An Elf flutist, a Japanese saxophonist, a hyper-active guitarist, an orchestral conductor in a Renaissance-period admiral-coat, the National Symphonic Orchestra (NSO) and a gazillion gaming-geeks tweaked out on soft drinks, roaring, ripping, PDAs and laptops still on. “Yeargh!” This was their time. This was their rock ‘n’ roll!
And what an amazing show it was! Too many things happened within the 1 hour 45 minute concert to mention but I guess I can start by introducing who VGL are. Created and produced by industry veterans and world famous video game composers Tommy Tallarico and Jack Wall (who has worked with avant garde and punk musicians such as John Cale, David Byrne and Patti Smith), VGL performs music from the greatest video games of all time – Mario to Megaman to Sonic the Hedgehog to Metal Gear to Halo to Final Fantasy to World of Warcraft. With the help of top orchestras and choirs around the world (in our case, the NSO), video footage and music arrangements, synchronised lighting, special effects, solo performers, electronic percussion, live action and unique interactive segments make this a once-in-a-lifetime experience, rivaling any stadium rock demi-gods.
The matinee concert begun with the score from Metal Gear with a popular part of the espionage game acted out. Next thing you know, Tommy pops out from under a cardbox and introduces himself. The witty dude would later strap on a smoking Spiderman guitar and accompany a local Guitar Hero champ on Van Halen’s ‘Jump’ (backed up by the NSO nonetheless!).
Jumping ahead, the audience got a surprise Skype call from Ralph Baer (inventor of the very first video game in the 60s). It was a touching moment, to be face-to-screen with the 88-year-old pioneer who practically gave birth to video games as we know with his proto-Pong (table-tennis) game. Ralph related to us that his inspiration for creating video games came more out of necessity as back then, the TV was a new invention and there were only 2 national stations, thus electronic entertainment was limited.
Probably the most-well known character in gamingland is Mario. And we got a special intro from the composer of the Super Mario Bros theme Koji Kondo (who’s also sound director for Nintendo). “I can’t believe that after 30 years, people still like this song,” Koji jokingly said.
More spectacles followed after intermission. In true geek sense, a hot little elf dressed like Robin Hood came onstage to play lead flute during a piece, and she shred it! Later Norihiko Hibino wailed his sax away on his award-winning theme from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.
For the interactive part of the show, a middle-age looking otaku was chosen to play the classic arcade game Space Invaders on stage. Trick was, he had to wear a motion detector tee that made him become the ship! As he slide from left to right of the stage, the orchestra played the game’s soundtrack. But alas, he lost – remember to get the invaders on the sides next time, or else they’ll come back to haunt you!
For the grand finale, all the lead players – Tommy, the hot elf flutist and Norihiko – performed together onstage. And with conductor Jack and the rest of the orchestra, they took a cinematic bow when the piece was done.
If you ever wonderedÂ how a million geeks chanting “we want more” sounded like, well, just go to the forums. Either that, or wait until VGL returns next year.