Final Fantasy XV Live Concert: Expectations Were Shattered!

Final Fantasy XV Live Concert: Expectations Were Shattered!

Written by Darryl — 09 Sep 2016

Not many people get to go to Abbey Road Studios as it is, even fewer have the opportunity to experience anything close to what I witnessed on Wednesday night. And as someone who’s a bit of a video game music obsessive, the significance was not lost on me. Getting to see and listen to an hour of Final Fantasy XV’s music, performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra with Yoko Shimomura in attendance (and even performing!), made for a special, special night.

Despite my cool exterior, once I stepped inside Studio 1 for the “pre-concert”, my mind was already thinking about just how different the music would sound in its grandiose new setting. I’ve been to a few video game concerts before, but I’d not been to something quite like this. The only one that would come close is perhaps A New World, but that was a bigger venue, with a smaller ensemble.

It was only once we had all quietened down inside Studio 2, Ian, the host from Square Enix had finished the introductions and the first piece began, that you could just feel the power of what the next hour would present.

Following on from a soft swell, Song of the Stars came into full force with a prominent flute melody. It sounds like a benign statement due to the loudness of the orchestra, but it felt like you could hear a pin drop – the audience was silenced by the strength of what was being played. With the accompanying string section, you could feel the emotion oozing out and when it all faded away to reveal an ominous sounding prelude on harp, there was a real juxtaposing sense of trepidation, but also genuine excitement for what would follow.

Not too much time was afforded to this rendition of the prelude before a swift transition took place. Within seconds it was clear to me that the next piece would be Dawn. Ever since this debuted during the Dawn 2.0 trailer, this particular piece has continued to resonate with me. Hearing it in this rather specific setting was therefore quite magical and it was aided by a piercing bass that entered following the conclusion of the first passage of the piece. This specific twist helped to give the piece a different dimension and I felt consumed by it. Even listening back, despite not being anywhere near as powerful through headphones, the cutting bass that enters helps to frame the sumptuous melody that it precedes.

This set the tone for what would become an unforgettable evening of music and with each passing track, this feeling became more pronounced. Even hearing Fight Fantastia, which let’s be honest, has been pretty much played to death in all of Square Enix’s promotional material, helped to heighten the experience. However, one theme in particular stood out (well, aside from Dawn), in the first half of the set list; Luna.

As a character, Luna has come in for some criticism following her role within Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV. It was therefore interesting to learn from Shimomura that Luna’s theme was influenced by her role within the film, as opposed to her role within the game.

The first part of the piece feels very heavy, with a melancholic woodwind section that starts off the movement, long swells from the string section and a minimalistic piano backing that is rather reminiscent to the famed Dearly Beloved from Kingdom Hearts. What follows sees the piece comes to life with rich emotion. A beautiful string section leads into a blossoming piece of music the pulls at the heart strings, even with no visual context.

Noctis’ Theme, which was heard for the first time during the performance, had a rather contrasting feel. There were, at least in my opinion, clear odes to Dawn, however this piece presented the melody in a more upbeat in nature. It’s made me more curious about the kind of character Noctis will be and I’m very interested to see the relationship between this piece of music and his actions throughout the story.

Omnis Lacrima and Apocalypsis Noctis both used the choir to full effect and other pieces of music, such as Starlit Waltz, which we have heard through various mediums, were delivered with exquisite precision. And even though Somnus, or Somnus Nemoris as it was once upon a time rumoured to be called back in the days of Final Fantasy Versus XIII, didn’t feature that glorious vocal lead, the instrumental version (as also featured in Kingsglaive), was delightful to hear.

There's just so much to run through, but I appreciate that while I've tried my best throughout this piece to summarise my feelings, nothing I can say will truly do it justice. This was a one-of-a-kind event and I feel blessed to have been able to attend. I'm not sure what I expected when I got to the event, but upon leaving, it's safe to say that whatever expectations I did have beforehand were shattered.

Here’s to hoping that the rest of the soundtrack will deliver the same quality as what we’ve heard so far is of a very high standard.

p.s. Yoko Shimomura is such a lovely lady! Watching her play the piano during Apocalypsis Noctis was amazing. I was only a few metres - she has so much energy!

Darryl was playing Final Fantasy before he was even born - quite a feat! Often very opinionated on the Final Fantasy franchise, you will often find him musing about small details. Feel free to follow him on Twitter.