Distant Worlds: music from Final Fantasy – The PS3 Attitude Review
It was amazing.
Distant Worlds: music from Final Fantasy was the latest concert featuring music from the series. Chicago is the self proclaimed home to these events (outside of japan), so this wasn’t the first time the Rosemont Theatre was graced with the presence of Nobuo Uematsu and his brilliant work.
With that said, over the years there has definitely been a lot of familiarity to the set list, which has both pleased and annoyed fans. Many have been asking for new themes to be played in addition to all of the fan favorites, which is a lot to ask for, but conductor Arnie Roth and everyone else involved actually made it happen. Not only were there Chicago premieres, but there were also North American premieres and even Worldwide premieres of orchestral versions of Uematsu-san’s work.
The opening piece was appropriately The Prelude to Final Fantasy. The beautiful and soothing sound of the harp was joined by the Elmhurst College Concert Choir and the Chicagoland Pops Orchestra to create a tear inducing start to what will eventually become one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. Immediately after The Prelude, Liberi Fatali was played. The opening theme to VIII has always been one of my favorites, and without a doubt this piece deserves to played at every event. It’s powerful and epic and really set the mood for the show.
For each theme there is a video that plays on a large screen in the background that shows footage from the games. They are actually filled with tons of spoilers, so if you never seen the ending to certain games, then you’re in for an unsuspected treat. These videos for the most part are well done and have gotten better over the years, although some of them have remained unchanged. Fans will definitely appreciate the Chocobo tribute video that plays during Swing de Chocobo. There is a nice sensation of nostalgia throughout the whole concert as you briefly relive through your favorite scenes from the series.
Arnie Roth likes to talk, and that’s not a bad thing. He definitely knows how to get the crowd going and he was really looking to get tons of reactions this time around. The fans were loud, respectful, and large in number. The Rosemont Theatre was packed with fans from all over the world. One person in attendance drove all the way from Mexico just to see Distant Worlds. If that’s not dedication, I don’t know what is. Conversations could be heard in the crowd with people hoping that their favorite song would play, and that’s exactly what ended up happening. It was pure fan service and it was great. Despite the conductors will to talk, he got straight to the action due to the huge set list.
In a previous concert fans were asked which song they would like to hear in future shows. The song that the overwhelming majority wanted was J-E-N-O-V-A, and a new rendition of the song was made with the help of Nobuo Uematsu himself. I have never heard a more eerie, creepy, and awesome opening to Jenova’s theme than the one that played on Saturday. It was the perfect way to close the first half of the show.
After a brief intermission Bombing Mission from Final Fantasy VII was played and as always, it was as enjoyable as ever and is a great way to build up hype for the rest of the concert. The next world premiere was the second choice made by the fans when polled, and that was Dancing Mad. Dancing Mad from FFVI was a huge hit and they really went all out in not only the performance, but in actually trying to tell a story with the screen in the background. It appears that starting with Chicago, Dancing Mad will become a regular theme played in future concerts, but this version is about half of the full song unfortunately. It was still awesome though.
Yet another premiere featured music from Final Fantasy XIV. For those that have seen the TGS09 trailer, these were the same songs played with the same trailer in the background. Despite the songs not being new, they were still great to listen to. Beneath Bloody Borders sounds incredibly epic and the ending to the medley was completely new, albeit short. Hearing new pieces of music by Uematsu for a new Final Fantasy before it’s even released is just too much awesome. Even more awesome is the fact that Nobuo Uematsu is scoring the complete soundtrack for XIV, which is the first time he has done such a thing since Final Fantasy IX.
Susan Calloway was a special guest for Distant Worlds and performed the vocals for Melodies of Life from IX and Kiss Me Goodbye from XII. She also sang Suteki da ne from FFX which was the first time I ever heard the song in English. Since that was a completely new experience for me, it was quite wonderful to not only hear it live but to actually understand it. Final Fantasy XI also got some love with Susan singing Distant Worlds and with Ronfaure finally making its return to Chicago. The only song I could have done without was Fisherman’s Horizon, which easily could have been replaced by Vamo’ Alla Flamenco to make the night ever better. Either way, one song out of twenty four is nothing to complain about and I’m sure someone out there likes the Fisherman song. At the end of the show, Terra’s Theme was played and the credits were rolled on screen and everyone showed their appreciation to Uematsu-sans work with a never ending applause.
