---Pre-concert and merchandising---
First i got lost in a maze of twisty passages all alike. I walked through a twisty passage, walked up some stairs, across a long balcony, back down another set of stairs, through a mirror-image twisty passage, and ended up right back where i started. I went back through the first twisty passage and found the other set of stairs which i should have taken the first time.
When i got inside i found a whole lot of people milling around, including a lot of cute girls, which was a little surprising. I guess it shouldn't have been however since i know several cute girls who like Final Fantasy, but since they all live a few thousand miles away it makes them seem rarer than they probably are.
I wandered around for a few minutes and bought a $3 bag of chips because i'd forgotten to get some dinner before leaving. I noticed a booth with some t-shirts and stuff, and a huge line. I guessed that the two were related and when i asked some of the people in line they confirmed it. Since i had about an hour to kill at that point i decided to get in line. I played some FFTA while waiting (no, i didn't actually plan it that way, that's just what was in the GBA when i grabbed it as i left) and got to the front of the line about 30 minutes before the concert was supposed to start.
They had (expensive) programs, (somewhat expensive) t-shirts, and (somewhat expensive) calendars. They said they were out of the white t-shirts in all sizes but small, but had some large grey t-shirts left. Since the only difference was the color i'm not sure why the white was selling so much better.
I got a large grey t-shirt, a program, and a calendar, for a total of $60. Yeah, i know i'm supposed to be saving money, but this is one of those once in a lifetime things. Then i spent about fifteen minutes in the "pay with credit card" line because their credit card reader wasn't working. They had to get two different people to come look at it before they could get it working again.
After buying the stuff i went to my seat, second row, about three seats from the center! :) About ten minutes before 7:30 i heard the people behind me saying that Uematsu had been signing autographs a little bit earlier. I'm a little sad that i missed out on that. About five minutes before 7:30 Uematsu came into the hall and got a standing ovation. For some reason instead of sitting in the front he sat towards the middle, right at the wall that divided the front and back sections.
After Uematsu was seated they did the standard tuning by the lead violinist and introduction of the conductor, and they started in on Liberi Fatali
The concert itself went great, until a giant octopus attacked part way through because he was annoyed that they didn't play Battle with Gilgamesh (aka "Clash on the Big Bridge.")
No, seriously. They didn't play Battle with Gilgamesh.
---Dear Friends, music from Final Fantasy: Program---
The schedule, as presented by the program:
Dear Friends, music from Final Fantasy
1. Liberi Fatali - FF 8
2. Zanarkand - FF 10
3. Terra's Theme - FF 6
4. Theme of Love - FF 4
5. Dear Friends - FF 5
6. Vamo' Alla Flamenco - FF 9
7. Love Grows - FF 8
8. Aeris's Theme - FF 7
9. Not Alone - FF 9
10. Ronfaure - FF 11
11. Final Fantasy 1-3 Medley
12. "New Melody from Final Fantasy VII Advent Children"
13. Final Fantasy
--Commentary on songs---
For Liberi Fatali, and every other song from FF 7 - FF 10, they showed clips of cutscenes on the overhead monitors for part of the song. (With the exception i believe of "Not Alone.") Usually they were at the beginning, sometimes near the end, occasionally both, and only lasted for about 30 - 60 seconds.
After they finished Liberi Fatali someone came out and introduced himself as James Arnold Taylor, the voice actor for Tidus in the US FF 10. (Okay, i haven't gotten to FF 10 yet, is it "Tiedus" or "Teedus"? James Taylor kept saying "Teedus," which just sounded weird, but i would think he would know how to pronounce it.)
He introduced Uematsu, which got another standing ovation. He told us that the tickets had sold out in 3 days, and that this was the first video game music concert in the US, and the first Final Fantasy concert in North America. Which makes me wonder, what non-Final Fantasy game (or games) had a concert in either Canada or Mexico?
He then told us about the next three or so songs that would be played. He came out every three or four songs to let us know what was coming up, presumably for those of us who hadn't shelled out $25 for a program. He also threw in several (really bad) "video game" "jokes" throughout the evening.
