The video game music concert that has been sweeping the world finally made it to the home of GamerXChange – Miami. Video Games Live has been touring the world for almost a decade and I have been dying to see the show in person. After seeing the show and how it put two of my life-long loves together, video games and music, this is less of a review and more of me begging Tommy Tallarico and the rest of the Video Games Live team to come back to Miami. I’m joking. Not really. Come back, please.
All joking aside, Video Games Live was an extremely enjoyable experience. An outstanding performance was delivered by producer and founder of the show, Tommy Tallarico, along with conductor and award-winning artist Emmanuel Fratianni, the Craig Turley Orchestra, and a very talented local high school choir.
From the start of the show, the crowd was involved. Opening up with a cosplay contest where fans who came dressed up as video game characters were put on stage and the crowd chose the winner by means of cheers. It was a tough call when it came down to the bottom two contestants, a female Snake from Metal Gear Solid and Joel from The Last of Us. After about seven different tries, the winner was finally determined – SNAAAAAKEEEE! With that fun bit complete, the music started.
The lights dimmed and the three large screens above the stage lit up. A remixed intro of Jeff Bridges’ opening monologue ( also known as The Grid) from Tron Legacy was set to a 3D video mix-up of retro video games on the big screens, and the real show started. Setting the tone for greatness, the monologue segued into a “bombastic” welcome from Tommy Tallarico on his Spider-Man guitar playing our first video game piece, themes from Castlevania. (Unfortunately, we were once again barred from taking pictures during the show as the venue’s policy forbids it. So, I wont be able to show you shots of the actually performances, but try to visualize, and hey – you can check out the pics I took before and after the show in the gallery below!)
As promised, the show had spectacular lighting effects along with three large screens above the stage where the orchestra played and the choir sang. The music was beautiful and rich. Considering there was barely any time for everyone on stage to rehearse all together, they pulled off a beautiful performance that no doubt impressed all in attendance. Many great songs from games like World of Warcraft, Kingdom Hearts, Skyrim, Final Fantasy, Mega Man, and more were played in both a traditional orchestral manner and some with a bit more rock and roll flare.
On that latter note, Mr. Tallarico certainly delivered with the surprises this time around. Miami (and the other Florida tours over the weekend) got a surprise performance by a local cover band known as Random Encounter. It’s quite the interesting story how they got to be part of the show. But that’s another story for another time. If their name doesn’t tell it already, the band is a video games cover band of four talented dudes and a girl. Random Encounter did some seriously sweet rock covers of games like The Legend of Zelda on stage and blew the crowd away. They did so well that they were invited back on stage later in the show for a joint performance with Tommy and the orchestra. Needless to say, it was a treat to hear these young talented musicians.
But it wasn’t all just music. In between a lot of the musical sets were short fun video clips from GagFilm’s online video game mashups. The crowd was further involved with the show by participating in games themselves. Before the show, there was a Guitar Hero contest in the lobby where the person with the highest score was able to go on stage during the show to play Guitar Hero live on stage to The Foo Fighters’ The Pretender. Tommy played on a real guitar while the orchestra also backed them up. The crowd cheered as the note streaks hit high numbers and the music got louder. It was quite a fun experience no doubt for the crowd but also for the skilled gamer who got to play on stage.
Another fun interactive bit came with a hybrid “live action” video game performance of Space Invaders. A volunteer from the crowd was put on stage to play Space Invaders, but the catch was that he was actually the gun that was to shoot them down. Wearing a special shirt that tracked his motions, he had to run back and forth across the stage to shoot down the extraterrestrial invaders. It was a funny display that had the whole crowd cheering him on and laughing along with the player. The winner of the costume contest, the Guitar Hero set, and the Space Invaders volunteer all walked away with a swag bag filled with goodies.
Closing out the show was a set of epic pieces and Tommy brought out the big guns – almost literally. With his custom steam punk sniper rifle guitar in hand, an encore performance from Halo, Chrono Cross and Chrono Trigger were played much to the pleasure of the crowd.
Overall, the show was very much enjoyable; Quite different from the previous two video game concerts that I attended in that same hall over the past few years though. I felt this show was more fun, although it lacked more of the emotional connection that similar concerts have had. That’s not to say the music wasn’t powerful or that it didn’t resonate with the audience. However, the selection for this particular show in Miami, along with the atmosphere, the on-stage antics, all led for more of a fun-filled night over a night that was filled with “feels.” But isn’t that what video games are supposed to be about? Having a good time? I did and I’m not the only one.
Upon exiting the show, I met quite a few people who were longtime gamers or just people coming with their family, friends, or significant other. The interesting response I got from the non-gamers was almost unanimous. All of the ones I spoke to said they enjoyed the show a lot. A father who was with his son told me that he thought it was “so cool,” and that he never knew all of this was in games. A girl who went with her gamer boyfriend exclaimed that she has a new appreciation for video games.
As far as quotes, I wasn’t the only one from the GamerXChange family who attended the show.
Kristal (Pyraness) exclaimed, “I thought [Video Games Live] was amazing. I was really impressed by the orchestra’s performance and loved the Mega Man section that was played.”
Adil (ShadowStarr) noted, “Video Games Live brought back the feeling of excitement and the rush of playing an epic, just watching from the art they masterfully crafted on stage.”[youtube http://youtu.be/s1WdKr4CIUc]
Video Games Live was a great experience that I will not soon forget. I can not recommend this show enough. In fact, I loved it so much that I’ll be going to the E3 show this year in Los Angeles. I do hope the show returns to Miami to enjoy a new set of songs and for even more of my friends, family, and neighbors to see. If you have the chance, make sure to check out Video Games Live on tour, or at the very least, check out the albums and videos.
Also check out my pre-show interview with Tommy Tallarico.
[Note: A a complimentary set of tickets were provided to review the show.]