Anyone that has been to one of these events can easily tell you that after the credits roll, that doesn’t mean the concert is over, although this time around they wanted to change things up a bit. Yes, OWA was still played, but this time the Chicago Mages went on stage with Nobuo Uematsu himself to perform Advent: One-Winged Angel for the first time in Chicago. Before the band started to play, Arnie Roth and Nobuo Uematsu teased the crowd and also made some announcements about future concerts. Nobuo spoke to the crowd in English and personally thanked all of the fans that came to see Distant Worlds. Fans proclaimed their love to Nobuo Uematsu and he said he loved them back. It was a truly magical night.
Having listened to One-Winged Angel in all its renditions a countless number of times over the last decade, nothing beats hearing it live. The Advent Children version of OWA contained an orchestra, choir, guitars, drums, and Uematsu-san playing on the Hammond organ. There was such an incredible intensity and energy on stage at this point and you could just feel the excited smiles from everyone in attendance. Maybe it was because the Chicago Mages and Nobuo Uematsu were completely into the whole performance, but the music never sounded better. There are just so many sounds from so many instruments going on at once, and being there in front of it all was an overwhelmingly enjoyable experience.
The crowd was loving every second of OWA, and as Arnie Roth instructed, everyone in attendance sang along to say “SEPHIROTH!” at the appropriate time. You would think that this would sound awful, but I think everyone secretly practiced over the last decade just for this day because it actually sounded really good! Hearing Sephiroth’s name all around coupled together with everything else going on was just breathtaking and incredibly memorable. After the song came to its epic conclusion, the audience gave a round of applause for about five minutes or so while the performers bowed.
Oh, but it wasn’t over, not yet.
After everyone left the stage, there was some silence and then some cheering followed by a constant flow of clapping. Nobuo Uematsu and the rest of the cast ran back on stage to give everyone an unforgettable encore. But before that, Arnie Roth had one thing to do, and that was to play The Victory Theme. It was definitely appropriate for such a well done performance, and after which, Advent: One Winged Angel was once again played to end not only an unforgettable night, but to end the 2009 Distant Worlds tour. If you are a fan of the music from Final Fantasy, going to one of these orchestral concerts is a must and you won’t regret it. This is actually the forth concert I’ve been to and they just keep getting better, and it’s because of the feedback from the fans and the fact that everyone involved in making events like this happen actually listen.
Here’s the set list (not in order) from the concert:
Final Fantasy Series
- Victory Theme
- Swing de Chocobo
Final Fantasy IV
- Theme of Love
Final Fantasy VI
- Dancing Mad
- Terra’s Theme
Final Fantasy VII
- Main Theme
- Bombing Mission
- Aerith’s Theme
- Advent: One-Winged Angel
Final Fantasy VIII
- Liberi Fatali
- Don’t Be Afraid
- Figherman’s Horizon
- Love Grows
- The Man with the Machine Gun
Final Fantasy IX
- Melodies of Life
Final Fantasy X
- To Zanarkand
- Suteki da ne
Final Fantasy XI
- Memoro de la Stono – Distant Worlds
Final Fantasy XII
- Kiss me Goodbye
Final Fantasy XIV
- Twilight over Thanalan
- Beneath Bloody Borders
It was announced at the event that Arnie Roth will be going to Stockholm in January to start recording Distant Worlds II: More Music from Final Fantasy. Suteki da ne, J-E-N-O-V-A, Ronfaure, and Dancing Mad will be making the cut amongst others. I would love to hear Fighting from VII, so hopefully that song makes it into the new CD. They are taking suggestions from the fans, so let them know which songs you would like to hear! The 2010 tour for Distant Worlds has also been announced and they are once again returning to Chicago in August.
If you have never been to a live Final Fantasy symphony, you are really missing out on a lot of fun. Even if you need to travel far, the experience is just one that will be so worthwhile that you will want to keep going again and again. And of course, once you get home you can pop in the Distant Worlds soundtrack and relive the experience an infinite amount of times, although it just won’t be the same as being there live.