Good day to you ladies and gentlemen and welcome this review, today I will be talking about the amazing time I had at the Royal Albert Hall yesterday night when I went to see Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy.
Now to try and describe this event would be difficult. To even put it into words is near impossible purely because it is one you have to experience. Now I have to admit that I’m not one of the most hardcore Final Fantasy fans, I’ve only played a handful of the games and I’ve never even finished one. That being said, I have been playing these games since around 1997/98, I have played a fair few of the games and researched the hell of this series to the point where I consider myself personally invested, and the music has played a big hand in that.
Before starting I should mention that I’m probably not going to remember the names of all the songs or which order they came in specifically, that being said I will try my hardest to recall last night’s event without falling into a sea of happiness and forgetting to finish this review haha. Okay. let’s begin.
All I can say is wow, I’ve been to a few venues since I started watching live music in 2011, but not many of them are as breathtaking as the Royal Albert Hall. This is a place I’ve heard so much about and seen on TV, but it’s not until you go there yourself that you get an idea of how majestic the place really is. It’s huge, very circular and has many levels, just trying to get to our balcony seats was a task in itself because it was on the other side of the entrance we came through and was up three flights of stairs. But it was worth all the effort because we had a gorgeous view of the orchestra, the screen for the projected imagery and seeing the hundreds of people below, around and above us. I was mad. The scale of the place once you sit down is one you just have to pause and take in, plus it helped that everything was incredibly beautiful inside with vivid colours and spotlights illuminating the area, it was lovely.
As for the vibe in the main hall itself it was pretty nice, from the points when the orchestra came on stage to composer Arnie Roth making announcements between songs to the points when the Nobuo Uematsu came up on stage as well, the crowd went mad with the sound of applause. These were the fans shouting, clapping and giving standing ovations, you could tell that these were avid fans just happy to see their childhood recreated in a classical and epic manner. At one point when Nobuo Uematsu came on stage to play, before he started there this one guy in the crowd who shouted “I LOVE YOU!” At which point everybody laughed and applauded, again, this is the power of video game fandom and they are unashamed of their love for anything, as pointed out yesterday by that one guy haha.
The Music & Visuals
Let’s talk about the main aspect of this concert, the music itself. As I said before I’m not a hardcore fan, I’ve only played FF3, 4, 7, 8, 10, 10-2, 12 and 13, and in addition to that I know a fair amount about 6 and 14. But as you can tell I’m not well-versed in this world of gaming as I am with say Sonic, Zelda or Mario. I think I can say that hampered my experience a little bit when it came to certain songs, because I hadn’t played them, I couldn’t know of their significance. But at the same time, the music was so incredibly awesome that I didn’t feel that bad about it because I was thoroughly engaged throughout.
When it comes to the songs played there was everything from main themes to battle songs and the music covered had a great selection from all of the games, but they was definitely special love going out to FF6 and 9.
The concert opened to the dark and harrowing sounds of “Hymn of the Fayth” from Final Fantasy 10, it was a brilliant way to start and eased us nicely into the next song which was the classic, “One-Winged Angel” from Final Fantasy 7. I knew this would be in the concert but to have it as the second song, I was not prepared. I’ve loved this song forever, especially The Black Mages version and this rendition was pretty much exactly the same minus the rock guitars. It was some epic material.
And along side the music there was a big screen that had scenes and gameplay from the various Final Fantasy games in correspondence to the musical pieces that were playing at the time. It was a great way of illustrating the music and further engaging the audience in the world of this game series. For the most part it was great, there was a good selection of imagery on-screen and it was done in a way where it matched the music’s power at the same time. My only minor nitpicks were that there were clips that was edited a little too quickly and some moments had repeated footage that would recycle during the same song or during another segment. Again these are minor nitpicks, but something I noticed in the midst of the awesomeness.
From that point onwards I couldn’t tell what came next in what specific order but I think I’ll just go through the games in numerical order, starting with Final Fantasy 5. With FF5 they played “Dear Friends” which was gorgeous and there was also I think a three-part melody with two other songs, the first part was “Battle on the Big Bridge” which is one of my absolute FAVOURITES, it was loud, intense and just bursting with badassery, I just wish we could have gotten the song in its entirety. And there’s Final Fantasy 6, damn there was a lot of love for this game. There was the character melody that featured Terra, Kefka, Celes and Locke which was nice and offered some lovely sounds, but things really got interesting when it came to “Balance Is Restored“, that was one of the most impressive and uplifting pieces in the entire concert. But I think it was “Dancing Mad” was the special one, it was the longest performance with incredibly sinister introduction and utilized the whole orchestra so well including the choir and even an organ too. It found ways to switch between being aggressive and calm while still being imposing, and then there’s the second half of the song where things just completely changed up in terms of pace and style and the sound was incredibly bombastic and insanely stylish, just to calm down and finish on a dramatic note, it was awesome.
Then there’s Final Fantasy 7 which had the “Main Theme” which was beautifully crafted and of course the classic “Those Who Fight (Let The Battles Begin)” as part of the three-part melody I mentioned before which was lovely. As for Final Fantasy 8, I’m pretty sure there was a song used from that game because I’m sure the imagery on the screen was from that game but I cannot confirm that for sure at this point. Final Fantasy 9 was the next big one, there was at least three big songs for that game. “Rose of May” was a nice one, while “Festival of the Hunt” was a massive highlight as it was so wonderfully layered with different instruments in the really loud segments, but the best one by far was “Vamo’ Alla Flamenco“, that was one of the most beautiful pieces as it was so classical but also Spanish-influenced as well. Truly magical. As for Final Fantasy 10 we were treated to “Seymour Battle Theme” which was so nicely done in an orchestrated form and “To Zanarkand” literally made me want to shed tears a little bit, it was that beautiful. The Final Fantasy 11 song had a very nice melody to it, however I am not sure what song it was, while the Final Fantasy 13 series got a bit of Lightning Returns with “Light Eternal“, but what they did was take the final chuck of the original song which predominately featured “Blinded By Light“. It was a beautiful and well-done performance that made me smile. And Final Fantasy 14 got one of the best performances in the form of “Answers” performed by singer Susan Calloway, her voice worked so well with the music in this epic performance which was so heartbreakingly awesome.
The final three songs were wonderful as there was only going be one but then there was more. The Final Fantasy “Main Theme” and “Victory Fanfare” which was just the most delightful thing ever. And ending on “Swing de Chocobo” was pretty much the best thing ever, the icing on the cake for sure. Just when I thought the show was over we got a second encore and it was the one song I had hoped for, a Chocobo-related jam and it was so jazzy and funky, loved it!
So to conclude Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy was simply incredible, beyond incredible, it was spectacular. The orchestrated compositions of these classic and recent songs of the Final Fantasy series is nothing short of beautiful and with the projected visuals from all of the games it made you feel incredibly warm and nostalgic. Everything was fabulous and I got what I wanted out of the event and more even though I wasn’t familiar with all of the material that was played, if you’re a fan of this video game series then you awe it to yourself to check this concert out.
Thanks for reading this review and now I open the floor to you, the readers, have any of you been to see Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy before and if so what did you think of it? Whatever your thoughts are, be sure to drop them in the comments below and I’ll see you on the next review. Until next time, peace out! 😀