By Alyssa Apuzzio
Gamers of every variety flocked to the Wellmont Theater in Montclair, N.J., on Saturday, July 23, for a performance by Video Games Live (VGL), an orchestra that performs music from hit video games. Unlike most orchestras, screams, roars and claps were heard throughout the show as the audience cheered on their favorite video games. Synchronized lighting, solo singers and electronic percussionists also accompanied the standard orchestra.
A myriad of video game hits were included in the tour, such as music from “Mario,” “The Legend of Zelda” and “Kingdom Hearts.” While the orchestra played the music, the concert venue’s screens displayed scenes from the respective video games. Other segments incorporated video game characters between songs and during intermission, which helped the show retain its whimsical, geeky vibe.
Some of the musical arrangements were exclusive to Video Games Live, such as a performance by Triforce Quartet, a string quartet that created its own medleys from video game music. The Triforce Quartet appeared onstage twice during the show, once to play a “Mario” medley and the second time to play a composition of the boss battle themes from multiple “Final Fantasy” games. The audience went wild for a twist on some of their favorite classic games.
VGL also featured a choir to lend vocals to a few of the music arrangements. For the encore, the orchestra and choir collaborated to perform the famous track “One Winged Angel” from the worldwide hit game “Final Fantasy VII.” As soon as the first note sounded, the crowd rose from their seats and screamed in excitement. The fans loudly sang along throughout the song, proudly proclaiming their love for the game. The blaring shouts of “Sephiroth” — one of the game’s villains — in the theater were so loud they could probably be heard from outside the theater.
Fans cheered in delight when the show’s creator, Tommy Tallarico, announced that footage from Disney movies would play in place of video game footage for the “Kingdom Hearts” piece. Combining Square Enix with Disney, “Kingdom Hearts” has become one of the most popular and successful video game series in the world. The audience hummed and clapped along to the “Kingdom Hearts” segment that featured a beautiful rendition of “Opening.”
In addition to hand-held and system video games, performances of multiple arcade game songs were executed during the show. Songs from fan favorites, like “Donkey Kong,” “Pong” and “Tetris,” were introduced with original footage from the games playing on the monitors. These segments reminded the audience not only of these beloved classic games, but also how far video games have come.
Video Games Live premiered at the world-renowned Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles in July 2005. Since then, its fan base has grown rapidly and it has continued to tour for the past 11 years. The concert was created and is still led by video game composer Tallarico and Jack Wall, who have both traveled with the tour worldwide to cities including London, England; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Shanghai, China.
Gamers, geeks and fans alike enjoyed the progression of beeps and boops from arcade video games to the powerful orchestra music from recent games. Video Games Live allowed the audience to hear nostalgic songs while they remembered their favorite games and the memories associated with them.