On May 10, 2004,
Nobuo Uematsu graced us with the first ever stateside
performance of his compositions, by the Los Angeles
Philharmonic at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Needless to say, everyone—fans and Square Enix
U.S.A. employees alike—was ecstatic at the news.
Tickets sold out in three days, and a few even
reemerged on a popular auction site for over
Quite a lot of work
went into producing this show, and I don’t think
I would be wrong to say that at times, many of
us wondered if we had bitten off more than we
could chew. Back at the office, it looked like
a tornado had come through and blown papers,
boxes, offices supplies, and merchandise samples
into every nook and cranny. Our cubicle mates
were a little miffed, but hey, the show must
Since we’re too embarrassed
to show the mess back at the office, we thought
we’d show you some of the pre-concert rigging that
went on instead. That gorgeous, massive structure
was made specifically for the Dear Friends concert.
It was designed to flow with the lines of the auditorium
without obstructing the amazing acoustics and matched
the wood of the concert hall.
talk. On to the show!
Some of our employees
attended the concert, so I’ll be interjecting
comments from a few of them throughout to give
you readers an insider perspective from various
departments. You’ll soon learn that we’re all
huge fans of the series and Uematsu-san, too.
Comments will be from business development manager
Ken Berry (the business guy), quality assurance
translator Freddie Hashi (the QA guy and in-house
musician), and our lovely editorial specialist,
Jennifer Mukai (the localization gal).
|The show opened with
FINAL FANTASY VIII’s "Liberi Fatali," with the
chorus performed by the Los Angeles Master Chorale.
Ken noted, "This was a perfect way to start the
concert. The opening chorus leading into the slow
build of the energetic track really got the crowd
going. "Then, after much applause, James Arnold
Taylor, better known to some of you as the voice
of FINAL FANTASY X’s Tidus, walked onstage as the
evening’s master of ceremonies. He gave a witty
speech in that undeniable Tidus voice and introduced
the next songs to be performed: "Zanarkand" from
FINAL FANTASY X, "Terra’s Theme" from FINAL FANTASY
VI, and "Theme of Love" from FINAL FANTASY IV.
Harth-Bedoya cued the orchestra, and the crowd
grew quiet as the melancholy scene of Yuna’s sending
played on the screens overhead. " ‘Zanarkand’ has
special meaning to me, as FINAL FANTASY X was my
first major localization project," said Jen. Freddie
felt the performance was "very passionate" and
one of his favorites that night.
James Arnold Taylor
reentered and explained the meaning behind the
concert title Dear Friends: "I want to talk briefly about the title of tonight’s program, Dear
Friends: Music from FINAL FANTASY, which also happens to be the title of the next song, _Dear Friends.’ When planning began for this concert, composer Uematsu wanted the show’s
title to reflect his appreciation for the overwhelming support that he has
received from his fans, music lovers, and video game players alike. Dear Friends
is his heartfelt thanks to all of the fans worldwide for their continued support."
The performance continued with guitar solos for FINAL FANTASY V’s "Dear Friends", FINAL FANTASY IX’s "Vamo’ Alla Flamenco" and FINAL FANTASY VIII’s "Love Grows". Freddie said, "One moment I remember in particular is when there was a cymbal crash as fireworks bloomed behind Rinoa and Squall during ‘Love Grows’. The production value of the presentation was fantastic."
Then it was intermission and many hurried to the merchandise kiosks, which offered some unique items for sale. Concert shirts came in gray and white. The concert program detailed the history of FINAL FANTASY and featured lovely art from famed illustrator Yoshitaka Amano, including a gorgeous centerfold painting. In keeping with the theme of celebrating FINAL FANTASY, there was also a beautifully illustrated calendar which noted key dates for the series.
the performance resumed with "Aeris’s Theme" from
FINAL FANTASY VII. Aeris is probably one of the
most popular and beloved characters of the series.
Her death launched a myriad of rumors about a "Raise
Aeris" ability and evoked many tears. Many feel "Aeris’s
Theme" captures the essence of her beauty, sadness,
Next up were "Not
Alone" from FINAL FANTASY IX and "Ronfaure" from
FINAL FANTASY XI. On the latter piece, Jen commented, "I’ve
spent so much time in that area of Vana’diel
and heard that music so often, but hearing this
new arrangement live was eye-opening, fresh."
Then James Arnold
Taylor returned with the sad news that it was
time for the final three songs of the evening
to be performed. This included classics such
as a FINAL FANTASY I-III medley and the FINAL
FANTASY theme song as well as a sneak peek at
music and scenes from the upcoming DVD FINAL
FANTASY VII: ADVENT CHILDREN.
As the final notes
of the FINAL FANTASY theme faded, the crowd exploded
into wild applause. Little did they know there
was more to come…
|Miguel Harth-Bedoya returned to the stage and remarked that he had never imagined they would be playing video game music. Clearly impressed, he then introduced the man behind it all: Nobuo Uematsu. The crowd went wild.
there couldn’t be more surprises, could there?
Yes, there could. After speaking a few words,
Uematsu introduced FINAL FANTASY creator Hironobu
Sakaguchi and series illustrator Yoshitaka Amano!
With the "Big Three" onstage, the crowd went
absolutely berserk this time. Through this, Uematsu
riled them up even more, although we didn’t think
that was possible. "It
was entertaining to see the crowd scream like
they were at a rock concert.
|I’m sure that the performers are used to bursts of applause over their years of performing, but this was a completely different story. The performers looked stunned and unsure of how to react to the somewhat boisterous crowd." said Freddie. Ken was very pleased to see the three "getting the ovation they so deserve," and Jen, who had a first row view, was "blown away."
|Just when it looked
like the evening was coming to an end, the Master
Chorale returned for the encore "One Winged Angel," a
chilling score from FINAL FANTASY VII accompanied
by a CG sequence of Sephiroth’s revelation. Ken
said, "I have heard orchestral performances elsewhere,
but the acoustics and crowd here could not be beat.
My VIP guest said it was the best concert he had
heard, period." Freddie said, "As a musician and
as a fan of the series, it was an inspirational
and emotional experience to watch the music come
to life right before my eyes. The professionalism
demonstrated during each of the songs from the
syncopated rhythmns created between the instruments,
to the massive crescendo in the end was simply
astounding. "Jen, who grew up playing the series,
could not for the life of her pick a favorite song. "Every
song brought back memories of playing each FINAL
FANTASY over the years," she said.
Uematsu held a
post-concert interview afterward, during which
fans put love notes up to the windows for him
to see. He later joined the other 2/3 of the "Big Three" at
a post-concert reception. Once all this was over,
we all slept for a very, very long time.
Thank you to our fans for your continued loyalty and support. And thank you, Uematsu-san, for allowing us to experience such a wonderful performance.
-Square Enix U.S.A., Inc.
Public Relations Team
Photography: Karen Miller