Video Games Live Review

Video Games Live Review


Review by: Geek Girl Zelda

Geek Girl Zelda recently attended Video Games Live and wrote about the experience...
I had the opportunity to attend the Video Games Live orchestra during E3 this past week. This was the 12th year running, although (unfortunately) only my second time in the audience. Video Games Live began in 2002 as a collaboration between Tommy Tallarico and Jack Wall, with the goal of showcasing the artistry and cultural significance of video games and the music. Since then, it has toured the country, boasting some of the industry’s greatest talent and influencers. Each year, during the 3 days Los Angeles hosts game developers at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, Video Games Live premieres many brand new songs and guests.

Video Games Live Review

The event this year was remarkable and had so many guest performers that it was almost overwhelming. The show began with a meet and greet with many video game composers, developers, writers, and fans all sharing space at the Nokia Theater. Unlike E3, which is industry only, this event was open to anyone who had the money to purchase a ticket – and gave fans the opportunity to interact with some of our industry’s greatest heroes. After mingling for an hour or so, we took our seats, and eagerly awaited the performance to start. The show began with one of my all-time favorites – Castlevania – and how incredible to hear it as it was meant to be heard! Orchestrated! Tommy took the stage with his electric guitar for the opening number and MCed us throughout the night.

The composers each conducted the Pasadena City Orchestra (and Glendale College Choir) for the songs they had originally conceived. I imagine for most of them, it was the first time performing these tracks since the creation of the original scores – and for many of them, possibly the first time performing it at all with a live audience. Each guest took the opportunity to talk a bit about their music, their game, their studio and the creative process that goes into the creation of it all. I myself work in video game development – but even being in the industry, we rarely have the chance to hear these incredible composers and musicians speak about what they do; Which is to create some of the most memorable, beautiful, and emotional pieces of music that many of us will ever experience. We as fans recognize that some of our generation’s most important music was written for video games. With the help of institutions like Video Games Live, the rest of the world is beginning to catch on as well. (Baba Yetu from Civilation IV won a Grammy, as did the entire soundtrack for Journey – both of which were performed during the evening).

It would be impossible for me to list every single guest performer and song, so I will mention some of my highlights:

-A medley of songs from the Halo trilogy, with composers Marty O’Donnell and Mike Salvatori. You know the amazing hook at the beginning of Halo? The one you can’t get out of your head? That’s because it was written by a team of composers who got their beginning writing jingles. Yeah, they did that on purpose.

-In honor of Tetris’ 30th anniversary, game creator Alexey Pajitnov, along with Tetris executive producers were invited on stage. The performance? An opera style song, sung in Alexey’s native Russian language, and performed by Jillian Aversa – one of the founders of the incredible video game music website OCRemix. An outstanding way to end the first act of the show, and one that moved me to tears.

-Composer Garry Schyman conducting a world premiere of the haunting music of Bioshock: Infinite as well as the original Bioshock, accompanied by Youtube sensation Taylor Davis (Violin Tay).

-Newly formed video game supergroup Critical Hit performing pieces from Mega Man, and Blizzard’s casual card game Hearthstone. Listen, I go to A LOT of video game music performances. I’ve seen a lot of video game cover bands play. These guys were something else entirely. The band consisted of about 8 members on different instruments, and they were all masters of their craft.

-Youtube star Malukah performing her Skyrim acoustic track “The Dragonborn Comes.” I had actually not heard of her previously, but she killed the performance. Gorgeous voice, impeccable playing, awesome stage presence.

-Music from Monkey Island, Kingdom Hearts, Cave Story, Final Fantasy VI and VIII, Harmonix and Disney’s newest musical themed game (with a preview of how it will play) Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved. ­The show ended with one of my all-time favorite soundtracks and songs – not just from video games, but of all time – Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross’ Times Scar. The second time I teared up during the evening!

But wait! That wasn’t quite the end of the show. We were treated to one more song as an encore. Tommy brought all 25+ guests back on stage – they stretched across one end of the stage to the other – to lead us in a sing along of Portal’s “Still Alive.”

There were also giveaways and a cosplay contest, as well as short silly videos in between songs.

Video Games Live Review

All in all it was an incredible evening. I could make a couple very minor criticisms, but they would be nitpicky, and not entirely related to the show itself (Hey video game fans and press-who-are-obviously-only-there-because-they-have-to-be. I know you don’t attend a lot of orchestrated performances – or in the case of the press, are only there to do coverage and not because you love the music - but here’s a tip – talking loudly through a performance like this is disrespectful both to the musicians as well as the audience, and I don’t have any problem telling you to shut the hell up). And while I hate to single out any one performer, I found the song performed by Youtuber Peter Hollens to be sort of campy and out of place among the gravitas of the rest of the show (or maybe I was just hoping Smooth McGroove would make an appearance). I enjoyed him much better accompanied by the other performers of the evening.

I believe that most of these guests performed at the show solely for the special E3 performance, but if you have the opportunity to catch the show in your area – DO SO! It’s an amazing opportunity. You can find upcoming tour dates and tickets here.

Photos courtesy of Tommy Tallarico

Video of some of the performance:

And one by Critical Hit:

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June 18 2014

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