Terra/Tina's Theme was excellent. I wasn't quite as impressed with Theme of Love, and i'm not quite sure why. Dear Friends was also excellent however.
"Love Grows" was pretty, but by this point, at least in my experience, it's getting a little over played. I am curious though, is there any similarity between "Love Grows" and "Love will Grow" other than the names? I haven't tried listening to one right after the other to see.
I wandered around a bit during the intermission, but didn't see Uematsu out doing autographs, so i returned to my seat pretty soon. When Uematsu came back to his seat he got another standing ovation (notice a pattern?) and shortly thereafter the music started again.
Aeris's/Arith's Theme (shouldn't that be Aeris' Theme grammatically speaking?) was better than i had expected. I may gripe about how much the series has gone downhill since the SNES days, but i still have a fair bit of attachment to FF7.
Not Alone was pretty good, but i had very little interest in Ronfaure since i haven't played the game and don't plan to. (I'll save my rant about Square polluting the main FF line.)
Skipping out of order a bit, the Advent Children song sounded a bit like a remix of Aerith's theme, perhaps with a little bit of Love Grows mixed in, though i may be imagining that part. About halfway through the song they showed a brief clip. Just Cloud's sword stuck in the ground in a barren plain with Cloud staring at it. That's it, for about 10 seconds. Given my impression of the song my first thought was that he was going to pull the sword out of the ground and have a duel with Sephiroth a la the classic FF 8 movie :)
The Final Fantasy 1-3 Medley and "Final Fantasy" were pretty standard classic arranged Final Fantasy music, such as you'd hear on the Final Fantasy Symphonic Suite cd. This means of course that they were very very good :)
They weren't quite as active as i would have liked, no really rousing crescendos or anything. However partway through the Medley they broke into the Chocobo Theme. As normal in a medley, first they mixed the first two notes or so into the previous song, which got a quiet chuckle from me and perhaps a few others, then a measure or two of the previous song, then a measure of Chocobo, which got scattered laughing throughout the audience as more people figured it out, then they broke into the full Chocobo Theme, which got a burst of spontaneous applause. Several members of the orchestra looked a little startled and confused, and one of them looked up, i think trying to see if there was something showing on the monitors that had caused the applause :)
After they finished "Final Fantasy" they got, surprise surprise, a standing ovation. Conductor bows, more standing ovation. Orchestra stands to applause, sits down, conductor leaves. We're still applauding. Conductor comes back, has the orchestra stand again, leaves, we're still applauding. He comes back with a microphone, and after a minute or so he manages to get everyone to be quiet and sit down so he can speak. He said he wanted to thank everyone and say good night, except that it seemed that we weren't going anywhere, which got another round of applause. He talked a little bit about how the LA Philharmonic had never expected to be playing video game music, but the reception they had received just showed how music brings people together (a theme that was repeated several times before and after this instance.)
He then introduced Uematsu who came up on stage, which got, guess what, a standing ovation. He looked really happy and played with the crowd a bit, lowering his arms to get us to be quiet, and raising them back up again to get us to applaud some more. A translator came out, and he talked for a little bit through the translator about how happy he was to have this opportunity. I think he might have been the one to say that given the response maybe they could take the show on the road, but that might have been the conductor or James Taylor instead. Uematsu then introduced Sakaguchi (the creator of Final Fantasy) and Amano (the concept artist for Final Fantasy) who were also attending, and they came up on the stage as well. Cue standing ovation.
You know, one of the advantages of working through a translator, it provides a lot of opportunities for your audience to break into applause :)
Despite that difficulty, Amano managed to give a short speech, mostly praising Uematsu. One part involved a long, multi-part sentence or series of sentences. As he continued on people began to laugh, because the poor translator was going to have to remember/translate all of this at once. She wasn't helped by the fact that after Amano finally paused, someone called out "good luck!" which got a little laughter and applause, then she looked to the audience, and paused, which got more laughter and applause, followed by "Um," which got a lot of laughter and applause. Finally however she managed to get out what was presumably a decent translation of the whole thing.
