Distant Worlds 2011 – Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

 When I was nine years old I was introduced to this video game called “Final Fantasy 7.” It became a monumental hit in the United States because of it’s graphics, complex story, and it’s amazing music. The music was composed by the great Nobuo Uematsu (Any nerd should be familiar with this name). I instantly became a fan of the Final Fantasy series and vowed to myself that I would see the music performed live at some point in my life. Fast forward 13 years later and I finally got my opportunity (Keep in mind that Uematsu has only toured in the United States TWICE since he started doing concerts in 2003).

May 7th – The day of my college graduation. I was ecstatic since I was finishing school and got to share that moment with my close friends and family, but my excitement for what was coming later in the evening is what I was really focused on. I purchased two tickets to see Distant Worlds at the Atlanta Symphony Hall. My body was ready.

Arnie Roth (conductor), Nobuo Uematsu (composer), and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra were going to change my life that night.

I left for Atlanta 30 minutes before the concert begins with my friend waiting on me at the Symphony Hall. Atlanta traffic & parking decided to be a nightmare to me this particular day; I drove around looking for parking frustrated as hell and about to late! When I finally park I made a mad dash to the Symphony Hall wearing a full suit. I finally arrive and my friend is clearly upset that I’m late. I apologize, we got our tickets checked, and we rushed into the orchestra hall. As we walked in we hear thunderous applause. At that moment I realized I just missed the first song.

When we took our seats I looked at the setlist and realize we just missed “Liberi Fatali.”
I couldn’t believe I just missed one of the most epic (I couldn’t find a better word to describe this) songs ever. Regardless, I knew the performance was amazing because the audiences energy was electrifying. They could not have opened with a better song.

Once I got comfortable I peek around the audience. Definitely the nerd variety in attendance. It was a bit displeasing seeing people just wearing t-shirts and jeans at a classical concert. Just a minor nitpick of mine; didn’t detract from my experience at all.

Arnie Roth began to introduce himself, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and the legendary Uematasu. Arnie Roth was a really funny guy too! He made lots of jokes/references to the Final Fantasy universe…I wonder if it was all scripted or if he is a genuine fan. He told the audience before he began he had to “do one more thing.” Then he raises his arms and conducts the orchestra to play the “Victory Theme.” We all got a good kick out of it. My inner nerd was gushing out everywhere at this point.

Epic opener, introductions, victory theme. Now it was time to start the concert. I was going to have a nerdgasm at any point. My friend and I couldn’t stop smiling and we hadn’t even heard our first song yet! Here was the set list that was played that night:

  • Final Fantasy VIII: Liberi Fatali
  • Final Fantasy: Victory Theme
  • Final Fantasy VIII: Don’t be Afraid
  • Final Fantasy I-III: Medley 2010
  • Final Fantasy XI: Memoro de la Stono – Distant Worlds
  • Final Fantasy X: To Zanarkand
  • Final Fantasy VII: J-E-N-O-V-A
  • Final Fantasy V: Dear Friends
  • Final Fantasy IX: Vamo’ alla Flamenco
  • Final Fantasy VIII: The Man With The Machine Gun

-INTERMISSION-

  • Final Fantasy VII: Opening – Bombing Mission
  • Final Fantasy VIII: Fisherman’s Horizon
  • Final Fantasy XIII: Fabula Nova Crystallis
  • Final Fantasy XIII: Blinded By Light
  • Final Fantasy XIV: Navigator’s Glory – The Theme of Limsa Lominsa
  • Final Fantasy series: Chocobo Medley 2010
  • Final Fantasy VI: Opera “Maria and Draco”
  • Final Fantasy VI: Terra’s Theme

First song up was “Don’t be Afraid.” Seeing a sea of violinist all moving in unison like a machine was spectacular. Hearing this live gave me such an incredible adrenaline rush. I couldn’t believe how amazing it sounded live; the YouTube links I have provided pale in comparison. During the song (and for the rest of the songs during the concert) video of actual gameplay was projected on a giant display over the orchestra. The music and video was paired to great effect!

