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Video Games Live: London 2014

Returning to London, UK, for the first time in six years, Video Games Live – or VGL – made its way back to the Eventim Apollo (formerly known as the Hammersmith Apollo) on Sunday 2nd November 2014. Renegade Revolution editors Scott and Jojo (myself) had the opportunity to grab a couple of tickets and experience Video Games Live for the first time as it hit the city of London.

Video Games Live advertised outside the Eventim Apollo, London

Presented by musician and video games composer Tommy Tallarico, and with music played by the Hungarian Virtuosi Orchestra, Video Games Live brought fans of games and gaming soundtracks together for three hours of orchestrated magic. Video Games Live first debuted on 6th July 2006 in Los Angeles, USA with an unexpected turnout of 11,000 people. Since then, its popularity has only increased, enabling the series of concerts to tour on an international scale.

The audience itself was very diverse – ranging from young children to elderly fans of gaming – there was absolutely no discrimination or stereotyping. As announced on the official website, there was also a costume competition – which saw some patrons arrive in cosplay, including costumes from Minecraft, Final Fantasy and the Super Mario Bros franchise. Even yours truly came dressed as Priscilla from Dark Souls. Unfortunately, there was a bit of miscommunication with regards to the costume contest. We found it rather hard before the show to find a member of staff that knew of it, and when we did, were told that the costume competition had been cancelled due to issues with the venue. So, we were pleasantly surprised when Tommy Tallarico requested all cosplayers to meet by the merchandise stall during the interval in order to be taken up on the stage for the public vote on a costume competition winner – or, in this case, winners. Our congratulations to the Minecraft and World of Warcraft cosplayers!

Opening with the theme from Castlevania, Video Games Live looked to be both promising and energy-driven. With the tour covering over 300 different tracks from various games, Tallarico revealed to the audience at the early stages of the show that all the tracks selected for the night were based upon those who voted for their favourite tracks via the Facebook event which is sets up especially for each gig date. This particular venue both saw and heard visuals and music from games including “Sonic the Hedgehog”, “Shadow of the Colossus”, “The World of Warcraft”, “Metal Gear Solid” and “Final Fantasy”. Each song was accompanied with an assortment of visuals projected on three big screens above the orchestra. These showed a selection of in-game graphics, fan-made artwork and cosplay photos, and alternating live views of the conductor, members of the orchestra, choir and Tallarico as he played his guitar.

There were a few guest appearances for the night too. American cover band Random Encounter had flown out from their home country in order to perform some tracks alongside Tallarico and the Hungarian Virtuosi Orchestra, performing medleys from “The Legend of Zelda”, “Chrono Trigger” and “Chrono Cross”. And what gaming concert would be complete without the famous “Those Who Fight” (also known as “Let the Battles Begin!”) from “Final Fantasy VII”, which was executed skilfully by the band. Also visiting from America was the Grammy Award-winning Austin Wintory, who donned his red scarf before taking the stand to conduct the orchestra for his score of the 2012 indie game “Journey”. It was during this song that he was also joined by guest vocalist Riva Taylor, who later on in the show, treated attendees to an exclusive world premiere of her latest song “The Creed” from the upcoming game “Assassin’s Creed: Unity”. She also went on to close the concert with Tallarico by singing “Still Alive” from the much loved “Portal” game. Bringing a little home-grown talent, Video Games Live also saw the appearance of British music composer Richard Jacques, who is most notably known for his work on various Sega titles. On this occasion, Jacques took to the grand piano on stage and performed the music from “James Bond 007: Blood Stone” whilst very Bond-esque graphics filled the big screen above the stage.

Video Games Live stage inside the Eventim Apollo

Before the start of the show as well as in between songs during the concert, the screens on-stage played a number of video-games related shorts, with themes revolving around popular titles such as “Pac-Man”, “Super Mario”, “Contra”, “R-Type”, “Mortal Kombat” and “Donkey Kong”. There was even a short which displayed the worst video games titles, much to the audience’s amusement. These included “Touch Dic” (which was apparently short for “Touch Dictionary”), “Irritating Stick”, “Project Rub”, “Communist Mutants from Space”, “Booby Kids”, “Shaq-Fu” (anyone else remember that one?) and “Spanky’s Quest”. This, of course, sent the spectators into much laughter.

The only arguable setback for the night was the venue. The last time I had been to the Eventim Apollo – then known as the Hammersmith Apollo – was for a gig a few years back. Since then, the floors on the circle have remained sticky and the stage lighting, when shone out towards the audience were more than just a little too strong. In fact, they were almost blinding. The only other worry we had was during the performance of the “Halo” medley, in which the lights flickered so aggressively (in an almost strobe lighting effect) that we worried if anyone in the audience was epileptic as we had not seen any warning signs with regards to this. The only other thing we were perplexed with was why the rendition of “One Winged Angel” from “Final Fantasy VII” was accompanied by a cosplay video filled with a high majority of Tifa cosplayers and a minority of Sephiroth cosplayers – especially as it happens to be Sephiroth’s theme song. But who are we to judge?
Overall, we really enjoyed Video Games Live. The atmosphere was highly-charged and the audience interaction was above our expectations. Tallarico actually encouraged a high audience interaction at the beginning of the concert, urging them not to sit in silent appreciation, but instead to cheer, clap and voice their love for video games and the music that is related to it. This was a different take on a soundtrack-based concert, but not unnecessarily a bad one!
We just hope there will not be another six year wait until Video Games Live returns to the shores of the UK again!

If you have attended a Video Games Live concert in the past, or have tickets to see them on their current tour, we would love to hear from you about your experience in the comments.

For those of you that have missed out on a concert near you, or you simply want to find out more about Video Games Live, check out their website: http://videogameslive.com/

All photos © Jojo Yap and Scott Sanderson

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