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Review: ''Video Games Live' draws young crowd, interactive spirit to Florida Orchestra




Rarely has the Florida Orchestra had such a young audience as it did Friday night at the Mahaffey Theater for Video Games Live, where it was tough to find anyone over 30 in the crowd.

Making its first appearance in the Tampa Bay area (and I so hope not the last), the concert series created by video game composers Tommy Tallarico and Jack Wall shows how far video games have come from the days of Pong and Pac Man, with elaborate plots and themes and yes, composers. From the roars of recognition in the crowd you could tell this is the soundtrack to their lives.

Some came in costume, such as Link from the Zelda game (at some of stops the show makes around the country each year there are massive costume contests) and the eagerness was apparent. Even as the orchestra was warming up, I heard a teenager say, “Oh wow, I just heard the violins play the Skyrim theme song.”

Tallarico bounded on the stage in jeans, red tennis shoes and a blazer with an electric guitar slung over his shoulder, looking every inch the rock star. With the Florida Orchestra and the USF Chamber Singers providing the music, three large screens showed images from the games or shots of the musicians as the audience was invited to sing and shout out as they rolled out the famously creepy theme music for Castlevania, a classic Nintendo game.

Then the choir hilariously boomed “Sega!” and the lights of golden rings swirled over the rapt crowd as Sonic the Hedgehog images danced on screen.

In between songs were fun segments such as: What if you combined Grand Theft Auto and Frogger? The pileup of cars make it easier to cross the road, that’s for sure.

The audience got into the act too, as four were picked to come on stage and play Super Smash Bros. With an orchestra backing the gamers in front of a giant screen, Tallarico quipped, “I guess this is how rich people play video games.” Later a teenager named Brandon had to get at least 200,000 on Guitar Hero as the Foo Fighters’ The Pretender played. The audience started stirring as he reached the halfway point, then grew more raucous and finally erupted when he passed 200,000, turning the young man into a real guitar hero.

Tallarico introduced the music of one of his personal heroes, Nobuo Uematsu, who single-handedly composed the soundtracks for the first nine Final Fantasy games, as well as directed the production of many of spin-off albums.  For the first time in the concert, there were no videos. The focus was solely on the hauntingly beautiful music.

Tallarico gave a shout-out to the makers of the Journey game, who this year scored the genre’s first Grammy nomination for best soundtrack. It’s apparent the world is finally realizing video game sounds are more than bleeps and bloops.

— Sharon Kennedy Wynne. Photo not from Friday's concert.

[Last modified: Monday, February 4, 2013 12:00pm]


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