One of the first things that comes out of Tommy Tallarico’s mouth as soon as he comes on stage is reminiscing about what people said to him when he said he first wanted to tour playing video game music with a live orchestra. People said he was mad and on his first concert in 2005 at the Hollywood Bowl with the LA Philharmonic, he expected only about 500 people to turn up. Instead 11,000 did. Tommy tends to use this story to highlight to people just how important video game music can actually be to people. It’s a personal journey because you played those games when you were little so when you hear an orchestra tackle the games you played as a child, it has different effects on different people.
Considering there have been over 370 shows already that Tommy has been part of (working with local orchestras each time), he talks about how each show is different. In a two-hour slot, there is only room for 18-20 pieces, and there is considerably more in his catalogue to choose from. He personally takes to Facebook to set up a page for each show and asks the fans what music they want to hear, with a few surprises added in there in addition. It’s very crowd-centric before the show has even taken place.
Before Act I started, there was an on-stage cosplay contest of which there was a ranging variety. From Earthworm Jim, to Grim Fandango and Final Fantasy X to Metal Gear Solid. All the participants looked the part and the winner was chosen by who had the loudest applause. The show itself uses a giant screen behind the orchestra so that the audience have something to watch whilst they listen to the performances. Some of them with funny content such as “The Top 10 worst voice-acting in Video Games” and funny 15 second snippets of what it would be like if Mortal Kombat and the original Donkey Kong were spliced together. The setlist was as follows:
Metroid NES medley
Donkey Kong Country medley
Phoenix Wright medley (New to recent shows)
Metal Gear Solid 3 : Snake Eater Intro
Command & Conquer 1-3 medley
Syberia medley (The sequel to Amerzone: The Explorers Legacy)
Kingdom Hearts medley
Grim Fandango medley
World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor medley
Overwatch (New to recent shows)
Ico credits – You Were There
Skyrim main theme
Chrono Trigger/Chrono Cross medley
Final Fantasy 7 – One Winged Angel (Advent Children version)
Portal – Still Alive singalong
There were a good number of pieces on the above list that deserve more than just a simple credit. In addition to the British Sinfionetta, they were accompanied by a 16-man choir of which it made certain tracks an absolute treat to listen to. Hearing the Tenor section of the choir shouting Fus Ro Dah in addition to an orchestral backing is something words simply cannot give justice to. The Tetris Opera was another example of the choir requiring a major part as they all had to learn Russian for the performance. Solo performances from Laura Intravia (Flute Link) on Snake Eater were enough to give me goosebumps, it was a carbon copy of the original score, pitch for pitch, note for note. It could not have been a better performance. Tommy Tallarico popped in occasionally for pieces that required the guitar (Castlevania/Chrono Trigger & Cross mostly) along with introductions, but mostly he took a backseat. It may be his show, but he doesn’t need to be centre of attention. For me, that’s a sign of a good host.
Following Act II, both my partner and I jumped in the queue for the merchandise stall with the ability to meet Laura, Tommy, and Eimear Noone. Eimear was the conductor with quite an impressive catalogue behind her. She has been responsible for conducting the music for all of Activision Blizzard’s titles in the past 10 years and has been the composer on World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor. All three key players brought their own expertise to the table and it absolutely shone through. Got a signed Blu Ray as well as a keepsake, lovely stuff!
If Video Games Live ever comes to a city near you, I could not recommend this enough, it was a fantastic experience and some of the pieces were enough to instil levels of emotion in me that took me back to the mid 90’s. I also bought Chrono Cross after the gig because their rendition of it was really cool. Thanks guys!