At first, the idea of a concert featuring musical scores from video games seems to hold little appeal; however Video Games Live promised a night of just not just music but also a showcase of gaming, competitions and general gaming goodness. With this in mind we packed the team up and made our way to Wellington on a hot balmy night (no wind!).
The town was fair buzzing, having hosted the rugby the night before, and the big Cuba Street Festival due to kick off that night the town was crowded with people and the bars were doing a roaring trade. The TSB Venue Centre on the waterfront, although relatively modern is basically a big barn with seats, and not the best as a concert venue. This was no more evident than at the entrance way. The promise of a gaming event was just a sad array of posters, and a couple of Guitar Hero systems set up for a play-off. The TV screens were set quite low, meaning there was huddle of folk around the units and very few spectators got to enjoy the action.
The venue opened early - a full hour and half before show time, and early on the reception area was packed with the 'who's who' of gaming, shoulder to shoulder, and with little air conditioning. The air soon took on the 'odor du geek' familiar to most LAN events. There was a competition to come dressed as your favourite game character and there were perhaps a dozen people who had made an attempt, however any sense of competition was blown out of the water by Sonic Boy. From his blue-painted legs to his cardboard spikes and shoes he was by far and away the best. More so because he got really into the spirit off the event.
We purchased a concert programme at $20 a shot and while it was a nice glossy mag, we found to our horror it was the leavings from the original 2005 North American Tour and its slim 14 pages contained stuff that did not make it to the New Zealand event... So with all of the event being a let-down at this point we made our way into the concert.
The orchestra for the night was the Vector Wellington Orchestra and they were supported by the Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus. The MC for the event was Tommy Tallarico (composer of scores for Advent Rising, Earthworm Jim, Metro Prime and many more) and the conductor was Jack Wall (composer and produced the musical score of Myst 3 and 4, Dungeon Siege 2 and many more). So we took our seats right at the front, and directly in front of the speakers (props to TSB Event Centre planning for selling seats where ear bleeds are an added bonus).
So the light dimmed, and the crowd hushed and we waited to be entertained. And how we were entertained. The show exceeded all our expectations. The opening piece was a masterpiece of orchestral timing backdropped by a walk down the memory lane of gaming. From the electronic tones of Pong, timed to the on-screen game play, through Defender, Joust, Elevator Man and many more the orchestra crashed out a crescendo of music perfectly in time with the gameplay. As each new game splashed onto the huge screen the crown roared.
As each new segment was introduced by Tommy he gave us a bit of background and insight into the art of developing music for games. The choir did a masterful job on some stunning pieces like Myst and Civilization. The later was particularly well done with two vocal soloists who drummed out the tribal vocal counter point to the expansive musical piece while all the while the the large screen spooled the opening FMV of the game. It was breathtaking.
Also featuring on the night was Martin Leung - the blindfolded pianist of YouTube fame. He awed the crowd by pounding out a medley of Japanese platform game music that was greeted with a standing ovation. His blinding speed over the keyboard was outstanding.
The night also featured some onstage competitions and notably a huge screen Frogger play-off for a laptop and a very funny human-controlled space invaders game. These were however mere fill-ins for what was a fantastic musical event. Other sets included the music of Advent Rising, Warcraft, and Halo (including Halo 3).
Putting aside the venue and lack of support from the New Zealand gaming industry it was a fantastic night. It was a showcase of the art form of gaming music and deserved more coverage and patronage than it received. Well done to the Orchestra and Choir; you were superb!