Video Games Live 2006

If you had an extra $3000 to drop at the show, this could have been yours.

Video Games Live is a concert tour of, well, video game music initiated by the great composers Tommy Tallarico and Jack Wall. This isn't just Tommy on a keyboard doing his favorite tunes, it is performed with a live orchestra and choir. A screen above and behind them shows footage from the games that the music was composed for. This is the second year of the tour, which is being performed all over the world. Last yearís initial tour was a brief stint in North America. The concert was more than just playing music, though, as many surprises came up throughout the evening.

It was also the first time the show was in the Chicago area and there couldnít have been a better time to do it than during Wizard World. Although, I think hanging around a ton of hardcore video game fan-boys is much worse than hanging out with hardcore comic book nerds. All the game nerds talked about was how much they hate Xbox and the PSP. These people need to accept that there are more than just Nintendo branded consoles in the world because Microsoft and Sony are not going anywhere. Why were these people even at the concert when a lot of the music wasn't from games that appeared on Nintendo platforms? Hardcore gamer fan-boys like that are seriously the worst kinds of fan-boys.

My Video Games Live experience actually started at their booth at Wizard World. There they had a special edition VGL arcade machine from Dream Authentics. There was a PC running the underneath the cabinet with a ton of older games available. All the buttons on the machine could be mapped out to however the player chooses, a feature much like that of using a controller on a PC. They were having a contest on who could obtain the highest score in the classic game of Space Invaders. I gave it a go, but my score wasnít even near the current highest at the time. However, if it was a Galaga competition thereís no way I could loose.

Here we have the two best dressed nerds in Chicago.

Saturday evening came and I went to the Rosemont Theatre where the concert was being held. Some of the people in game character costumes were also at the concert. There were a few Final Fantasy girls, Cloud and Aerith from FFVII again, two Final Fantasy moogles, two Links, Leon from Resident Evil 2 again, and a bunch of others. Before the show began all the costumed cats took the stage for VGL's usual pre-show costume contest. Five of the costumed gamers were said to be finalists. I donít know how they were chosen, but there must have been something they went through to be considered one. The finalists were Goth sorceress Lulu from Final Fantasy X, Cloud and Aerith (they were considered one), the better looking Link (although he didnít have the awesome shield the other Link had), Leon, Alex and Luna from Lunar, and a giant moogle. Each of these costumes was excellentÖ except for the giant moogle. I have no idea how the moogle became a finalist because there were many other costumes that looked of higher quality. There was also a little kid dressed a moogle and even though you could see the kidís face, the costume looked way better than the bigger monstrosity. Can you even consider it a moogle when itís that big? The votes for the costumes were tallied by applause. Lulu didnít get much love, perhaps because of her lack of cleavage and a skirt not made exclusively of belts. It was too bad because the giant moogle received a lot of applause. The clear winner was Cloud and Aerith, though. Cloud had a huge sword and the hair was perfect. I had an opportunity to speak with him at Wizard World and he said the hair was actually a wig that one of his buddies made. It was a good-looking wig because it had me fooled until he said that. Anyway, their prize was a set of Logitech speakers. Those better be some damn fine speakers if they were the grand prize.

Can Pong be musical enough for a concert? Yes.

After the contest composer and conductor Jack Wall took the stage and started the concert with a ton of old games and their music put together in a huge medley. It started with Pong which they were able to make musical. I was a little disappointed they didnít have Galaga on for at least a few seconds since I know Tommy Tallarico is just about as obsessed with the game as I am, but thatís alright because the end result was exceptional. Tommy came on stage and said some stuff about the concert and was being his wacky self. He came on a few times during the night and said things about what we were going to see and about the music. The incredible music of Metal Gear Solid by Harry Gregson-Williams was second in line with an intro by Hideo Kojima. Tommy was talking about Kojima beforehand and many in the audience were obviously thinking that he was actually going to walk on stage. It certainly would have been cool, but there was no way we were going to see Kojima enter stage right or left. And we didnít. He appeared on the giant screen above and a collective disappointed sigh was heard.

"Move to the right! The right!!! Shoot! Shoot! We thought you were the best Space Invaders player here! Move right!!! Gah, stop dying!"

