Mingling in the Foyer
|Myself in the foyer.|
Each level of the Hammersmith Apollo was lined with official Zelda artwork for each game in the series. Underneath each framed piece was a copy of respective game, combined with the Nintendo console for which the game played on.
|Playing a bit of the Skyward Sword demo.|
Also dotted around was several large television screens in which fans could play a demo of the upcoming Skyward Sword. The graphics were impressive, and the game plays fluidly. It appeared that those fans who tested out the game were rather impressed with what Nintendo had to offer this time around also, which bodes well for the game upon release.
|An example of the Zelda display cases.|
As with most concerts, the merchandise, comprising of merely posters or a choice of two t-shirts was rather overpriced, therefore I made a beeline for the Skyward Sword and Nintendo time line instead.
The Symphony Concert Review
The concert spanned 25 years of the popular The Legend of Zelda series, covering familiar tracks from the majority of games in the series. A huge emphasis was put on A Link To The Past, Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker and Twilight Princess in particular.
The concert opened with a brief introduction from Eiji Aonuma, with the help from a Japanese translator. Aonuma mentioned that this is the third and final concert to commemorate the games 25th anniversary, apologised for the absence of Shigeru Miyamoto, and then introduced the composer (Eimear Noone) and The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra.
With pleasantries out of the way, the orchestra opens the evening with the Hyrule Castle Theme, a rousing, majestic song, that while rather short in length, made for a superb opening. The end of this opening track signalled this London shows special guest presenter onto stage-Robin William's daughter, Zelda Williams. Whilst clearly suffering from a bout of nerves, Zelda Williams went on to become a great, cheerful host, who definitely shares the audiences love for the Zelda series (she got rather emotional in her closing speech).
The music begins once again, first with the ever-so-familiar Princess Zelda's Theme, which brought back a lot of great memories of playing through the Zelda series. The orchestral arrangement was not only note perfect, but performed with so much passion too. For me, the best song of the night has got to be this next track, The Wind Waker Symphonic Movement. This medley combines ten of the songs from Wind Waker into one movement, and, I am not ashamed to say, it actually made me feel rather emotional (Wind Waker was the second Zelda game I played to completion, and it still holds a lot of great memories for myself). This movement is set to clips of Wind Waker in chronological order, and the music told the story of the game from the beginning until the end. The happy, folk-like music really emphasises the passion, love and enjoyment that so many fans have had whilst playing Zelda.
|And so it begins...|
The Ocarina Melody Suite served as an introduction into the different parts of the orchestra. Each section played a snippet of one of the ocarina songs in the game, and ended with the whole orchestra joining in together in a quick tune full of the ocarina melodies. The Boss Battle Medley followed afterwards, which, accompanied by a compilation of boss battles on the big screen provided one of the most enjoyable moments of the evening. The Kakariko Village theme from Twilight Princess came along next, bringing sweeping but rather tranquil melodies into the Hammersmith Apollo.
The medleys were definitely some of the highlights of the evening, with The Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary Medley helping to prove this. This medley combined five songs from A Link To The Past, Spirit Tracks, Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker. Personally, I was pleased to hear that Dragon Roost Island from Wind Waker had made it into this line up (a personal favourite).
No Zelda celebration would be complete without some focus on Link's long-running nemesis, Ganon/Ganondorf. Ganondorf's Theme makes an entry into the setlist straight after the 25th Anniversary Medley is finished, and highlights Ganondorf's transformation into Ganon, with the help of specially selected game clips. This song is intense and riveting, and definitely is a welcome addition into this evenings ensemble. With Ganondorf's Theme checked off the list, it seems right to include Gerudo Valley, arguably one of the Zelda series most loved themes, into the set list. This version of Gerudo Valley swaps the spanish sounding guitars for a sweeping violin-heavy orchestra, which seems to only heighten the magnificence and boldness of the song.
|Me holding the excellent concert booklet.|
Next up was another fan favourite, Hyrule Field, a grand and cheerful song which definitely was one of the best songs in the concert. Another stand out moment for myself came when Great Fairy's Fountain Theme played. This is definitely a memorable Zelda track, and I am sure many Zelda fans agree with me that it is also one of the best. This performance mainly focused on two harps, leaving this feeling a little more personal and relaxing than the previous intense Ganondorf theme. I closed my eyes throughout a lot of this track, as it seemed to heighten the magical feel that was being conveyed. Brilliant stuff.
The concert closed with two grand movements, the Twilight Princess Symphonic Movement and The Legend of Zelda Main Theme Medley. The former, with help from the video clips, moved the audience through the entire Twilight Princess story. The Title Screen section at the very beginning of this song actually gave me goosebumps-especially when Wolf Link is howling at the moon in the video above the orchestra. The latter highlights the original Zelda theme which so many of us know and love by now. It made for a fitting end to the set-list.
|The complete set-list.|
Or so we thought. As soon as this "final" track ended, the composer introduces us to the one and only Koji Kondo, the man behind so much of the Zelda music over the past twenty-five years. Koji Kondo then performs "Grandma's Song" from Wind Waker, a beautifully played piece on the piano. After finishing this, Koji briefly thanks all of the fans for their support, before leaving the stage. Before the end is signalled, Aonuma walks back on stage to offer his appreciation, and to provide some information on the latest Zelda game, Skyward Sword. It was a shame that the concert did not include some tracks from my all-time favourite Zelda game, Link's Awakening, but there was so much on offer here that I did not leave the venue disappointed.
Aonuma highlights the importance of music in the Zelda games, and states that the "songs link with memories" which plays an crucial part in the new Skyward Sword gameplay. This upcoming game will see players moving their bodies to control the game, with Aonuma adding that different songs will hold different body movements. Aonuma says that "songs resonate with the movement of the body, so when you hear it, you'll remember the moves."
|One of the great pieces of art in the concert booklet.|
Aonuma then plugs the special edition release of Skyward Sword, and announces to a rather excited crowd that the CD packaged in with this special edition will be the recording of the London Symphony concert. With Skyward Sword plugged, and thank you's shared, there is only one more thing left that Aonuma has to announce-the final secret track-the Skyward Sword theme. Aonuma exits with his translator at this point, leaving the audience to experience the latest theme, and to view the Skyward Sword clips on show.
After an impressive standing ovation, the concert is over, and what a good experience it has been too. With a four-symphony world tour announced for next year, there is no doubt that I will be attending once again. I cannot wait.