Dear Friends: Music from Final Fantasy
Dear Friends: Music from Final Fantasy
by Damian Thomas and Eric Farand - 05/12/04
Conference Games Mobile etc. Concert Gallery

The Prodigal Son
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They came in their jeans and t-shirts, their slacks and button downs, their suits and gowns. The convocation of gamers and music lovers at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles was as varied in dress and origins as the compositional styles of the man whose music they were there to honor and appreciate. Still, much like those varied musical styles, the mode of dress did not diminish the passion of those at the concert. I am, of course, talking about the Dear Friends – Music from Final Fantasy concert which took place just before this year’s E3.

It was clear, from the opening address by James Arnold Taylor, voice of Tidus from the American release of Final Fantasy X, to the closing address of Mr. Uematsu, that the main theme of the concert was that of breaking new ground; after all, this was the first video game concert in America and the first Final Fantasy concert in North America. The implications go beyond the historical; this concert was groundbreaking for nearly every person attending. It was the first time most of the patrons would ever experience such an event; the first time they would not just hear, but SEE the music they fell in love with over the years being performed. There is just something about the visual aspect of music that completes the experience.

To tell the truth, going into the concert, I was ambivalent: I felt elated and anxious all at once. I realized this as the culmination of many years of longing for a live concert of some of my favorite music, yet I feared that it would not live up to my expectations as I’d heard all the music before; with the exception of the two debut pieces and the medley. Could this experience delight me the way it could have before I had become as game music-savvy? I’d heard 20020220, and from the time I saw the program, I feared that this would simply be a watered down version of that album.

Without going into detail (I’ll leave that to Eric) I noticed subtle differences in the compositions that, while not always for the better, were neither watered down or lackluster. It was obvious from the effort Mr. Uematsu took with his compositions that he sincerely wanted to make this concert new for his American fans. It was akin to the story of the prodigal son: Japan - with their loyal dedication to all things video game, accustomed to game music concerts vs. America - who mostly wanted to take what was a rich inheritance and label it “child’s play”, but received something special to welcome them into the family now that they have matured and realized the errors of their ways. Blasphemous as it may be, this analogy was hammered home for me thanks to the simply dynamic, upbeat, and down-to-earth personality of Mr. Uematsu, as well as the appreciation showed by the fans in attendance. It was truly an emotional and inspiring event that heralds things to come.

In the end, it doesn’t matter whether you wore jean cutoffs or a full suit. The important thing was the appreciation shown for one of our favorite musical mediums and one of our favorite composers. If this concert is any indication, our appreciation will continue for a long time to come. Welcome home, America.

by Damian Thomas

A Concert to Remember
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The Dear Friends: Music from Final Fantasy concert did not take long to inspire the first ovation of the night as the crowd noticed Nobuo Uematsu coming into the concert hall, and taking a seat in the last row of the front orchestra section. What followed was a rising ovation as the crowd showed their respect and appreciation for the much beloved composer.

The concert opened with a powerful rendition of Liberi Fatali from Final Fantasy VIII. The performance of the orchestra was excellent, but the choir’s balance was a bit lacking as a result of badly placed microphones in the choir section making them very difficult to hear.

At the conclusion of the first performance, the M.C of the evening walked onto the stage: None other than James Arnold Taylor, the voice actor for Tidus from Final Fantasy X. Taylor then introduced the next three songs to be performed with flawless execution by the orchestra; Zanarkand from Final Fantasy X, Terra’s Theme from Final Fantasy VI, and Theme of Love from Final Fantasy IV. Performed at the 20020220 - Music from Final Fantasy concert held in Japan 2 years ago, the three renditions were exactly what you would expect from these fan favorites.

The M.C. then introduced a renowned guitarist featured heavily in the next two songs on the program, which were Dear Friends from Final Fantasy V and the upbeat Vamo’Alla Flamenco from Final Fantasy IX. “Love Grows”, the instrumental version of the vocal track Love Will Grow from Final Fantasy VIII closed out the first half of the concert prior to intermission.

The second part of the concert started up with Aeris’s Theme from Final Fantasy VII, followed by Not Alone from Final Fantasy IX, and Ronfaure from Final Fantasy XI, a completely new orchestral arrangement that has never been performed in prior concerts. James Arnold Taylor then made his final appearance of the night by introducing the last three songs and thanking everyone for coming. An exceptional Final Fantasy I-III medley then nearly stole the show when the crowd started cheering as the first few notes of the Chocobo theme began in the middle of the arrangement.

Nearing the end of the concert, the audience was treated to a sneak peak of the music from the upcoming Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children DVD movie. The song was typical Uematsu and the composition was solid and creative, but did not have the same impact as the other songs in the concert because there was no sense of nostalgia attached to it. The concert then came to a close with the classic Final Fantasy Theme; a fitting way to end the first U.S. Final Fantasy concert.

The crowd then showed its appreciation to the conductor and the Los Angeles Philarmonic Orchestra with a well-deserved standing ovation; before going completely nuts when Uematsu was introduced on the stage to say a few words about his views on music, the importance of this first concert on American soil, and to give his thanks to everybody who attended. Uematsu then introduced two very important “friends” of his: Yoshitaka Amano – Character designer of many Final Fantasy games and Hironobu Sakaguchi – Director and creator of Final Fantasy series, and once again the crowd responded with a deluge of applause at the sight of this famous trio on the stage. Amano and Sakaguchi then said a few words before all three exited the stage to more applause.In response to the cheers the conductor came back on the stage and the orchestra started playing One Winged Angel from Final Fantasy VII, as the crowd once again erupted in appreciation of this unexpected “encore”.

It was an incredible experience, and a wonderful concert that everyone enjoyed tremendously. The success of Dear Friends was a big step towards acceptance and recognition of videogame music on this side of the Pacific. Hopefully this concert will pave the way for more events like this in the future, and given the tremendous success of this first experience there is no doubt that we will see more like this again in the future.

by Eric Farand

©2004 Square Enix. All Rights Reserved.

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