Video Games Live at Red Rocks – A Musical Review

Posted on by HB Duran
RATING
  • Venue
  • Performance
  • Song List
  • Value of Ticket Price
  • Desire to Attend Again

VGL_high_res_logo_finalVideo Games Live is a world-touring concert experience that performs video game music with local Symphony Orchestras, choirs and special guests. Founded by video game composers, Tommy Tallarico (Advent Rising) and Jack Wall (Mass Effect) in 2002, Video Games Live is a celebration of the evolution of game music from “bloops and beeps” to Grammy award-winning masterpieces.

Per the official website:

“The main goal for creating Video Games Live was to show the world how culturally significant and artist video games have become.  Aside from being a celebration of the entire gaming industry, we also wanted to create a unique entertainment experience for the non-gamers and/or casual gamers as well.  By utilizing incredible visuals and interactive segments in such a unique way, we are drawing in an audience that may normally not be interested in attending a game music production.  Some of our greatest letters and e-mails have been from non-gamers who felt like their eyes were opened to a completely new form of entertainment and music.”

I had the pleasure of attending Video Games Live at Red Rocks on August 5, 2015. Thinking of checking it out when they come to your town? All shows are a bit different, as are the venues, but here is my review based on this particular concert:

Video Games Live in Denver, Colorado

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Historic Red Rocks Amphitheater is literally as old as the hills. Photo: HB Duran

Venue – 5/5

Red Rocks Amphitheater is a historical landmark; naturally formed inside ancient, massive stone structures, it has hosted the biggest names in music for the last 100 years. The epic, natural setting outdoors became the perfect choice for an equally epic performance, and we could tell how excited the guest composers were to play here!

If you ever have the chance to see a concert at Red Rocks, take it – it’s amazing.

Performance – 5/5

If you go to see Video Games Live, you need to realize that this is, first and foremost, the Tommy Show. Co-Founder and MC, Tommy Tallarico is talented and well-accomplished in the video games industry – and he has no problem telling you that! You can tell that Tallarico really wanted to be a rock star, accompanying much of the performance on one of his many electric guitars. (Technically, I guess he is a rock star, then!) Somehow his overflowing energy keeps the audience excited; after all, the orchestra is so calm and collected! Can you blame the guy for being so proud of where his career has taken him? Rocking out to an orchestra is a dream of mine, so I would be yelling and dancing around, too. You go with your bad self, dude!

The Colorado Symphony Orchestra is amazing! Conducted by Emmanuel Fratianni, this talented group performed every song flawlessly, even when a gust of wind blew a few pages of the music away. The Colorado Symphony doesn’t tour with Video Games Live, so I don’t know how much time they had to rehearse; but you’d think from the quality of the concert that these brilliant men and women have played these songs for years. The choir was awesome, as well, with only one misplaced tempo that I noticed, in the very beginning of Dragonborn from The Elder Scrolls IV: Skyrim. (I can’t help but notice – my piano teacher was very strict about tempo!) It was the yelling part, anyway. 😉

A Tetris Opera? Yes, please!

Providing vocals and flute accompaniment on the tour is Laura Intravia, who steals the show, but in a modest, HOLY BALLS LISTEN TO THAT VOICE kind of way! As a singer, I can SO appreciate the amount of power and control she has over her voice. Bra-vo. The audience loved her, too. One drunk guy behind me kept yelling her name, ha. Her range is incredible, and throughout the concert, Intravia wowed us all with opera and sweeping ballads in English, Russian and Japanese. Chills.

Halo LIVE – ’nuff said:

Song List – 4/5

Video Games Live at Red Rocks featured a wide range of music spanning decades of video game history. In this particular concert, we heard music ranging from classics like The Legend of Zelda and Tetris to modern masterpieces like Halo, Skyrim and World of Warcraft.

