As a novelist, I rely heavily on listening to music to either set the mood or cancel-out the world around me. Video game soundtracks are high on the lists that I use. In fact, I wrote one book and outlined subsequent sequels exclusively to Final Fantasy S Generation from Nobuo Uematsu. That being said, I was in no way prepared for Video Games Live.
I’m going to keep this short and sweet. VGL is even greater an experience than it looks on YouTube, and is probably the most rewarding experience than any concert or theater event I’ve been to. This was the first time VGL has come to Raleigh, North Carolina and I was completely blown away that it was Sold Out. I was genuinely concerned that even with the video game companies in the area that the turnout would be mediocre at best. Every kind of person showed up. Rich, poor, sophisticated, sweaty nerd, giddy geek…I saw all kinds of people there and no one felt left out.
There wasn’t as much cosplay as I expected, but for those who showed up, they were put together very well and all were creative. If you don’t go to Cons or are uncomfortable being around that level of geek, Video Games Live is the perfect in-between.
- Believe it or not, the kid on the left won the contest just from how he said, “Twilight Princess”.
I can’t speak for all theaters, but Meymandi Concert Hall offers drinks (including top shelf and beer) and food. Which is a great way to sneak out of the swath of other gamers to get some fresh air. And that’s the best part about being at VGL; you’re around your own people. You can be twelve, forty-something, or seventeen and everyone is on the same level. You’re there to have fun, watch some video games, and listen to your favorite music.
And let me tell you, Tommy Tallarico does one hell of a job. Touring with different symphonies at each stop has to be stressful (Emmanuel Fratianni said that they rehearsed and put the show together in less than three hours) but everyone on the stage made it run smoothly. Surprise visits from current and former video game moguls kept everyone guessing and the meet-and-greet line wrapped around the hall almost down the escalator. Cliff Bleszninski was even there!
And it’s not just the music and videos that makes it so fun. Lights, smoke effects and well-timed spotlights keep you switching from the choir, the orchestral section, the video game on the feed, and (in the second half of the show) Tallarico as he really leans into his guitar, even getting some of the violinists to head-bang. Though I must say this: you know that warning screen about if you’re susceptible to epileptic seizures due to flashing lights while you’re waiting for your game to load? VGL needs to have one too. Hoo-boy.
The pre-show Guitar Hero contest winner ended up on stage playing Foo Fighter’s “Pretender” with Tallarico, and came so close to the 450,000 Expert points he needed for the prize that the crowd was whooping and cheering him on. Tommy even pulled four gamers from the audience to play the original Smash Brothers while the symphony played.
And that’s the best part about seeing Video Games Live. You’re encouraged to have fun, be yourself, and just go (respectfully) nuts. After music from the Metal Gear series finished playing, Tallarico crawled around onstage inside a box before introducing the insanely talented, Laura Intravia (you might know her as Flute Link). Right before Intermission, she sang Russian folk song, “Korobeiniki” which you might know as the theme to Tetris. Her rendition was so beautiful it brought people to their feet.
- She’s Flute Link, a stunning soloist, and plays what Tallarico refers to as, “the Terminator flute”.
Tallarico keeps VGL so random and customized you don’t know what’s coming, so you are never bored. Everything moves swiftly and they play hilarious video game related clips between segments. He has put together between 80-100 segments, changing each combination based on the requests he gets from that city. You’re never going to see the same show twice, even if it’s the exact same spot a year later. Tallarico not only entertains, he provides opportunities for kids and teens to create their own symphonies at their school, free of charge in every way, including rights to the songs and their accompanying music sheets. He has created the perfect union between education and entertainment that brings pride to both sides.
I cannot encourage you enough to spill the measly $29-$50 (our US price-range anyway) to have the VGL experience. They even offer back-stage passes ($150.00 here). Video Games Live is perfect for families, dates, kids, and every kind of music and video game lover out there. Just be warned, some drunken gamers can get a little too excited!
Not talking about myself there. I’m talking about the raucous guy behind me that learned the difference between Zangief and Blanka, and committed to finally starting the Metal Gear series. But that goes to show you, that’s what VGL does. It broadens the horizon of every person who sees it and commands you to clap and scream at the top of your lungs at the same time. So stop reading this and visit Video Games Live to see when they’re coming near your town! I guarantee that you will not regret it.
- And then everyone beat me to the meet-and-greet while I was busy taking this…
My sincerest gratitude goes to Joe Newberry and Kimberly Little for their generosity and assistance during this awesome event. Credit goes to house photographer, Michael Zirkle for the pictures of onstage cosplayers and of Laura Intravia. And a massive thank-you goes to The North Carolina Symphony. Having to play under those conditions had to be a different experience, and you made it a lifetime memory.