This evening I was lucky to be at a world premiere of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performing the music of PlayStation games at London’s Royal Albert Hall.
I purchased the tickets a couple of months ago as I love the Royal Albert Hall for its acoustics and atmosphere, and the chance to hear some of my favourite video game soundtracks performed in such a space by arguably the foremost orchestra in the world, was too good an opportunity to pass up.
The day before the event I received an email notification to download a free app called EnCue, which provides information on the track being performed and details about the composer and the game. I was a bit reluctant as I thought it would take me out of the moment but I did download it, however on the night I didn't use it, preferring to let the music take me on a journey... and what a journey it was!
The presenter for the performance was Jessica Curry, one of my favourite video game composers who, as well as soundtracking 'Dear Esther' and 'Everyone Has Gone to the Rapture,' hosts the Classic FM video game soundtrack show 'High Score.'
Her compering was short and brought context to the pieces, an amuse-bouche for the ears if you will. She encouraged audience participation via Tweets and read a few out between pieces after the interval. Her witty repartee and jokes at the expense of Hastings and Shropshire were hilarious and endeared her to an already enraptured and enthusiastic audience.
The music itself was exhilarating, to hear some of my favourite pieces performed by a full symphony orchestra with a sympathetic light display was magical. The pieces took me from the deepest depths of the oceans to vast desert vistas to the post apocalyptic near future where robotic dinosaurs ruled the world.
The music was played roughly chronologically from the ps1 era right through to the current PS4 and the tracks were:
CRASH BANDICOOT- Medley
RESIDENT Evil- Medley
MEDIEVIL- End Titles
ARC THE LAD- Victorious Fanfare/ Main Theme
ICO- Castle in the Mist and You Were There
DARK CLOUD- Main Theme
flOw- The World of Flow
LITTLEBIGPLANET- The Gardens
ECHOCHROME- Prime #7
SHADOW OF THE COLOSSUS- Suite
MOSS- Quiet As A Mouse... With A Sword
KILLZONE 2- Birth Of War
WONDERBOOK- Book of Spells
THE LAST OF US- The Last of Us
BLOODBORNE- The First Hunter
HORIZON ZERO DAWN- Years of Training and Aloy's Theme
EVERYBODY’S GONE TO THE RAPTURE- The Light We Cast
THE ORDER 1886- The Knight's Theme
BLOOD AND TRUTH- Ryan Marks
GOD OF WAR- Main Theme
THE LAST GUARDIAN- Overture: Lore
Some of the tracks, like 'The World of Flow' from 'Flow' and 'You Were There' from 'Ico,' were intensely emotional and touching whilst the 'Dark Cloud' theme and the 'Little Big Planet' track were playful in a big band kind of way, full of jazzy brass and swagger. There were definite highlights for me, the tracks from 'Ico,' 'Shadow of the Colossus' and 'The Last Guardian' were particular favourites as they are some of my most listened to soundtracks ever and also because the rose tinted nostalgia I get from recalling when I played those games at certain times in my life. The choral piece from 'Everyone Has Gone to the Rapture' was enthralling and deeply touching and the encore, an 'Uncharted' medley was a fitting way to end this celebration of PlayStation.
I thoroughly enjoyed the concert and hope that it is the start of something annual as it is a great way to bring a lot of people, who may not traditionally visit places like the Royal Albert Hall or attend classical music performances together for a magical, almost otherworldly experience. Also, events like this bring the music of video games to the forefront, challenging the misconception that video game music is all bleeps, bloops and chiptunes and that all games are inherently violent wastes of time. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra might be solving the problem of reaching new, younger audiences via video game soundtracks and I for one am glad. The beauty of the music shows that there is another side to video games; an artform. I only wish that Sony had got their act together and sorted out some merch as they would have made a killing and the fans would have gone away with a momento of a magical night.