I had the good fortune of watching the Legend of Zelda symphony in San Francisco the past week and I’ve got to say. It is not an experience I will be forgetting about anytime soon. Rather than a review I’ll simply be giving a recount of the night’s events and hopefully enough incentive for you to catch the symphony if it comes near you. Hit the jump for the rest of my adventure.
If there was an event that reaffirmed everything you believed in about a series what would you expect it to be? I found it earlier this week at a concert hall in downtown San Francisco where I sat amongst friends and fans to partake in an experience both grand and personal.
I didn’t know what to expect as Spencer (Destructoid’s community manager) and I got all dressed up and drove to the symphony hall that night. We had our ties straight, our 3DS’ on (for streetpass), and our charming smiles gleaming (for the ladies) and we were ready to embark.
The symphony hall itself was quite extravagant. I knew the location wasn’t going to be any run of the mill music hall but I really wasn’t prepared to see such a grand location as the venue for the night. As we were walking to the hall we came across many different individuals that were heading to the same destination. People dressed to the nines to cosplayers were all marching to watch the symphony (A shout out to all the cosplayers. You guys rock!).
We found our seats at the top (What you get for trying to save a little money on tickets) and after making some friends with the people around us, the show began.
The conductor (The lovely Eimear Noone) walked out and the first act of the night began with a Legend of Zelda medley that walked us through all the iconic themes of the franchise. The symphony was accompanied by a video that synchronized with the music and played scenes from all the Zelda games.
Now I’ve read early reviews of the Symphony from the people who attended the initial event a couple months ago and I had the CD that came with Skyward Sword but I hoped that they would change the playlist since then.
Well they did.
The next song to follow was Kakariko Village but what came afterwards had me bursting with happiness. The next song was a rendition of The Ballad of The Wind Fish. It’s safe to say I lost it there and we were only 3 movements in. It was a very atmospheric performance if I can use that term (I’m not a trained music critic) but it was very ambient and a beautiful arrangement of the song with the video accompaniment simply that of the bottom of the ocean. Perfect.
[I couldn't find a good quality of the original song so here's my favorite remix of the song]
The Ocarina of Time medley followed and I shed a manly tear. Well me and hopefully other people because the standout moment from the concert came from an absolutely amazing rendition of Saria’s Song and when the video began to recount the relationship between Link and the Sage of the Forest. All it took was a single sentence across the screen to remind everyone in the room what it was about The Legend of Zelda that was so special. It was the relationship we as players formed with the world and its inhabitants and how much we cared about the characters and how much they seemed to care about us.
Afterwards was the breathtaking Wind Waker movement and then the Great Fairy’s Fountain which sadly got off to bit of a bad start (Though nothing that derailed the entire show or even the song) accompanied by a lovely choir.
My biggest surprise came from the Twilight Princess movement. I honestly didn’t remember the music in that game to be so amazing. In my defense I lost my save file for that game halfway through and had to play the entire game again so the music in that game has been associated with frustration to me. It was refreshing to listen to the music of TP on its own without the game and it was quite the revelation. It involved the choir more than any other acts ( to my memory) and it was dark, and haunting, and simply enchanting.
The final act of the show was the music for A Link to the Past which came to the surprise of many people in the audience. Now I’m not familiar with the music of that game as much as the others so I didn’t have as much of a resonance with the final act than with the others but it was a rousing way to end the official show.
After an ecstatic standing ovation and some whispers in the crowd wondering if that really was the end of the show Ms. Noone reappeared, took up her baton and led us through Gerudo Valley at which point Spencer lost it. Though lacking the Spanish guitars the arrangement didn’t lose any of its visceral energy.
Finally the last movement of the encore. Ms. Noone came up, told the audience that they were always listening to fans and so had the composer create a special medley for the tour. It was a medley for the music of Majora’s Mask. The excitement spread like fire.
I asked at the beginning about affirmation and meaningful connections. Well that night reminded me of and renewed my love for the series. That no matter how much I’ve grown or how my enthusiasm for the series has weakened, there will always be a special place in my heart for The Legend of Zelda. It doesn’t matter how you feel about the direction of the franchise, how you feel about the games today, it’s about that moment we played our first Zelda game and how our imaginations were ignited. That somewhere deep down instinctively, we knew that this franchise was special.
If you have a chance to catch the show I strongly recommend you do. If you love music then you’ll be in for a wonderful night. If you love the series then the tour is Nintendo’s love letter to its fans.