Last night my wife Meredith and I attended Video Games Live (VGL) at the Captiol Center for the Arts in Concord NH. (Interestingly the CCA was where Meredith and I had our wedding reception, so it was a nice trip down memory lane for us.)
The concert is part of the Gile Concert Series, which is a series of free concerts sponsored by the William H Gile Legacy Fund. It was interesting that the Gile series chose VGL as one of its free concerts.
Overall I would rate this concert as a compelling experience and well worth seeing even if you have to spend money on tickets. Hearing the scores of some of our favorite games performed by a full orchestra and chorus combined with excellent visuals from the games really reinforces the depth of talent and artistry that has been put into developing video games over the past decades. Some of the more “symphonic” pieces have the ability to evoke goosebumps even though they have been heard hundreds of times before. My personal favorites were selections from the “Halo” and “Warcraft” series. There are funny video interstitials between the music pieces to allow the orchestra time to rest and change setups and as a result the concert flows very well overall.
The only challenge I have with the event is host and founder Tommy Tallarico . As the event MC, Tallarico walks a shaky path between geeky enthusiasm for games (and gaming culture) and being an “out-there” personality. While it is clear that Tallarico wants the audience to feel free to express their passion for games and not feel like they are at the symphony, at times he comes very close to being the over-the-top DJ that introduces a band at a concert (“I wanna hear everybody scream!”) or the caricature of him that Penny Arcade did years ago. Geeks can be a very fickle audience - they can smell inauthenticity from miles away (witness the reviews Jay Mohr got when he hosted BlizzCon 2007). I think Tallarico would do well to tone down the forced MC stuff and just let his natural enthusiasm come through. My overall feeling on Tallarico is that he is honestly enthusiastic about video games and particularly the artistry that goes into them, so I hope my concerns don’t come across as an overal criticism of either Tallarico or the event.There were a couple of other pleasant surprises about the event:
The orchestra and chorus were actually local artists - the Granite State Symphony Orchestra and the Concord Chorale . I thought that VGL had a touring orchestra and chorus, so it was a nice touch to see local musicians. Both groups were extremely talented and really brought the music to life I hope both the Orchestra and Chorus see increased patronage as a result.
The greatest surprise of the night was the introduction of Ralph Baer , the inventor of the first video game console and a longtime New Hampshire resident. Who knew such a pioneer lived here under our noses?
Here is the set list for the evening (VGL rotates about 40 different pieces, so this isn’t a big spoiler).
- 8-bit console medley
- Metal Gear
- God of War
- Sonic the Hedgehog
- Kingdom Hearts
- Flute Link ( Laura Intravia )
- Street Fighter
- Flute Mario
- Final Fantasy VII - One-Winged Angel (Sephiroth Theme)
- Chrono Trigger / Chrono Cross
- Still Alive
This was a very enjoyable event and I hope it returns to New Hampshire again.