A reader offers his verdict on the latest Final Fantasy music concert and how Final Fantasy VII Remake has influenced this year’s event.
The UK holds a unique cultural position, in that we are often a test market for other continents to try out: if something extremely popular in the USA, or even China and Japan, wants to make some attempt at branching out towards a general European audience, they dip their toes in our country first and see what sticks. So when the travelling concert series Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy wanted to gauge European public interest, by hosting an event back in November 2011 (coinciding with a pre-release announcement of Final Fantasy XIII-2), they were met with a sold-out crowd and, I am sure, the assurance to spread out further.
Fast forward to 2019 and last weekend, and we arrive at their fifth event. So popular has the concert become that two performances are now required to give all potential patrons a fair chance of booking a seat. However, instead of last time, where they were both held on the same day, this was over two dates: the Friday evening performance for those within close range of London on a workday and the Saturday evening performance for those further out to attend.
Returning this time were the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, plus the Maida Vale Singers on choral duties, both of whom have never failed to impress me. Arnie Roth resumed his role as conductor, but there was one key absence – this was the first Distant Worlds concert held in London without the presence of Nobuo Uematsu, for reasons that I realise are best not to speculate. However, applause was set aside to acknowledge his past work and efforts, and I’d certainly hope for him to return for the next iteration within the UK.
The first half of the performance was the mix of both vocal and instrumental work that veterans of the concert series would come to expect. In addition to the regular appearance of Susan Calloway, we were graced with the presence of RIKKI, the original vocal artist for Final Fantasy X, to produce a haunting voice for Suteki da ne.
A visual highlight for me was when, during the organ solo in Dancing Mad, all lighting within the orchestra dimmed, bar two spotlights set upon the organist and the conductor. Placing such an emphasis on solely those two helped set a more sinister mood within the hall and even helped me concentrate on where it mattered, despite the conductor appearing to do nothing but act as some musical sentinel, silently judging every key press and foot pedal.
The second half consisted solely of music from Final Fantasy VII, which was the first time a decision had been made to dedicate a whole set to one single game. Whilst pleasing enough to hear the music that harks directly back to my teenage years, and literally the first PlayStation game I ever played, I was left craving something more varied in content.
Maybe introducing something obscure from the soundtrack that would flesh out the universe within the game would have served that need. I discussed this after the concert with a couple, of whom it was their first time, and their counterargument seemed to make me realise that maybe I have lost the sense of wonder I felt back in 2011; I am far too experienced in attending video game music concerts, and probably expect far too much to keep raising the bar.
Back in November 2017 I had predicted that the next Distant Worlds concert to take place in London would be exactly two years later, and that it was going to consist of nothing more than just fan favourites that cover the whole series – I was thoroughly wrong in both respects! First of all, this was the first Distant Worlds concert in London that had not been held in the month of November.
Secondly, the dominance of Final Fantasy XIV and XV, plus the second half being exclusively Final Fantasy VII meant that there was a distinct lack of variety to cater to the tastes of all fans; social media after the event mentioned a lack of music from Final Fantasy VIII in particular.
Overall, I can’t help but feel that something seemed off about this year’s concert, starting with the Royal Albert Hall and Distant Worlds mailing lists announcing ticket sales at much shorter notice than I’ve experienced before, implying some form of hasty arrangement to play in London. It’s likely that this year’s performance was less fan service and more marketing to promote the current releases and build up hype for the Final Fantasy VII Remake announcement at E3 in June – even Susan Calloway’s bright red dress, as delightful as it was, made me think more of Aerith than Answers…
…but where else could I ever have the chance to meet a cosplayer dressed up as Red XIII(!).
APOCALYPSIS NOCTIS [Final Fantasy XV]
Dragonsong [Final Fantasy XIV] (feat. Susan Calloway)
Theme of EPISODE IGNIS [Final Fantasy XV]
Suteki da ne [Final Fantasy X] (feat. RIKKI)
Festival of the Hunt [Final Fantasy IX]
Answers [Final Fantasy XIV] (feat. Susan Calloway)
Dancing Mad [Final Fantasy VI] (with Catherine Ennis on pipe organ)
Opening – Bombing Mission [Final Fantasy VII]
Main Theme [Final Fantasy VII]
JENOVA COMPLETE [Final Fantasy VII]
Aerith’s Theme [Final Fantasy VII]
Cosmo Canyon [Final Fantasy VII]
Cinco de Chocobo [Final Fantasy VII]
J-E-N-O-V-A [Final Fantasy VII]
One Winged Angel [Final Fantasy VII]
(Second half of) Staff Roll [Final Fantasy VII]
Encore: Zanarkand [Final Fantasy X]
Encore: Battle on the Big Bridge [Final Fantasy V]
By reader GGEuDraco (Steam/PSN ID)
The reader’s feature does not necessary represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.
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