A reader reports back from a very special music concert, celebrating 30 years of Final Fantasy music and games.
Just over three years ago Arnie Roth, the conductor and musical director of the Final Fantasy music concert series Distant Worlds, said to his London audience that he would return to the Royal Albert Hall the very next year. Would this be the start of an annual tradition? Time passed and the assumed November 2015 deadline lapsed with no hint of a repeat performance.
Thankfully, that absence was broken last Saturday, with a special edition of the tour at the Royal Albert Hall, celebrating the 30th anniversary of Final Fantasy, entitled JIRITSU (meaning ‘independence’ when spoken, but ‘the age of 30’ when written in its native Japanese kanji).
Starting at Sydney earlier this July, JIRITSU is to be performed at 12 cities over four continents, including the famous Carnegie Hall in New York, before finishing off in January at Los Angeles. In regards to the London event, a weekend pop-up shop accompanied the event, situated in a hidden section of Covent Garden and comprising of limited edition merchandise, an art gallery, and demo units of the upcoming Dissidia Final Fantasy NT.
However, with a maximum capacity of 40 to every half-hour slot, it was impossible for a casual gamer like me (who only had a few hours’ notice of its existence) to gain entry; I would be grateful to gain some insight as to what the experience was like.
The concert itself was more or less similar to that which I had already written in my Reader’s Feature three years ago: Nobuo Uematsu returned to attend the performance, along with some delegates from Square Enix; the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra returned to their instrumental duties; and the acoustics of the hall was top notch.
Differences worth mentioning would be that the Maida Vale Singers were the choir, and the famous pipe organ was not utilised for a rendition of Dancing Mad, instead being replaced by a performance of Maria and Draco featuring three professional opera soloists.
Due to the excessive demand from previous years, there were two performances this year: an afternoon matinee that was at the family-friendly time of 2.30pm and an evening performance at 7.30pm.
Prior to both performances I didn’t notice much in the way of cosplay. Previously, there would be a sizeable amount that would congregate outside of the venue in order to network and pose for photographs, but last week, this was not so. Also, anti-terrorism fixtures and building works surrounding the perimeter of the building meant that most activity occurred indoors, making for an overall less open and welcoming atmosphere, compared to previous years.
My other criticism would be that the encore this time felt more contrived. I think that we all know that an encore is pretty much a standard part of the concert experience nowadays, but the conductor usually makes some effort to give the appearance of it being spontaneous.
This time, it was a case of the conductor finishing off the final song, walking out of sight during applause, then immediately returning to the stage to perform an encore piece. Repeat a second time for One Winged Angel, albeit an extra moment to request the audience to participate in chanting ‘Sephiroth!’; we did our part and filled the room with sound during the relevant moments.
In conclusion, and to paraphrase what I had said earlier, there was a gentleman’s agreement of sorts back in 2014 that Distant Worlds would return the next year which wasn’t fulfilled. However, there now appears to be a pattern emerging: Distant Worlds have visited London four times, with two of those dates part of an anniversary tour. This means that you have one concert with all of the fan favourites that you all know and love, followed a few years later by a special version that contains lesser known pieces and newer entries to their musical repertoire.
In reflection, I’d accept that more than the token gesture of an annual visit. If London really was as Arnie Roth said on the night of the performance, his favourite place to play out of all tour locations, then you would expect him to only return when he is sure he can keep the bar raised high. If this pattern continues, I’ll see you all again in November 2019, for a standard Distant Worlds concert.
Battle on the Big Bridge [Final Fantasy V]
The Oath [Final Fantasy VIII; event premiere]
Flash of Steel [Final Fantasy XII; new arrangement for 30th anniversary]
Searching for Friends [Final Fantasy VI; Event premiere]
Fang’s Theme [Final Fantasy XIII; event premiere]
Theme of Love [Final Fantasy IV]
Cosmo Canyon [Final Fantasy VII; event premiere]
Not Alone [Final Fantasy IX]
Apocalypsus Noctus [Final Fantasy XV]
Liberi Fatali [Final Fantasy VIII]
Opening – Bombing Mission [Final Fantasy VII; featuring relevant footage of Final Fantasy VII remake]
Somnus [Final Fantasy XV]
Torn from the Heavens [Final Fantasy XIV]
Cinco de Chocobo [Final Fantasy VII]
Hymn of the Fayth [Final Fantasy X]
Zanarkand [Final Fantasy X]
Maria and Draco [Final Fantasy VI; new arrangement for 30th Anniversary] (feat. soloists Melanie Marshall, Lee Hickenbottom and Simon Grant, with Christopher Dee as narrator)
(Second half of) Staff Roll [Final Fantasy VII]
Encore: Aerith’s Theme [Final Fantasy VII]
Encore: Victory Theme [Kazoo version]
Encore: One Winged Angel [Final Fantasy VII]
By reader GGEuDraco (PSN ID/NN ID/Steam ID)
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