I love live performances of video game music. I've been to the Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddess concerts twice and seen the western pioneer of the genre, Video Games Live, three times over the years in Los Angeles at various E3s, but last week the traveling show made stops in Florida, so obviously my girlfriend and I had to go. This was her first VGL show and she's a second-generation gamer, so I wanted to make it special. We had front row center seats that I had to secure a year ago to an amazing evening of gaming's greatest hits past and present.
Sure, sitting that close means that the big screen displaying gaming clips and other fun programming is slightly blocked by the performers, but you just can't beat being right up close to the action. VGL founder, host, and performer Tommy Tallarico has a manic energy that you can best see sitting right up front, and when he calls out for responses or requests, it's the front row that he's going to hear. My girlfriend badly wanted a Borderlands suite, but that wasn't meant to be this time (hey Tommy, add that one to your to-do list!).
Speaking of the music, plenty of old favorites were performed. Castlevania, Mega Man, Metroid, Super Mario Bros., and The Legend of Zelda (all familiar from past VGL albums) still sound as great as ever. The second half of the show felt devoted more to JRPGs and modern adventure games including Final Fantasy X, Chrono Trigger / Chrono Cross, Shadow of the Colossus, Kingdom Hearts, and Okami. Bringing down the house during the encore was a double shot of Pokémon, first with themes from the games and then a performance of the television cartoon theme song sung by the original artist, Jason Paige. The excitement and general mania in the crowd soared off the charts, and even though I'm a few years to old to have Pokémon in my generational DNA, even I can respect and enjoy the happiness that Paige and Tallarico, jamming on an electric yellow Pikachu guitar, brought to the crowd.
As I mentioned earlier, I've seen VGL several times. Usually those shows have been at large venues such as the Hollywood Bowl or the Nokia Theater where the orchestra was packed full of instruments and backed by a choir with special guest conductors and performers. I suppose I'm spoiled by seeing those shows at E3 where VGL pulls out all the stops. On the road at a smaller venue like the Hard Rock Live at Universal Studios Citywalk, the orchestra was much smaller and the seating more intimate. There was no choir this time. The amazing thing is that despite being a smaller scale show, it was just as much fun and just as enjoyable as the larger performances. If VGL stops near your city, I can't recommend enough that you go see it. Bring a date, bring your friends, or just go alone. You'll never forget the experience. Sit in the front row if you can.