It’s been about two years since I saw the Distant Worlds concert in New Jersey. Distant Worlds is a series of concerts, still going strong, in which an orchestra and chorus perform music from the Final Fantasy game series. Nobuo Uematsu likes to make an appearance from time to time, perhaps just to show that he cares. Nobuo is credited as having written every song from Final Fantasy I through IX. Since then, he’s had a lesser role in the series. Happily, he was there when I attended the show in Newark, NJ.
Distant Worlds has a full orchestra. They played a fan favorite, “Dancing Mad.” Much as I enjoyed the show, I wish I hadn’t had to go all the way to New Jersey to see it. I think the venue they chose was a compromise to be near the most people in the tri-state area. This past Friday night, the show A New World came to Philadelphia, promising a smaller orchestra and a more “intimate” concert, still of Final Fantasy music. I took public transit that night to get there with plenty of time before the show started at 8:00 pm. So how was the show?
Better than I expected. A lot better, actually. The conductor, Eric Roth, was lively, and clearly cared about the music. When an audience member said before the start of “Gold Saucer,” “I love that one!” Eric was quick to say “I love it, too”. The orchestra was talented, though the first chair violin played with unusual timing.
Yes, there was a first chair violin, and a second chair viola, and a third chair viola, all women. Fourth chair was a man on the cello. Behind these seats, on the left was a pianist, Benyamin Nuss, who has been with A New World from the start. Clearly talented, he had two solo piano songs: “Heroes”, and “Gold Saucer.” To the right of the piano was a bassist (upright bass), a trumpet player, and then it was unclear what was next. There was definitely a flute, but it looked like there might have been another brass instrument (I couldn’t see everyone clearly from my seat). Finally, there was a xylophone, a drum set, and an acoustic guitar player. Intimate indeed.
What I liked about Friday’s show was the departure from the norm. Instead of hearing the most popular tracks in FF history, we heard songs like “Rebel Army” from FFII, “Fight With Seymour” from FFX, and “Elia the Water Maid” from FFIII. It occurred to me that the Nintendo Entertainment System was capable of playing only four tracks on its sound chip, and one was usually dedicated to percussion. Friday’s show had one song from each of the three NES games. Somehow, they got mileage out of simplistic tracks with an “intimate” show. Bravo!
I came away from A New World with a new view on Final Fantasy music. Lesser known songs found a home among a small but dedicated group of musicians. Also, Eric Roth really championed post-Nobuo Uematsu composers for the series (such as Yasunori Mitsuda) and reminded us, the series still has incredible music. A New World album purchase may be in my future, but I’ll buy digitally for high-fidelity sound.
To learn more about A New World, visit their website.