Then things got interesting. The Space Invaders contest that was being held at Wizard World produced a winner which was beckoned onstage by Tommy. His ultimate prize was playing Space Invaders in front of the auditorium, but there was a twist; he was the ship. It was funny because the guy was pretty overweight. Ok, he was really overweight. On the back of his shirt was the player's ship from the game and what he had to do was actually run across the stage to move the ship on screen. He was equipped with a button to fire and his goal was to clear the first level in two minutes. Plus, every time he hit the top saucer, he would win the amount of points in dollars. The orchestra would play music accordingly to how well he was doing and how far the invaders were progressing. It was called an interactive symphony. People in the audience were shouting where to move and when to shoot, but he didn't do so hot in Space Invaders Live. Ultimately, he failed in his attempt to win the prize money and lost all his lives before the time was up. It was a quite spectacle and very entertaining to watch.

At one point the concert was brought down a bit when music from the Medal of Honor games was performed. Instead of game footage on screen there was real footage of war-torn people and children from World War II. It was nice to see that they were honoring those that died and served in the war, and not the game itself, but depressing as hell.

Another point during the night two people in the audience were chose at random to play and interactive symphony of Frogger. They didnít have to jump around onstage or anything crazy like that, just play Frogger. The winner would be whoever got the most points in a minute and a half and would receive an AMD Ferrari laptop. A laptop just to play Frogger? Iím sure the costumes took a lot longer than a minute thirty to make and all they got were some speakers. What a jip. Fist up was a lady probably in her thirties or so. I, and Iím sure the entire audience, had never seen a worse display of playing Frogger. She lost all her frogs before the time was up and got a measly score of 480. The other contestant, a thirteen-year-old kid, took his turn and beat her score within three seconds.

Longest... loading screen... ever.

There was an intermission complete with a loading screen that said ďLoading Act II.Ē I tell you, that was the longest load time I've ever had to sit through. Other game performances included, in no particular order, were the Castlevania series, Beyond Good and Evil, God of War, Sonic the Hedgehog, World of Warcraft, Everquest II, and Tron. Jack Wall had his time to shine with his score from Myst, Myst III, and Myst IV. Tommy's own score from Advent Rising was also played. There was no mention of how the game was a failure, but the music was excellent.

The Kingdom Hearts part of the night was a little odd because they didnít show any footage from the games. All they showed were clips from Disney movies and cartoons. Was this because Final Fantasy was close behind? Maybe, but there wasn't any footage shown from those games either. The Final Fantasy performance came up, but was different then the rest. A pianist named LeeAnn Leung came onstage and performed a medley of music from ten games in the series. It was beautiful I could have listened to an entire concert of her incredible piano work. There was a camera focused on her hands during the performance and I never realized how much finger work the normal Final Fantasy theme really took.

The best performance of the evening was that of LeeAnn Leung on the piano.

The night ended with a Super Mario Brothers performance the orchestra. After they were finished Lee Ann Leung took the stage again and played the Mario Brothers music, but wicked fast. Then everyone was saying thank you, but a bunch of people were shouting for Halo. They didnít have to yell because the premature ending was a joke. The Halo theme was played as the show ender.

After the night's event was a meet and greet with Tommy, Jack, LeeAnn, Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori (composers of the Halo music), Gerard Marino (composer for God of War), and a few game creators from Midway. They werenít just any creators though, it was John Tobias, Ed Boon, and Dan Forden from Mortal Kombat! Damn, if I would have known that all these people were going to be there I would have brought some of my games or soundtracks with me to get signed. Instead, they all autographed an out-of-date program from last yearís Video Games Live tour. I guess Iíll know better for next time to bring some stuff with me just in case.

Tommy was the last in the line of the meet and greet. If any of you were wondering what happened with his and Victor Lucasí review show ďJudgment Day,Ē hereís a scoop. The reason itís not on anymore is because their contract with G4 ran out and they decided not to renew it. They saw where the network was heading (i.e. away from video games and down the toilet) and decided that they didnít want their show to be a part of it. He promised it would be coming back this fall, but wouldnít say on what network. If I was a gambling man I would assume it would be Spike TV since they have a bunch of video game stuff, even though their Video Game Awards shows are loads of crap. In honor of the return of ďJudgment Day,Ē Iíll score the concert in their style: Video Games Live scores 9 out of 10. On the positive side it was an incredible concert with magnificent performances and some great surprises. On the negative side the programs and posters needed to be up to date and overpriced game shirts that you could get at any Hot Topic should stay there. Also, again I really wish I would have known that all these composers and the Mortal Kombat team was going to be there. Next time I will be prepared for the potential talent that could be there. If you can I highly recommend going to one of these shows. I am definitely looking forward to the next Video Game Live event I can attend.

- Shawn - 08/10/06                   

Do you feel like you missed something? This weekend adventure began at Wizard World 2006.