‘Twas awesome, ’twas.
Our experience really began at about 5:45 pm, nearly two hours prior to the show’s scheduled start time. We were sitting in our car outside a parking lot, a parking lot that, despite having prepaid online for parking, was gated up and locked beyond all access. Needless to say I was understandably upset, but lo and behold a quiet man came upon us. He was a slender fellow, not gaunt, mind you, but lean, nonetheless. He had a leashed black and white dog by his side, and I’m sure that you all know by now who this man was… Tommy Tallarico.
Whah? Don’t know who he is? Well, not only is he the guy responsible for launching Video Games Live, but he also has quite the résumé in composing video game music, including several titles which appeared on SEGA consoles such as Cool Spot (Genesis), Earthworm Jim (Genesis/SEGA CD), Spider-Man (Dreamcast), and this sweet little ditty from the SEGA CD version of The Terminator. I highly recommend listening to it in stereo…
So of course I did what any fanboy would do: I yelled at him from my car window for his autograph, duh! He was really a personable guy. We spoke for a very brief moment about what I was most looking forward to hearing at the show, but a bit more on that in a bit.
Following this serendipitous run-in and a dinner at a nearby Afghan restaurant, my wife and I were back inside the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall to enjoy the show. Tallarico was quite the showman on guitar, and he was very animated while sharing the stage with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
It was a good crowd, diverse in both age and ethnicity (gender, uh, not quite so much), and everyone seemed to give a boisterous hoot and holler when their favorite songs were played, including yours truly.
This wasn’t the typical trip to the symphony. Nobody was really dressed up, the crowd was encouraged to be loud from the very beginning, and it was a very informal experience. No need to worry about getting stuffed in an evening dress/suit and tie before you attend. Slap on your favorite SEGA Nerd shirt and a pair of Levi’s, and you’ll fit right in.
The show was also a very multimedia experience. Throughout each medley, cinematics and gameplay videos from each respective franchise were shown on the giant screen behind the stage. In several cases, a game’s creator would introduce his or her own game via this screen before its soundtrack was subsequently played, which was an awesome touch. There were also several humorous interludes which I won’t spoil, but hot diggity my bulging gut ached from laughing so hard… and from all the Afghan food.
The music itself spanned all of video game history including retro classics and modern masterpieces. Even my wife, who is not a video game fan on nearly the same sad, overzealous level as I am, had a lot of fun and several of the games selected were right up her alley. This included Castlevania, which she had mentioned wanting to hear just moments prior. Ask and ye’ shall receive! My baby gets what my baby wants!
There was really something to enjoy for all video game fans both young and old, but what about us, the rabid, diehard SEGA Nerds?
Well, I’m happy to report that “Magical Sound Shower” from Out Run made the cut as part of a retro gaming-themed medly, and sounded great. Even more thrilling for most SEGA fans, Yuji Naka introduced a full medley arranged from the ending theme of the original Sonic the Hedgehog, complete with the choir singing “SEGA!” to kick it off. I got a bit loud at that point. The poor, nice lady next to me actually covered her ears.
There were several other SEGA franchises represented in the screenshot montage during intermission, even one from Alex Kidd in Miracle World, so SEGA fans be assured, this was not a two hour Nintendo love fest.
I have to admit that one of the highlights of the show was the Guitar Hero segment. You see, before the show, a little Guitar Hero contest was held in the lobby. The winner of the contest was Henry Hutchinson, whose prize was sharing the stage with Tallarico and playing Guitar Hero on the Big Screen. His challenge this time around was to score 400 thousand points on hard level.
Hats off to Hutchinson, though, as in true hardcore gamer form, he confidently asked “Why not expert level?” The crowd went nuts. Even with the distraction of the audience screaming and cheering him on, Hutchinson rose to the challenge and knocked out nearly 500 thousand points like a pro. Well played, Henry.
What else did they play? Well, that brings me back to my short conversation with Tallarico before the show, which went like this:
Tallarico: So, what are you most looking forward to hearing?
The Requiem: Probably Metroid.
Tallarico: Oh, we’re not doing that one tonight. What else?
The Requiem: Mega Man?
Tallarico: $#!+! We’re not playing that one, either.
I told him that I was still pretty sure I would enjoy myself, which of course I did. Now before you SEGA fans jump on me for saying a Nintendo game as my most anticipated music, keep in mind that the promotional materials listed both Metroid and Mega Man as part of the show, and I had no prior indication that anything SEGA was in the lineup.
My point is, clearly they change the lineup from show to show, and you can’t blame them for not wanting to get tired of performing the same stuff. I don’t want any of you to be disappointed down the road if you choose to attend and something that I heard isn’t played at your performance. Besides, everyone likes surprises, yes?
Outside of the 100% fantastic performance and the Guitar Hero contest, there were a few other attractions worth mentioning. There were booths set up outside the hall where game developers promoted their products, local musicians played old school tracks on their keyboards, Tallarico and his fellow performers held a meet and greet in the lobby following the show, and there was even a cosplay contest with plenty of participation.
It was a good time, to say the least. As I mentioned above, from Space Invaders to Skyrim, there really was something for gamers of all ages and backgrounds. I can almost guarantee you will have a good time yourself, and I encourage you to celebrate the rich legacy of game music by checking out the Video Games Live schedule on their site here. No, wait. Riiiight… here. There we go. Internetting is tricky.