Review: Video Games Live!

Video Games LiveIts not the first time that this videogame concert has come to Toronto, playing orchestral versions of some of the most memorably tunes that the industry has to offer. The second Canadian date of the 2008 tour was a sold out show, and put on by industry icons Tommy Tallarico and Jack Wall. Was it worth the ticket price? I had backstage access, so here is the inside scoop! Read on…

I arrived at Massey Hall just before 6pm on February 9th, and was invited in by Mike Tallarico, the event coordinator for the show. Along with a few members of the Video Games Live forums who had backstage access, we basically hung out backstage before the doors opened, exploring the currently empty stage and seats periodically until we were called to arms.

VGL audienceGetting backstage access had its price. We had to help out with pre-show festivities. Some of us supervised gaming consoles or MAME arcade machines, while myself and one other rallied the costume contestants together. The pre-show lounge consisted of a home theatre setup donated by FutureShop for the evening, and playable PS3s and Wiis shattered about. I found it quite odd that not a single Xbox 360 was here.

Once the fans had their fill of games, beer and concert swag the show began. Massey Hall seats around 2700, and the people in attendance were damn near close to that number. As with most of the shows put on by Video Games Live (VGL), the orchestra was local and played surprisingly well for only rehearsing the material once prior to show-time.

Mike had given me a special wristband that apparently would allow me to go anywhere in the audience with my camera without being hassled. Though I was questioned after sitting in VIP balcony seats, they let me be to take the majority of the concert shots in the gallery below.

Many of the segments were identical to previous ones performed at their Toronto appearance in 2006, but others were modified with newly released content. These updated segments included Starcraft 2 and Halo 3 in the Blizzard and Halo segments respectively. Some entirely new segments (Civilization IV) were nicely done, incorporating some of the best and most memorable tunes from the soundtrack. Unfortunately some of my previous favourites (like Advent Rising) were dropped from the performance all together. I not only thought the music was beautiful and very operatic, but it was composed by Tommy Tallarico – the show’s host – and was disappointed when it wasn’t on the program.

Speaking of which:

Act 1:

  • Classic Arcade Medley (choir)Tommy Tallarico on Guitar
  • Metal Gear Solid (choir)
  • God of War (choir)
  • Martin Leung - Chrono Trigger Piano Solo
  • Space Invaders (Interactive Segment)
  • Harry Potter
  • Medal of Honor (choir)
  • Civilization IV (choir)
  • Liberi Fatale (FF8) (choir)
  • Zelda

Act 2:

  • Frogger (Interactive Segment)
  • Kingdom Hearts
  • Martin Leung - Final Fantasy Piano Solo
  • Sonic (choir)
  • Warcraft (choir)
  • Revenge of the Gnomes (choir)
  • Super Mario Bros.
  • Martin Leung - Mario piano/Tetris
  • Halo Suite & Halo 3
  • Final Fantasy VII - One Winged Angel (encore) (choir)

The segments performed by Martin Leung were also astounding. Martin has been touring with VGL for some time, and is one of the best pianists that I have had the pleasure of hearing. Most of his performance is based on the works of Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy), and it doesn’t hurt that Uemastu is my favourite composer of all time.

Needless to say the show was impressive, the encore received a standing ovation from the crowd and concerts like this are shining examples of videogame culture being recognized by the masses. Concerts like Video Games Live truly show the artistic talent that goes into games, talent that is thankfully receiving more and more appreciation wordwide.

Also worth mentioning is PLAY! A Video Game Symphony. VGL isn’t the only group bringing this fantastic music to the ears of fans. You can check out PLAY! here.

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