Toejam and Earl
Road Rash 2
Streets of Rage 2
And my dream show….The 7th Guest.
In summary…the London Video Game Orchestra rocks and I wish they would all come to Cardiff. Great venue, great band, great night.
Follow the London Video Game Orchestra on twitter at @lvgorchestra and I’ll see you at the next show!

1 comment:

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