Another year in Los Angeles for the Electronic Entertainment Expo means another run of Video Games Live at the Nokia Theatre. This is actually our fifth show – four in Los Angeles, one in Toronto – and they do keep somehow keep getting better and better.
In complete honesty, the show hasn’t changed much in format. Tommy Tallarico, the show’s creator, still manages to have some pretty unique events like Guitar Hero competitions and live-action Space Invaders contests on stage in the middle of the show, and these breaks keep the tempo up. But overall, since we’ve seen it five times, we’re getting a bit used to the format.
With that said, we’re here for the new content, and our word if there wasn’t a veritable ton of new music played this year at Video Games Live!
By our count, there were nine brand new segments in the show, making up nearly half its setlist. Among them were Aeris’ Theme from Final Fantasy, music from the massive hit Journey, and Earthworm Jim tunes to round out the bunch. But we’ll get to those. Let’s talk about the whole show.
Tommy opened the show with a classic Pac Man live-action featurette which always gets the crowd excited and in a good mood. He then began the musical portion of the programme with Castlevania music, he himself strumming along on his guitar. He then continued with the aforementioned Aeris’ Theme from Final Fantasy, with fan art for the game being displayed on the massive screen above it. Ending off the first set of musical renditions was a Sonic the Hedgehog medley, complete with the choir bolting the SEGAAAAAAA opening tune. That really brought the crowd into it and gave everyone a good laugh.
Martin Leung, the Video Game Pianist then came out to perform a new medley of games in the Raresoft library, foregoing his usual Mario theme for something new. Don’t worry, there will be Mario. Of course there will be Mario.
Music from Journey, last year’s big E3 surprise hit, was then performed by none other than Austin Wintery who composed it and Jenovah Chen who created the game. If you haven’t played the game, it is a perfect example of how crucial music can be to a video game experience. Just hearing the music made us want to pick up Journey again, and that’s exactly what this concert is all about.
A new act, Viking Jesus, then came out to perform his Starfox 64 medley on electric guitar. This was our least favourite part of the entire show. We’re all for new acts, but this just reeked of a low-class, weird interpretation of what was actually an incredible game with great music. Not our thing.
Update: It has come to our attention that we didn’t really take into account the amount of passion Viking Jesus has for his craft. Let us be clear that our review has to have some sort of elemental bias based solely on our own tastes. With that said, this is a gentleman who not only loves what he does, but he respects the people who don’t necessarily think it’s the greatest thing in the world. We have an incredible amount of respect for anyone who does what they love to do. To quote Steve Jobs: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. You’ve got to find what you love.” And Viking Jesus has done exactly that.
Of course, a new addition to the Video Games Live stable for E3 this year was a game that we completely forgot had incredible music. That game is none other than Pokemon. With about ninety-seven games in the series to date (okay, that number might be a little high), it is about time Video Games Live showcased one of the best selling games of all time. The crowd went wild as Tommy threw out a dozen Pokeballs into the audience, as well as one Master Ball – you know, to capture the elusive Mew.
Laura Intravia, a Video Games Live regular came out after Pokemon to show off her skills tackling the Mario franchise, going from the original game in the series all the way through to Super Mario Galaxy 2. An incredible set of renditions was heard here, and it is no secret why Tommy is keeping Intravia around in the show – she rocks it every time with a genuine sense of cute musical happiness.
She returned after Earthworm Jim and Halo music was played on stage, this time in her Link outfit from The Legend of Zelda to play a brand new medley to celebrate the series’ 25th anniversary! While her usual routine is cute and quaint, this routine was epic in the way Zelda should be, and she accompanies the orchestra through the crescendos and finer melodies. She finishes with a massive finale. Incredible and beautiful.
Lindsey Stirling is a new addition to the Video Games Live roster. This is a girl who has made herself famous on YouTube by doing violin covers of games like Skyrim and Zelda. As if there wasn’t enough Zelda already (is there even such a thing as “enough Zelda“?), Lindsey came out to perform her incredible up-beat medley of Zelda music on the violin. For her first time at Video Games Live, she rocked the stage with her fun attitude and incredibly beaming personality. And, there was more Zelda, so we can’t really complain.
To follow such epic games as Mario, Halo, and Zelda, you need something massive. And of course, Tommy Tallarico never ceases to deliver. Rather than a game that has been out for years and years, up next was something that had been released only a few weeks prior to the show, and yet received some of the biggest applause of the night. Of course, we’re talking about Diablo III and none other than the series’ composer Russell Brauer conducted it.
