Final Fantasy Concert: Distant Worlds at the Seongnam Arts Center

I only found out about this concert the day before, just happening upon an advertisement page while web surfing. Luckily I would be in Seongnam for the Air Show for the day, so I decided to go on a very short notice. Turns out not as many people in Korea are interested in listening to Final Fantasy’s iconic scores as would have been supposed – lots of empty seats and available tickets. Hardly surprising, though, since only one mainline Final Fantasy (XIII) has ever been localized here (two out of 14 if you count X-2).

This was the staircase to the right of the Opera House – beautifully drenched in the kind of blue that Michael Mann would have been proud of. Not something you expect to see at a very local arts center, so a nice surprise.

We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the hall, so this had to do. As for the concert itself, overall it was just nice to hear Final Fantasy music live. Numbers like ‘Zanarkand‘ from FFX and ‘Bombing Mission‘ from FFVII are ingrained in my memory because of the sheer enjoyment and wonder I experienced from those games. I really appreciated the emphasis on Hamauzu Masashi (who was at the concert and took a number of bows before a clearly appreciative audience) and his wondrous score for FFXIII – I don’t think it hyperbole to say that it’s the best in the series. The one complaint as far as the music selection is concerned is the lack of ‘Aerith’s Theme‘: that one is guaranteed to bring tears to the eyes of all JRPG gamers between the ages of 24 to 35. Of greater detriment to the evening was the Prime Philharmonic Orchestra performing the music, who weren’t the most accomplished troupe: the harpist hit a dead note as earlier as the first song, and later on the pianist messed one up as well. They were serviceable but nothing more, and in a perfect world it would be the Berlin Philharmonic bringing Uematsu Nobuo’s music to life. The encore was ‘One Winged Angel’ from FFVII, and Hamauzu joined the chorus for it which I thought was a nice gesture. I’ve never been a fan of this particular score, but the Sephiroth groupies are mad about it and they made their feelings known here as well, gasping in ecstasy as Arnie Roth, the conductor, announced it. They could’ve done Aerith, but noooo, you have to end a concert on a bang, like it’s a written rule or something.

This is ‘Blinded by the Light’, the battle theme from FFXIII and Hamauzu’s tour de force. I love the way it builds itself up for a full minute before unleashing its pulsating central violin riff, which incidentally sounds like it was intended for an electric guitar. Violin totally works, though, and adds to the song an elegant toughness that really befits the protagonist, Lightning. Below is the live version which sounds closer to the one they did on Saturday.

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