December 7th was the date for Steve-O and I to attend our second annual Distant Worlds Concert in Montreal! If you’re a fan of Final Fantasy games and/or Nobuo Uematsu and have somehow never heard of Distant Worlds, it is a traveling orchestra conducted by Arnie Roth that performs music from 25 years of Final Fantasy music!
There were ups and downs to this concert compared to last year. It was in the same venue which is a great building with good acoustics. It is centered right in Montreal so driving sucks. Might need to take the metro next time. The seating is crowded, as these places tend to be, and I always get stuck sitting next to a smelly. Or a Bronie… Last year it was an obsessive Bronie who apparently felt the need to save his favorite MLP pics to his smartphone and look them over while suffering from MLP withdrawals.
Last year we were treated to a lot of ballads, thanks to the very talented Susan Calloway’s guest appearance. While I was grateful to hear her renditions of Suteki Da Ne and whatever-that-slow-song-from-FFXII is, I felt the set list didn’t have enough variety. And by variety I mean battle themes! There were a lot of love themes and ballads last year. Thankfully, this year they enlisted a choir and performed a lot of different battle themes and such.
I know you’re dying to know the set list, so here it is from memory, not in order of performance. Sorry, I didn’t see any programs and it has taken me over a week to get around to writing this post! If I forget a song its probably because it is from one of the online games. Because, well, they’re MMOs, and I don’t play those right now. To be fair, the songs were pretty cool though.
Final Fantasy Series- Main Theme: Not much to say about this song. It is melodic and pretty. Good mood-setter.
Final Fantasy VIII- Liberi Fatali: Then they didn’t waste anytime turning things up a notch with this song. One of my all-time favorites. The choir did Liberi Fatali justice.
Final Fantasy IV- Battle With the Four Fiends: I was incredible excited when Distant Worlds announced this title would be played. I thoroughly enjoyed this one, too.
Final Fantasy X- Hymn of the Fayth/To Zanarkand: This was a medley. The choir opened with a stunning cover of Hymn of the Fayth (First time performed in North America), then transitioned into an orchestrated version of “To Zanarkand,” which was performed last year. Still brought tears to my eyes.
Final Fantasy VII- JENOVA: Steve-O and I weren’t crazy about this song. They took some liberties with the arrangement. Not for the better, I felt. There were some almost jazzy bits thrown in that had me scratching my head. It almost felt like the strings were dragging behind the percussion and they weren’t in sync. Not good.
Final Fantasy XIII Lightning Returns- Undying Light: This was another North American premier. It’s supposedly a “new song” from the game Lightning Returns, set to release next year, but in actuality it’s a rehashing of FFXIII songs. Still, good songs and good performances on this one.
Final Fantasy XII- Dalmascan Estersands: This song is permanently drilled into my skull thanks to all the farming I spent in that zone of the game. I thought I’d hate listening to it again without having to. But it translated well to a live orchestra and it was a highlight of the evening. Keep in mind Final Fantasy XII is probably my least favorite of the main series.
Final Fantasy VI- Maria & Draco Opera: Celebration version! Last year they performed this song. But this time around there was a narrator and a choir. It made a world of difference. Very enjoyable experience. Sadly, it was the only FFVI song performed that evening.
Final Fantasy VIII- Don’t Be Afraid: Another one of my favorite battle themes, performed wonderfully. I was very satisfied they chose two great songs from one of my favorite FF games and soundtracks. I’m hoping against hope someday they’ll add Maybe I’m A Lion or The Extreme or Premonition to their roster.
Final Fantasy VII- Opening Bombing Mission: A bit of a yawn moment for me, since they performed this song last year. The video changed a lot from last time so I had something new to look at, at least. Parts of this song sounded like they dragged, like during JENOVA.
Final Fantasy IX- You’re Not Alone: Yay! I’ve always liked this song. The orchestrated version was performed well. I wish they’d do more songs from FFIX. While not my favorite Final Fantasy game, I did like a lot of the music. Secretly glad they didn’t do Vammo alla’Flamenco again. Heard it last year and I feel like I could go the rest of my life without hearing this song again.
Final Fantasy V- Main Theme: While Battle on the Big Bridge is the only memorable song on this soundtrack for me besides the final boss song (those are usually a given) I really liked this performance. An orchestra really brings out what the compressed catridge version of this song could not.
Final Fantasy VIII- Fisherman’s Horizon: I’ve always thought this was a strange choice for Distant Worlds to perform. The only memorable thing about Fisherman’s Horizon for me was playing a lot of Triple Triad. The choir joined in on this song, too, creating a nice, peaceful song midway through the evening.
Final Fantasy Victory Theme: We all know this little number and have probably had it as a ringtone on our cell phones at one point or another.
Final Fantasy Chocobo Medley: Always the most endearing and “Awww”-inspiring moment of the night. 8-bit chocobos and chocobos who live in afros coming together to make us smile and chuckle. I would never complain if this number was performed every year for the next 20 years and I attended every concert.
Final Fantasy XI: Some song. March for Vana’Diel or something like that? Sorry, I haven’t played the game and therefore don’t listen to the soundtrack… For what it’s worth, I liked the song!
Final Fantasy XIV- Crystal Warriors: Or something like that. Again, I liked the song. The footage was kind of boring. I guess MMO video footage can only be so entertaining. I like the character designs.
Final Fantasy Series Battle Theme: This was a highlight for Steve-O and I. The title is a bit misleading. Arnie Roth, the composer, introduced this and said it was a medley of the top three battle themes that were voted by fans as their favorites, not including the songs they’ve already been performing for years. The winners were Battle on the Big Bridge (Steve-O’s favorite), Seymour Battle (My favorite), and Those Who Fight Further; a song I’m sure all of us FF fans love. It was a great medley. Epic, even. I hope they do full-length versions of each of these songs later on.
Final Fantasy VII- One Winged Angel: Last but not least, the song everyone was expecting to hear. Waaaay better than the karaoke version we had in Montreal last year. My only complaint isn’t with the performance of this staple in the FF series, but the video footage. For being Sephiroth’s memorable song, there wasn’t a lot of him in the video footage. I was hoping for clips from the unedited version of Advent Children. We got a lot of his stupid relics, but not so much of Sephiroth.
Overall, the concert was more than worth the ticket prices and the travel and the city driving to see. Arnie Roth, the composer, is always a treat. The song selection was more satisfying for me than last year. Nobuo Uematsu wasn’t present this time, but it isn’t like I have the money for VIP tickets anyway. There weren’t as many cosplayers this time around. We saw a White Mage and a beautiful young woman dressed in Celes’ opera dress. She definitely couldn’t fit in the auditorium seats wearing that.
Distant Worlds is gaining momentum and is traveling around the world. If you love Final Fantasy games and their music, you need to find a performance near you.