Sakaguchi decided to make up for Amano's politeness in praising only Uematsu by first saying that Uematsu provided the music which was like the expression of a "baby," and that Amano provided the actions of the baby, or something like that, and that he loved the Final Fantasy series as he does his own child, or something like that. There were some slight problems with the translation since they insisted on using words that the beleaguered translator wasn't quite sure of.
As the applause was continuing for just about anything they said, you could see the look on some of the orchestra members, are these guys nuts or what? I'm not sure how much applause they normally get, but either they weren't expecting it for a video game music concert, or they weren't expecting it for Uematsu, Amano, and Sakaguchi.
So finally they wrapped things up and left the stage, to a standing ovation of course. For most of the concert i'd been wondering if they'd really just brought the choir in just to sing for the first song. As Uematsu was leaving the stage the orchestra started up again, into One Winged Angel, with Sephiroth walking through flames on the monitors, and more enthusiastic applause from the audience before we quieted down to listen.
After that was done, there were more standing ovations of course. After the third round of the conductor coming back on stage to have the orchestra stand, they finally started filing out, and we kept clapping until most of them had left the stage.
I stuck around for awhile afterwards, hoping that Uematsu would do some more autographs, but instead there was some kind of press conference afterwards. The conference area was below one of the sets of stairs, so some of us lined up hoping to hear it, but before it started the ushers came along and cleared us off. About the point they press conference actually started they started clearing us out of the building, or at least the second story where the conference was.
At that point i figured the chances of getting an autograph were remote, so i decided to head home.
This last section has back of the box type spoilers. I can't imagine anyone would care, probably everyone who keeps up on the news has already heard this stuff, but you've been warned.
---Advent Children and FF12---
Final Fantasy XII:
"Our story takes place in Ivalice, in a time when the rights of men hold little sway amongst their rulers. The Archadian Empire's invasion of Dalmasca and the subsequent murder of the king prompt Dalmasca's sole surviving heir, Princess Ashe, to take up arms with the resistance. Determined to overthrow the Archadians, restore freedom to her people, and reclaim the throne, Ashe witnesses the deaths of many companions - but her pride keeps her from succumbing to seemingly inevitable defeat. She encounters Vaan, a Dalmascan youth who lost his parents to the Empire's invasion. Vaan dreams of becoming an air pirate, hoping to one day own a ship and escape from the Empire. Their chance meeting launches the adventure of Final Fantasy XII, and will change the history of Ivalice forever."
Final Fantasy CII Advent Children:
"Two years after the adverted armageddon, the city of Midgar stands in ruins, but the world has survived and continued on in peace. However, the people of Gaia now face a new menace. A mysterious disease is spreading fast. Cloud, who fought for the sake of his world once before and has since rejected society to live in solitude, must step forward yet again...
Final Fantasy VII Advent Children presents a CG-animated sequel to Final Fantasy VII, the seminal 1997 PlayStation hit title. The story continues not in a game but in a motion picture on DVD format. Revisiting the central characters two years after the epic conflict of Final Fantasy VII, technological advancements allow a visually stunning update to the city of Midgar and its residents.
Fans have yearned for a sequel to this beloved story, and because of this overwhelming demand, Final Fantasy VII Advent Children was born."
So they're boasting that thanks to technological advancements they can show a visually stunning update to a bunch of ruins? :)
Of course i'm not sure how much to trust anything in the booklet. From the description of FF 6: "Final Fantasy VI was the first in the series to feature several Final Fantasy mainstays such as summoning magic spells (the unique "Esper" magic system allowed character to cast over ninety different magic spells) and customizable character abilities."
Um, hello? I'm not sure about 2 and 3, but i _know_ that FF 4 had summons! I'm not really sure how FF 6 had "customizable character abilities," other than having them learn magic you couldn't do much to change their abilities, certainly you could do a lot more in FF 5 and maybe FF 3.