I especially enjoyed seeing the guest composers conduct their own songs. Lucasarts legends, Clint Bajakian and Peter McConnell played guitar along with a medley of Monkey Island, Grim Fandango and Double Fine’s Broken Age. I had been looking forward to hearing Grim Fandango live, and was not disappointed!

We were graced by Grammy award-winning composer, Christopher Tin who conducted Civilization IV and Grammy-nominated composer, Austin Wintory who conducted Journey and premiered new music from Banner Saga 2. Originally from Colorado, Wintory announced that he will be recording the Banner Saga 2 soundtrack with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. (Man, would I love to attend that session!)

A highlight of the evening was Blizzard composer and Audio Director, Russell Brower – conducting a piece from Warlords of Draenor, a gust of wind blew up at a climactic rise in the song; blowing his long hair and music around which made him look very wizard-like! Best part of the show, hands down.

Russell Brower gives whole new meaning to "totally wizard." Photo: HB Duran

Russell Brower gives whole new meaning to “totally wizard.”

The only reason I don’t give the song list a perfect score is because in my opinion, the encores were anti-climactic. The concert ended on a high note with a medley of Halo 1, 2 and 3. We had the opportunity to cheer for an encore, which is always fun, but what we received were rather low key sing-alongs and a beautiful original composition by Laura Intravia. Personally, I would have interwoven these songs earlier into the show and saved something high-energy with the orchestra for an encore, such as Dragonborn or Super Mario Brothers.

Value of Ticket Price – 4/5

(UPDATE: The tickets for this show ranged from $25-$45, with an optional VIP add-on for $100. The site where I saw the below prices was crazy inflated! Be sure to shop around before purchasing!)

Tickets ranged from $150 to $350 each for this particular show. The only reason I was able to afford the concert was because I was generously granted review tickets by the Colorado Symphony. The show is outstanding, but for the target demographic, the price seemed rather high to me. We had the best seats in the house (none of my photos were zoomed in at all), but they would have cost me upwards of $700 if I hadn’t been a member of the press! Check prices when they come to your town; you may be able to find deals or discounts for your desired show.

Desire to Attend Again – 4.5/5

I’ve been wanting to see Video Games Live for years. To finally be able to experience it in person was an opportunity I’m glad I jumped at! Between the venue and the promise of Grim Fandango live, I couldn’t miss it. For me, attending again would depend on the scheduled line-up. So far, I’ve missed every show where Akira Yamaoka performed songs from Silent Hill. If he came to Denver, I would lose my damn mind and pay whatever it cost to get in, plus extra for VIP access! (Who needs to eat?)

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Christopher Tin conducts his Grammy Award-Winning piece for Civilization IV.

Overall – 4.5/5

Video Games Live is something to behold. It introduces classical music to a whole new generation and opens your eyes to just how talented the composers and performers are! I brought my husband to the show, who plays games occasionally but is not engrossed in the industry as I am. He enjoyed the show overall, but felt left out for much of the references. He did, however, become fascinated by Skyrim gameplay and I, too found myself adding games to my play list thanks to the soundtrack and game footage.

Family friendly, Video Games Live is a perfect way to celebrate video games while introducing your kids to the arts!

For more information and tour dates, check out the official Video Games Live website! If you’re in Colorado, be sure to check out the Colorado Symphony Orchestra‘s Geek concerts, wherein they pay tribute to Comic Con, Pixar, Star Wars, movies, and recently, The Animaniacs!

HB Duran

VGNS Founder, HB Duran is a gamer, artist, musician and occasional game dev. From early forays into all-night NES sessions, her career has blossomed into working as a game industry journalist, artist, QA tester and consultant. “HB” plays a variety of game genres and platforms, but is best known for her love of Silent Hill.

4 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. HB Duran
    HB Duran August 10, 2015 at 10:25 am - Reply

    Took me a few days to find his name, but I wanted to give kudos to opera singer, Omar Najmi, who accompanied the orchestra and Laura Intravia with his beautiful voice. Great job, dude!

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