Tag Archives: Concerts

Review: NieR Music Concert Blu-ray

The NieR soundtracks have been wildly popular, so it should come as no surprise that the music has enjoyed multiple tours throughout Japan and one-off performances as parts of other game music concerts. This Blu-ray features recorded performances from all seven shows from the 2017 Japan tour, and this is required viewing/listening for any NieR fan.

The performances feature vocalists Emi Evans, J’Nique Nicole, and Marina Kawano, but the unique voice of Nami Nakagawa is absent due to other obligations she had. That made the shows even more interesting thought as Evans and Nicole learned her songs and performed them with a different twist. Essentially every song with vocals was performed at the event, along with a hefty load of vocal drama read on-stage by the actual voice cast. The drama is presented in Japanese, and had members of the audience in tears by the end of it. Those looking only for the music will also be moved by the beautiful renditions of “Peaceful Sleep,” “Vague Hope,” and “Weight of the World,” where the audience is invited to join in. The duet version featuring Evans and Nicole on “Song of the Ancients – Atonement” is a real treat to see, and the child singer on “Pascal” is also super cute. To top it all off, they perform several tracks from the original NieR as an encore, which should leave any NieR fan completely satisfied.

As to the arrangements, there’s a wonderful string quartet along with composer Keigo Hoashi on piano. They have guest guitarists and of course the beautiful vocals. Various electronic elements are played from a source rather than performed live, which is a bit of a bummer, but the performers who are on stage are all top-notch. Keiichi Okabe himself emcees, and is visibly moved by the audience reactions. Having been in the audience for the final show (the default performance when you press “play” on the Blu-ray), I can tell you the level of excitement was through the roof.

Go grab it on CD Japan. The slip case is especially cool as it reflects the game’s Chaos Language depending on how the light hits it, creating a really cool effect. It’s definitely worth checking out.

Review: BRA★BRA FINAL FANTASY BRASS de BRAVO 2017 with Siena Wind Orchestra

We’ve covered a lot of Brass de Bravo, and shortly after Brass de Bravo 3 was released, Square Enix held a live performance at the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan. This is a Blu-ray recording of the concert, and it’s a riot. I’ve attended and viewed many concerts over the years, but this one looks like it was one to attend. The set list centers closely around the Brass de Bravo 3 album and focuses heavily on Final Fantasy V, VII, and IX, but the quirkiness of the event and fan participation really set it apart, and as such, I’ll focus mostly on the event.

There’s a full wind orchestra that is heavy on clarinets and saxophone, although other interesting instruments are featured, including the ephemera and more. I was lucky enough to watch alongside a saxophone player who was able to comment on the instruments while we watched. The event is emceed by none other than Nobuo Uematsu himself alongside Mami Yamashita. Uematsu has a great time and even performs on a few of the tracks. The fun begins with “Moogle Theme,” which opens with a man dressed in a moogle towel explaining rhythmic clapping and dance moves that the audience needs to perform along with the song. The moogle man is ousted by a pancho and sombrero-wearing man who takes the audience through even more ridiculous dance moves. The audience complies, which is a lot of enjoyable silliness to watch. During the Final Fantasy main theme, the audience is invited to play along with their own recorders, creating a pretty amazing sound as dozens of audience members join the orchestra. The second half sports some smaller ensembles, including a swingin’ “Dear Friends,” an intimate “Elia, Maiden of Water,” and a fun “Vamo’alla Flamenco,” complete with traditional Spanish tap dancing with the percussion section gripping roses between their teeth. They let the audience pick the final track, which was surprisingly “Festival of the Hunt” from Final Fantasy IX instead of “Battle on the Big Bridge.” The encore was another audience participation track: “Mambo de Chocobo.” This time, everyone who wanted to participate came up on stage with a variety of instruments… lots of shakers, a plastic trombone, a melodica running through a laptop, and more. It was completely wild and looked like a blast.

While the arrangements on some of these are straightforward, this concert footage is downright fun. If you’ve enjoyed any game music concerts on video, this is definitely one to get. Invite some friends over, have some drinks, and get ready for some laughs!

Grab it on CD Japan if you’re interested.

Review: Kingdom Hearts Concert -First Breath- Album

Square Enix has taken the Kingdom Hearts series on tour, and this release represents the first collection of music made widely-available from said tour. A lot of fans have been greatly looking forward to this release, and as expected, they hit a lot of the highlights from across the series.

The album opens with “Destati” with its slow and intense buildup with lots of tension and energy in the brass and percussion sections. The beautiful “Dearly Beloved” gets a slow and measured version with doubled-up piano and harp and an offset xylophone that gives the arrangement a nice twinkle. “Traverse Town” is sleepy and slow, giving way to a nice jazz arrangement, while the rambunctious “Hand in Hand” features rolling snares and a marching band-esque approach. “Journey of KINGDOM HEARTS” offers a little of everything as a medley of locales that touches on tropical, jazz, and spooky. The slow sway of “Lazy Afternoons” is simply perfect, while “The Other Promise” is sometimes somber and other times foreboding, “Another Side” gets tense piano and woodwinds before rock percussion explodes onto the scene, and “Gearing Up” is made regal with big brass added to its playful and bouncy melody. “Destiny’s Union” is slow and dreamy with a doubled-up piano and harp and a flute lead, “The Unknown” is tense with low xylophone notes and steady brass stabs, “The Power of Darkness” gets big brass and percussion and cool triangle and chime work. Finally, “March Caprise for Piano & Strings” is a triumphant and bombastic march.

