On the 30th anniversary of the series, and the 10th year of the show itself, Final Fantasy Distant Worlds returned to London for a wonderful performance of classic staples and some other interesting arrangements to keep most fans happy.
22 tracks were played during the concert but it certainly didn’t seem like as the time flew so quickly. The opening half felt longer as “Prelude” slowly coo’d in the crowd with harps, voice and wonder before letting loose with the amazing “Battle on the Big Bridge”. We were treated to a very regal version of “The Oath” and rousing renditions of “Flash of Steel” and “Searching for Friends”, the latter really feeling sweeping and melodic and was a personal highlight. “Fang’s Theme” didn’t quite feel as dynamic as I’d hoped, but kept its jazzy elements, whilst “Theme of Love” was sweet. My personal show standout “Cosmo Canyon” injected a bit of soul and wisdom into the night. Often the concerts are either full on battle explosions, or epic love songs – so to have something feel different in tempo, mood and composition was very, very welcome. The arrangement is excellent too. Part one ended with a huge cheer for “Not Alone” and “Apocalypsis Noctis” and an utterly spellbinding note perfect “Liberi Fatali”. The set list really ramped up with that trilogy and the energy was palpable.
It stayed there for “Opening ~ Bombing Mission” which showed new footage of the Final Fantasy VII Remake, to the audiences cheer – which was quipped at by conductor Arnie Roth whom told Square Enix to hurry up please! “Somnus” actually featured Roth on the violin before the sole entry from XIV “Torn From the Heavens” burst into a frenzy. “Cinco de Chocobo” was a lovely change of pace and was perfectly accompanied by the ever-present projection of the game of the music behind. Throughout the night, it felt like the movie was running a few seconds behind so it didn’t seem perfectly synced up – but the arrangement showing all of Final Fantasy VII’s chocobo fun was so perfectly put together, it didn’t matter. The second highlight of the evening was the “Hymn of the Fayth” leading into “To Zanarkand” – which were gently arranged to squeeze as many tears out of your soul as possible. The opera from Final Fantasy VI followed and given how short many of the tracks in the second half were, the opera spanned for what seemed like 15 minutes. As someone whom struggles with opera at the best of times, I enjoyed the re-arrangement they’d done, adding in the most English narrator they could find, and given three soloists some time to shine, but it felt a little bloated. However, I am probably in the minority, and I appreciate the massive effort that epic piece takes and it fits in the right place in the set list to lead out with the “Final Fantasy” theme. The encore was “Aerith’s Theme” and “One Winged Angel” – both played perfectly with emotion and empathy.
Nobuo Uematsu was in attendance and popped onto the stage a few times, most notably running on to join the choir for “One Winged Angel” which caused a laugh. Arnie Roth introduces the pieces in sections which is informative and he manages to walk that really fine line between being the public face of Distant Worlds and making it all about him to a tee. He injects just enough personality to be someone, but always in respect to the work he is playing. In fact, respect was in spades throughout – thanking everyone at all times throughout, which was nice if a little excessive at times. However, thanking the fans was very appreciated. As a side note, the merchandise was very pricey, taking advantage of the 30th anniversary theme. I did purchase something, but have had to justify it to myself all weekend since!
Whilst I’ve been a little critical in the review, it’s all small niggles in what is an outstanding evening of music. In the friend group I went with, two people had no connection to the series, but thoroughly enjoyed their selves. Highly recommended for all fans of orchestral, game and film music – it’s an emotional rollercoaster.