Of course, why stop with one Blizzard property when you can follow it up with a game that isn’t even out yet? That’s right, Brauer remained on stage after conducting for Diablo III to conduct again for the still unreleased expansion pack to World of Warcraft, Mists of Pandaria.
Oh, and then they played the US Video Games Live premiere of music from Skyrim and we had three nerdgasms at once.
At this point, we needed a break. Three epic pieces like that need something a bit more mellow, and we got just that. Al Lowe, the creator of Leisure Suit Larry came out to give us a short rendition – on the saxophone, no less – of music from his game. It also happened to be the 25th anniversary of the title, so things worked out pretty well!
Rounding out the show were the usual suspects: Street Fighter, Portal, and Chrono Trigger. During those sets were a few technical difficulties so Martin Leung came out and did what he does best, and he played some audience requests, among which was none other than Angry Birds!
After the show, the usual two-hour long Meet and Greet took place. Tommy Tallarico knows how to put on a show, and there were far too many names to even mention all together. With that said, please take a look at the Video Games Live website for when the show is coming to your city, because the show has already gone to hundreds of cities in dozens of countries around the world, so chances are, they’ll play in your area soon!
That was a fantastic show! I was there as well! In fact, I was on the stage! I was your least favorite part!
My name is VIKING JESUS, a pleasure to meet you in the magic of the interwebs. 😉
No hard feelings, good sir. As a musician and Associate Editor of an entertainment site, I definitely realize that I can never please everyone. Although if they had told me I was going immediately after the emotional, somber Journey segment, I would have asked for a change.
However, would you not agree that Video Games Live, in its history, has been about a celebration of games as an art form? How so many passionate people can congregate and enjoy a universal medium such as music, regardless of personal skill with the games themselves? One of the greatest sights is seeing the hardcorest gamers in the same crowd as their non-gamer parents. Casual gamers mixing it up with the local D&D crowd? VGL was always a gathering from gamers and non-gamers from all walks of life. Bringing together the greatest part of multiple genres of games. With my inclusion, VGL is about showcasing the passion that those have for the video game industry, across fandom levels, across game genres, and now across music genres.
Because, while a style of performance may never be your thing, never underestimate my own passion for the industry, and the music it brings with it. Fact is, Star Fox 64 is also one of my favorite games, and sits proudly upon my shelf (along with the 3DS version) as one of the most played games in my collection. Which is why I chose to share with the 7,000 some people in that audience how much I loved that game through my performance.
I hope next time I’m able to perform for you, you might see what I mean. Don’t listen to the music. Listen to the energy. The love. The passion. That is what Video Games Live means to me.
Associate Editor, We Got This Covered
Heavy Metal Gaming God
Hi Mike! Great to hear from you! You’re absolutely right in that the greatest thing about our industry, be it the gaming or music side of things, is that we are among some of the most passionate people on the planet. We love what we do, and even though sometimes we’re ridiculed for loving games, we’re still in love with them and that reaffirms our passion even further.
I’d like to say that our review of your performance had absolutely nothing to do with you as a person. We actually met a few hours before the show I believe, and you’re a great guy! But you’re right in that not everyone loves every genre of music or style of game and that’s why your act just wasn’t our thing. Much like we aren’t the types to spend seven hours a day playing World of Warcraft, for the people who do that and love it, we can’t say a single bad thing. They LOVE what they do. Even if it doesn’t bring them any money (although for some, it has made them rich), the fact is they LOVE it. And it is clear that you absolutely love what you do.
So, as a completely objective review of the music that we heard – and of course our tastes have to factor into it – we’ll stand by our opinion about it. But you as a person, there is absolutely no question you’ve got the passion for what you do. And I’m going to amend the article to say just that, because you’re right in that I didn’t use the amount of passion you clearly portray on stage as a factor in how good the performance was.
I haven’t been more proud to be in the video game and journalism industry more than I am right now. To know that you respect my opinion and I respect the love you have for what you do is not something very common in every industry. That’s what people who are not gamers do not understand a lot of times.
Please keep in touch, Mike. WGTS is always on our radar, so congratulations with all it’s success as well!
Absolutely, my friend. I’d never ask you to change your opinion of something. That’s what makes our industry, and specifically our profession, so great. As long as I’m sure my message has gotten across, you’re more than welcome to voice whatever thoughts you have of me! 🙂
That being said, keep an eye on my YouTube channel. I’ve many things in the works that you might enjoy, even if there are a few songs that I know you won’t.
(Hint: I may or may not be planning a collaboration with another soloist in this article.)