Sunday, 1 April 2012

BLOG -- Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy @ Sony Centre (March 31st, 2012)

This blog will be about my thoughts and experience at Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy concert. It's a concert featuring Final Fantasy music, performed by an orchestra and choir (when needed). Final Fantasy is a video game series. I have to say right now, I enjoyed it very much!! XD

Me and Final Fantasy
I've been a fan of Final Fantasy ever since I was... maybe 7 or 8? One day I was watching my brother try out a bunch of video games (NES games) that he borrowed from his friend. Some of them were interesting and some were not. Then he tried out a game that really got my attention.

He was moving a character around a huge map and got into random battles with monsters. At that time, that kind of game was very different for me. During one battle, one of the characters lost a lot of HP. The character suddenly fell to his knees. The moment I saw that, I had an intense yearning to help the character. This was pretty much my thought process: You're on your knees... let me help you back up... I want to help you... (even back then I was so geeky, lol)

When I found out that the game was called Final Fantasy, I made sure to remember it so I could play it one day (my brother only borrowed that game for one day). Years later, I got exposed to Final Fantasy III (really Final Fantasy VI), and completely fell in love... It drove me to play Final Fantasy II (really Final Fantasy IV), then Final Fantasy V. I eventually tried Final Fantasy I, but stopped after cursing it and its horrendous need for level/money-grinding.

Something I've always enjoyed about Final Fantasy was the music. Heavy, fast-beat battle tracks... slow, lingering ballads... goofy, light-hearted tracks... intense, energetic tracks... and of course, the beautiful harp solo... Nobuo Uematsu (composer for Final Fantasy I - XI and XIV) did a great job in creating music that would capture and convey those tense, happy, cheerful, sorrowful, anything-ful moments. I still sing the opera song from Final Fantasy VI in the shower sometimes...

The Little Details
Date of Concert: Saturday March 31st, 2012
Venue: Sony Centre (Toronto, Ontario)
Time: 8:00 PM
Ticket Price Total: $55.00
Seating: Balcony Aisle 2, Row K, Seat 21
Went with: Sister and her fiance

7:30-ish PM -- @ Sony Centre
There were a lot of people already there. Inside, there was a big crowd around the souvenir stand. My sister's fiance and I checked it out. I was set on buying the programme (if the price was reasonable). The souvenir shop was selling these items:

T-shirt -- $20
Programme -- $15
CD (2008 concert) -- $15
CD (2010 concert) -- $15
DVD (some concert) -- $25
CD (Final Fantasy XIV Battle tracks) -- $20
CD (Final Fantasy XIV Field tracks) -- $20
CD (Reunion tracks) -- $20 (no idea what this was, it sold out before we got there)
CD (Final Fantasy XIII Original Soundtrack) -- $50

I think if the T-shirt was in a different colour (not grey), I may have bought one. If the Battle tracks CD was a compilation of battle tracks from all the Final Fantasy games, I would have bought that in an instant. Instead, I settled with the programme.

After that, we headed up to the auditorium doors, which was still closed. As we walked around, we passed by somebody dressed as a white mage. He was at the bar, getting drinks. Immediately, I thought, he's trying to build up his fire skills (by becoming more flammable). Then the auditorium doors opened and everybody went in. From where I sat, it looked like a full house.

FF Series: Prelude
FF VIII: Liberi Fatali
FF Series: Victory Theme
FF VIII: Don't Be Afraid
FF IX: You're Not Alone
FF IV: Theme of Love
FF VIII: Fisherman's Horizon
FF X: To Zanarkand
FF XI: Ronafure
FF XIII: Blinded By Light
FF Series: Swing de Chocobo


FF VII: Opening - Bombing Mission
FF VI: Dark World
FF V: Clash on the Big Bridge
FF VII: Aerith's Theme
FF VIII: The Man With The Machine Gun
FF VI: Opera "Maria and Draco"
FF VI: Terra's Theme

Hehe, you'll find out later.

8:15 PM-ish -- Music Start!
Arnie Roth (the conductor) was a bit late. Once he showed up, everybody clapped. As he raised his baton, the crowd went silent. Then... this beautiful, serene harp piece slowly filled the room. Eventually, it was accompanied by the choir... then by other instruments. It was a fantastic beginning. I just sat there, soaking in the lovely harmonies -- and the nostalgia.

Once that piece was over (Prelude -- Final Fantasy series), everybody clapped and cheered. Then the choir started chanting slowly... then quickly... then the orchestra went into full force with a fast-paced piece (Liberi Fatali -- Final Fantasy VIII).

