Final Fantasy Distant Worlds: London 2014
Saturday 1st November 2014 saw London’s Royal Albert Hall packed full of people with one thing in mind: Final Fantasy.
Returning to London for the third time since it first launched in Stockholm, Sweden back in 2007, tickets for this particular venue sold out within a record-breaking two hours, leaving a mixture of both excited and disappointed fans. Fortunately, Renegade Revolution’s games editor Scott and I were lucky enough to grab ourselves a pair of tickets.
The concert hall was pretty much full house – filled with fans of all ages and generations. Some patrons even came in cosplay; varying from full-on costumes to evening-dress versions of much loved Final Fantasy characters.
The venue itself has always been well-known for its acoustics and good seating plan. This meant that most – if not all – of the guests were able to both absorb the rich sounds of their favourite themes, as well as view the visual spectacles that accompanied the ensemble on the big screen situated behind the orchestral pit, just above the Royal Albert Hall’s signature organs. The providers of the evening’s entertainment were The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra – formed in 1987, with vocals provided by The London Voices – founded in 1973. Both orchestra and choir were conducted by Grammy Award winner Arnie Roth, with a special appearance from the singer-songwriter, Susan Calloway, providing the voice to Final Fantasy XIV’s “Answers”. To complete such a prestigious line up, the legendary composer himself, Nobuo Uematsu, had made a rare appearance to the show and even joined in on the keyboard for one of the renditions. With such a line-up, people knew they were in for a spectacular night.
They were not disappointed.
Opening the concert with a new rendition of Final Fantasy X’s “Hymn of the Fayth” dropped the audience into a silent awe before switching to the power-charged “One-Winged Angel” from Final Fantasy VII, which sent chills down spines as a mixture of Sephiroth-centric graphics from Final Fantasy VII and Advent Children played on the big screen. Whilst the concert involved many themes and medleys from Nobuo Uematsu’s personal favourite – Final Fantasy VI – which coincidentally was also celebrating its 20th anniversary, there was a decent spread of songs from across the Final Fantasy franchise. Pieces ranged from the quick-paced “The Man with the Machine Gun” from Final Fantasy VIII to the mellow “Light Eternal” from Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns. The fully orchestrated version of Final Fantasy X’s “Zanarkand” was most likely to have stirred up emotions within the audience with its solemn and almost haunting effects. There was even a battle and victory medley, which featured “Battle with the Four Fiends” from Final Fantasy IV, “Battle with Seymour” from Final Fantasy X and “Those Who Fight” from Final Fantasy VII, ending with the very familiar sound of the victory theme. Much to fans’ joy, even the Royal Albert Hall’s massive organ was utilised for a rendition of Final Fantasy VI’s “Dancing Mad”.
The audience was also given a treat with the world premieres of “Rose of May” and “Festival of the Hunt”, both from Final Fantasy IX. This, of course, went down extremely well with the audience. And, with the popularity of these fan-fuelled concerts, we anticipate even more new songs being released onto the stages of the Distant Worlds tours.
One of the perks of attending a Distant Worlds concert is that the playlist is never the same. Each concert will feature a different selection of tracks from their master repertoire list, of which this current year’s tour can be found on their website: http://www.ffdistantworlds.com/program
Overall, the evening was a thoroughly gratifying one, filled with musical and visual enjoyment. By the finale, the performers at the Royal Albert Hall were given a standing ovation by the majority of the audience (and if you were one of the few people that we saw who didn’t even bother to clap, what was your excuse?) Listening to the score of a soundtrack via a CD or mp3 is one thing, but experiencing it first-hand with a live orchestra and choir is arguably the best way to immerse yourself in the emotions and richness of a simply amazing series of gaming scores.
The Distant Worlds tour continues with Toronto, Canada being the next stop on 6th December 2014. If you were unfortunate enough to miss out on tickets in your local area for this current tour – or enjoyed the performance(s) so much that you would like to go again, keep up to date on Distant Worlds tour information on their website here: http://www.ffdistantworlds.com/
All photos and videos © Jojo Yap and Scott Sanderson