In all, this might be the definitive way to enjoy the music of Kingdom Hearts! The packaging is also quite nice, coming in a glossy cardboard sleeve. Grab it on CD Japan if you’re interested.

Review: Distant Worlds: music from FINAL FANTASY THE JOURNEY OF 100

Wow, I can’t believe Distant Worlds has hit 100! I caught one of the first few shows, and I’ve never been disappointed with a performance since. Their album recordings have also been fantastic, and in recent years, they’ve ventured into video. It’s great that they’ve made available their 100th show on Blu-ray for long-time fans and attendees like myself and those who haven’t been able to make it out to a show.

Arnie Roth conducts and hosts the show, recorded in front of a Japanese crowd. They play many of the classics, including the iconic “One-Winged Angel,” a lovely healing rendition of “The Prelude,” the rousing “Final Fantasy” theme, and the wondrous “Main Theme from Final Fantasy VII.” Some new arrangements come courtesy of Piano Opera Final Fantasy pianist Hiroyuki Nakayama, and are a real treat. “Balance is Restored” from Final Fantasy VI stands out in particular, visiting several of the game’s key themes, along with Susan Calloway’s rendition of Final Fantasy XII’s vocal theme, “Kiss Me Good-Bye,” “Roses of May” from Final Fantasy IX, an explosive “Torn from the Heavens” from Final Fantasy XIV (with Masayoshi Soken in attendance), singer Emiko Shiratori reprising her role as vocalist on Final Fantasy IX’s “Melodies of Life,” and an amazing battle medley covering Final Fantasy I – XIV which picks some often-missed tracks, including the final battle theme from Final Fantasy V and a jazzy rendition of the Final Fantasy VIII battle theme. The orchestra reacting to the fan reaction to “Swing de Chocobo” was cute, too, as well as the upright bass player really getting into the piece. Finally, the encore “J-E-N-O-V-A Complete” was also fantastic, really pushing the orchestra to adopt an aggressive battle sound.

My only criticism would be that the MP3s are not hosted on this Blu-ray disc! Still, I enjoyed watching it from start to finish. Given the recent Distant Worlds III album release didn’t feature many of these new arrangements, I’m hoping we’ll see yet another Distant Worlds CD release in the future with these new arrangements on them so I can listen on the go.

The Blu-ray is definitely worth your time. The booklet is stuffed full of comments from the creators, all in English as well as Japanese. Grab it from CD Japan if you’re interested.

Review: BEFORE THE FALL: FINAL FANTASY XIV Original Soundtrack

Square Enix has released another massive collection of music from Final Fantasy XIV, this time from several recent content updates. Fans were impressed with the initial soundtrack offering some months back, so it’s a bit of a surprise to get another collection totaling over four hours of music so soon. But who can complain when the new music composed mostly by Masayoshi Soken is so good!

There isn’t as diverse of a range presented on this album: it’s mainly darker and more ominous than the previous album release, but there’s a lot to love. Many of my favorites include the rock tracks that were performed by The Primals on their From Astral to Umbral arrange album, including the contemplative “Thunder Rolls” and the grungy rock “Oblivion.” Other favorites include the melancholy choir piece, “A Light in the Storm,” the exotic and ambient “The Edge,” the atmospheric and dreamy “The Warrens,” a dark organ and choir version of the vocal theme “Answers,” and the explosive orchestral track “Hamartomania,” which sounds like something out of Metal Gear Solid. That’s in addition to several references to classic Final Fantasy tunes that fans of the series will enjoy.

My favorite thing about this soundtrack, which is presented on Blu-ray disc, is that it hosts some bonus content, including live performances of piano and The Primals sets from this year’s Final Fantasy XIV festival in Japan. The footage is quite substantial, and includes some interesting moments, including Soken himself creating makeshift percussion out of cardboard boxes while he plays a track on piano and performing a duo on one piano for another.

Final Fantasy XIV fans will want to check this out. There is over four hours of music to enjoy in addition to the fantastic concert footage. Pick it up on CD Japan if you’re interested.

Review: BRA★BRA FINAL FANTASY BRASS de BRAVO

I’m probably not the only person who thought this album was going to be a brass album. It’s called Brass de Bravo, after all. What you’re going to get, however, is more along the lines of a small ensemble with, yes, a fleshed out brass section, performing mainly orchestral arrangements. Apparently there was a live performance featuring a brass group in conjunction with the Siena Wind Orchestra, which explains this sound. Fortunately the fun selection of arrangements and suites make up for the confusing album title, so let’s dig in. Continue reading Review: BRA★BRA FINAL FANTASY BRASS de BRAVO

Review: Distant Worlds III: more music from Final Fantasy

Distant Worlds has always been exceptional, from the live concerts to the album recordings. I figured after the first two albums and the live Blu-ray concert recordings, however, that we wouldn’t be seeing more from the series. Then came along Distant Worlds III with a mixture of new arrangements and old ones that have been hard to come by.

Can Distant Worlds do it a third time? Read more below. Continue reading Review: Distant Worlds III: more music from Final Fantasy

Review: A New World: Intimate Music from Final Fantasy

As a huge fan of music from Final Fantasy and the Distant Worlds tour, I was immediately interested in their A New World event, which is meant to be a much smaller, intimate ensemble-based affair. Their live performances were held too far away for me to attend, but I patiently awaited the release of an album so I could get in on the action, and that’s finally here.

What we have is a live recording from their London performance, which features the aforementioned ensemble complete with pianist Benyamin Nuss. Does the concert and recording live up to past efforts from the Distant Worlds team?

Read our review below. Continue reading Review: A New World: Intimate Music from Final Fantasy