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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Distant Worlds - Music From Final Fantasy Concert Series

Distant Worlds: Chicago The Celebration
Photo by Brad Sylvester
I've seen symphony orchestras before, but I have never seen a symphony audience quite like the one that attended Distant Worlds: Chicago The Celebration performed by the Chicagoland Pops Orchestra and Chorus with an assist from vocalist Susan Calloway. Arnie Roth was the conductor and Nobuo Uematsu was the primary composer for the performance of music from the Final Fantasy video game franchise.

To start, the attire of the symphony audience ranged from black tie and gown to jeans and T-shirts to complete Final Fantasy character costumes including prosthetic ears, silver wigs, and what I can only describe as post-apocalyptic royal court finery.

During the concert itself, the crowd cheered enthusiastically between songs and called out to the conductor, the composer, and each other. The Chicagoland Pops Orchestra seemed both taken aback and energized by the back and forth between the music and the audience. The entire performance was accompanied by theater-sized High Definition video from the 25 years of Final Fantasy games as well as new footage from Square Enix.

The concert itself was preceded by an "intimate performance" by conductor Arnie Roth and composer Nobuo Uematsu. The two performed chamber music arrangements in the lobby for about 20 minutes finishing with a lively samba version of the fan favorite Chocoba Medley.

The main show included perhaps 16 pieces selected from the Final Fantasy games including songs from the yet to be released Final Fantasy XIV.

The merchandise stand offered CD and DVD sets of the music from the 14 releases of Final Fantasy dating back to it's initial launch in 1987 as well as plush toys, T-shirts, coffe mugs, and the other usual and sundry merchandise items one might expect. By the end of the night, everything was sold out with the exception of a few T-shirts, no doubt undersized for the aging, and decidedly grown-up fan base of Final Fantasy.

Square Enix, the firm behind Final Fantasy, was present as well with a Theatrythm tournament in the lobby. Theatrythm is a game based on the music of Final Fantasy that requires players to match the beat and perform specific maneuvers on the touch screen of a Nintendo 3DS with the stylus. Ironically, the grand prizes for two waves of the tournament were a Sony PS3 and an Xbox 360. I guess Square Enix didn't want to leave any of the big three console makers out of its promotion.

The Distant Worlds Concerts are an ongoing series making its next appearance tonight, December 8th in Montreal, Canada, and then moving on to Paris, France, on January 12th, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on February 14th, Munich, Germany, on March 2nd, Omaha, Nebraska, on March 21st, and Vienna, Austria, on June 14th. Having traveled about 1000 miles from chilly New Hampshire to slightly less chilly Chicago, Illinois for this show, I can only say, if you or a loved one are fans of Final Fantasy or spirited symphonies, go see it if you can.

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