So... even though you're not allowed to record performances, I did with my cell phone. No video -- only the audio (and in pretty bad quality). You know, as a personal souvenir. And because I know that doing this won't stop me from continuing to spend money on the series. If you'd like to listen, here it is (no video, so just hit play and continue doing whatever else):

Prelude and Liberi Fatali

Every piece was a musical delight -- even the pieces from Final Fantasy games I have never played (have not played any Final Fantasy game after IX so far -- still need to beat Final Fantasy VII). There was a huge screen above the stage and footage from Final Fantasy would sometimes play (corresponding to whichever piece was being performed). It was really neat! I really enjoyed You're Not Alone (Final Fantasy IX), Theme of Love (Final Fantasy IV), and To Zanarkand (Final Fantasy X). Theme of Love brought so many memories... I almost cried, lol.

9:00 PM -- Intermission
As soon as the Intermission started, I got out my DS and went into PictoChat. I waited for a few minutes... then five... and nobody joined. I was so sad... people don't PictoChat anymore? I was really looking forward to it.

Then I went down to the lobby to meet with an old friend who also attended the concert. I have to say this about the Sony Centre auditorium: those stairs are soooooo steep!! Many times, I had that vertigo sensation, thinking that I would tumble down on the next step (I grabbed whatever ledges I could). On the way to the lobby, I saw somebody dressed as a black mage and had to take a pic.

Black mage

After meeting up and chatting with my friend, a bell rang to tell us to get back to our seats. When I went back (walking up those steps was sooo tiring), I saw my sister and her fiance PictoChatting with each other.


9:15-ish PM -- Second Half
The first piece after the intermission started off slowly... then strong, fast-paced drums followed (Opening - Bombing Mission -- Final Fantasy VII). It was great.

Afterwards, Arnie Roth introduced the next piece and told us that Nobuo Uematsu would also be performing (on the condition that he performed as well). Everybody cheered and clapped. Nobuo Uematsu appeared and took his place by a double-keyboard. Arnie Roth took a violin. The orchestra began, and Nobuo Uematsu came in, expertly playing the grim tones to Dark World (Final Fantasy VI). Arnie Roth later joined in, adding to the sorrow. It was very nicely done.

Before Aerith's Theme
After Clash on the Big Bridge (Final Fantasy V), Arnie Roth introduced the next piece (Aerith's Theme -- Final Fantasy VII). Then he said, "Before I do that [play Aerith's Theme], pay very special attention -- a message from Cloud. He has a very important message for us." 
Everybody's eyes went to the screen. A scene with Cloud and Aerith on a grassy area appeared. Then a huge speech bubble appeared. At the top, some letters slowly appeared and formed the name "Cheryl Murray,". No response from the audience (probably confusion -- who's Cheryl Murray?). Then the rest of the speech bubble was slowly filled with this: "Would you please do me the honour of marrying me?" Some people said, "Ah...", then everybody started cheering and screaming once we realized it was a marriage proposal! Then the spotlight suddenly fell on a couple on the balcony level. The guy gave a huge thumbs up and everybody cheered and clapped. It was so exciting, sweet, and romantic!
Rest of the Concert
I deeply enjoyed the last pieces. I have such an immense love for Final Fantasy VI music. Opera "Maria and Draco" (Final Fantasy VI) was performed by three soloists, and they were singing in English which was cool (though not following the SNES translation, but not sure how faithful that was to the Japanese text anyway). Personally, I think that Terra's Theme (Final Fantasy VI) was the best performed piece of the night. There was such... sincerity in it. I can't really describe it.
After Terra's Theme, everybody clapped and cheered. Once Nobuo Uematsu appeared, almost everybody stood up and continued clapping. Then Nobuo Uematsu and Arnie Roth left. A few minutes later, they appeared again.

10:10-ish PM -- Encore
I'm not saying anything about the encore. You can just listen to it below. I'm sorry if you can't hear all the conversations. I generally don't like this piece (I think the beginning is way overused in fanstuff), but I really enjoyed this. If you couldn't catch the name of the piece, I'll mention it at the end of this blog. The show ended around 10:30 PM.


Overall Experience
This was a concert that really did take me to a distant world... I greatly enjoyed the pieces played. I was glad that they played many of the older Final Fantasy music -- the music I grew up listening to. After the concert, the souvenir shop was totally packed -- much more than before the concert.

The tiny souvenir stand and all those people.

I took a pic of another group of cosplayers:

From Final Fantasy XIII

All and all, this was a truly fantastical experience. The next time it comes back to Toronto, I'll be there. Going to a distant world isn't that far after all. :)

Thanks for reading! :)

Final Fantasy VII: One-Winged Angel

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