Video Games Live

Dan Showbiz

Ah, the Hollywood Bowl – you gotta love it! From the traffic jams to get in, to the traffic jams getting out, it’s just filled with loving Los Angelinos. Hah. In any case, BigSheb and I hit the Bowl tonight to catch Video Games Live, a multimedia concert spectacular, with music and images (and more) from everyone’s favorite computer games.

Yes, that’s right – nerds from all over the Southland came together to celebrate the music of “Super Mario Brothers” and “Sonic the Hedgehog”. Among many other selections. Actually, the concert was pretty cool – the music selection included some great pieces like Laura Karpman’s “Everquest II”, Jack Wall’s “Myst III: Exile”, Marty O’Donnel’s “Halo”, and of course, Michael Giacchino’s “Medal of Honor”. The music was played by the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the baton of Mark Waters, and in addition to a large choir, a few vocalists were on hand to provide some notable solo-action. Large video screens showed footage from the games as the orchestra played, and a slew of cameramen were on hand to give us up-close views of the orchestra and choir in action. Also, dancer/actors would show up on stage to do some play-acting to the music, in full costume, with lasers and colorful lights adding to the experience. The best example of this was done early on, with “Metal Gear Solid”. A great theme, and funny on-stage acting combined with the video images to create a really exciting concert segment. The “Tron” bit was good, too – ending with a lightcycle streaming across the stage!

Unfortunately there was pretty much no indication of who wrote what – the composers were almost never mentioned, unless they showed up on a video screen because they were in Japan and couldn’t make it! (Like Koji Kondo, who wrote some of the more memorable game themes ever.)

Some fun audience interactions took place, including a costume contest (where they never indicated what the costumes were from!), and a Frogger contest where a 13-year old boy totally decimated this nice mother who admitted to having never played computer games before.

An awkward moment arose with “Medal of Honor” – apparently it was felt that since video games have a “bad rap” when it comes to violence, they wouldn’t show footage from the game. Instead, to be historically-conscious, they decided to show…. archival World War II footage as the music played. Ouch. Nothing says “cool WW2 based computer game with awesome score” than footage of the Luftwaffe’s effect on London during the Blitz. Yikes!

Bill Brown’s music from “Rainbow Six”, “Ghost Recon” and “Splinter Cell” were supposed to be played – but it wasn’t. When I talked to Bill about this after the show, he said it was because the segments just weren’t “ready” – but that they would be performed on the rest of the tour. Damn -I was looking forward to it!

Overall, the concert was a success – I think they did a good job with the full-choir and orchestra performing, and there was even a moment where super-guitarist Steve Vai showed up – and was completely underused.

The main problem I had with the music was that some of the pieces would just never translate to a big orchestra. “Super Mario” is a light and flighty piece that is best suited for a small ensemble – with a big orchestra it just sounds weird. Also, there wasn’t as much orchestrated work as I would have hoped; at least for the pieces that weren’t orchestral to begin with. They suffered from “everyone plays the same note” syndrome.

At the end of the concert, they brought everyone out on stage, including some game creators like Nolan Bushnell (Atari), and Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear Solid). Definitely a high-profile lineup on stage! In the end, if you’re a fan of computer games, and computer game music, then catch this concert when it comes to town!