A few songs had special guests come out to lend their talents. We had a choir (who were majority GaTech students), three opera singers, and an amazing classical guitarist. It was pretty funny whenever the opera singers would come out and above them on the display were 16-bit graphics of the same opera singers performing the song.

I didn’t really get emotional during the performance until “To Zanarkand” was performed. As soon as the piano started I had a huge rush of nostalgia consume me. I told my friend I didn’t cry but I did had to fight back tears for this song. It was that beautiful. I wasn’t the only one though…lot’s of people in the audience were sniffling and such too! When the song ended I clapped my heart out. I just re-lived a childhood memory. And it was going to happen a lot more that night too.

Later we see a skinny man walk upon the stage holding his guitar. I wondered what song was going to be played next so I looked at the setlist. It was “Vamo’ alla Flamenco.” A huge smile lit my face and stayed there the entire song. The guy sits down, the orchestra tunes its strings, and Arnie Roth begins. I was in heaven. Watching him plucking his strings and hearing the purest music come out just left me in awe. The song concludes in such a magnificent climax that when it’s over it leaves you breathless.

After a few more songs the orchestra goes into intermission. I make my way outside to mingle with some people (A bunch of friends I knew were in attendance!) and shop for some merchandise! This time I got to look around the Symphony Hall and really appreciate it’s beauty.

When intermission is over we take our seats again and the orchestra is making sure everything is in tune and perfect! Eventually the lights dim and they play the second song from Final Fantasy 7 (Which is my favorite if you haven’t realized yet!) of the night. They chose a very fitting song to start with: “Opening Bombing Mission.”

After the song ended the orchestra goes immediately into the next song. My friend kept telling me that THIS was the song he wanted to hear the most. It was “Fisherman’s Horizon.” He kept shaking my arm and telling me how excited he was! I let him have his moment with this song. I didn’t want to look his way during the performance incase he was sobbing dramatically or drooling from his nerdgasm he was having. He told me he just about cried hearing the song. I can’t blame him either cause it was so beautiful.

Next was a newer song that wasn’t composed by Nobuo Uematsu. I think Atlanta was the first time Distant World’s has performed this song too! The song comes from the new Final Fantasy “Fabula Nova Crystallis.” I haven’t really played Final Fantasy in years but this song still has the same charm that all the Final Fantasy songs have. It was a song that was haunting and so melancholy.

The funnest song of the set was easily “Chocobo Medley 2010.” A very upbeat song that had a different style compared to the rest of the performances in the evening. The video accompanying the song was also very humorous! I especially loved the jazz influence in certain parts of the song. Kudos.

We get a few more performances from the opera trio (who are INSANELY talented) and are concluded with “Terra’s Theme.” I would have been fine if the night concluded with this. It was a perfect way to conclude the night of amazing performances. Arnie Roth thanks us all and we give him and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra a standing ovation. Nobuo is no where to be found. As they all leave the stage the audience is still standing with thunderous applaus still. We wanted more-

Nobuo and Arnie come out and we all know what’s coming. My inner nerd was going absolutely insane because I knew they were going to end the night with a huge climax. They make some jokes and finally get to the point. One Winged Angel was about to be performed. Best part? Nobuo was going to be performing in the choir. I couldn’t believe the energy in the room when all of this was happening. The lights began to dim and the energy started to sky rocket.

It began. “One Winged Angel” (The video captures some of the bantar between Uematsu and Roth)

It was a terrific way to end the night. Actually, One Winged Angel was the only way to end the night. It was perfect. I couldn’t have been more happier with how the concert went.

If Distant World’s comes back to Atlanta again you can bet your ass I’ll be there. I highly recommend ANYONE who is a fan of classical or Final Fantasy to come! I’m glad I got to fulfill one of my bucket list accomplishments!

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