KINGDOM HEARTS Orchestra -World Tour- [6/14/17] Review

Monday, July 10th, 2017

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Kingdom Hearts Concert

Yoko Shimomura, the composer for the KINGDOM HEARTS series.

I am, unabashedly, a fan of KINGDOM HEARTS. I have played all of the games (KINGDOM HEARTS Re:coded included!), read the manga, and I even made earrings out of Oblivion and Oathkeeper once for a lady to celebrate her birthday. So when it was announced that the KINGDOM HEARTS Orchestra -World Tour- would be coming to the famed Dolby Theater in California to coincide with E3 2017, I jumped at the opportunity to purchase a ticket for the June 14, 2017 performance.

Kingdom Hearts Orchestra

Photos from the cold opening piece, Hikari -KINGDOM Orchestra Instrumental Version-. The pages flying during this piece are meant to represent sheet music. (All photos were taken with permission via an iPhone 6 Plus. I apologize in advance for the tilted camera angles.)

Kingdom Hearts Orchestra | Sora during HikariKingdom Hearts Orchestra Kingdom Hearts Orchestra Kingdom Hearts OrchestraKingdom Hearts Orchestra

KINGDOM HEARTS Orchestra -World Tour- is similar to other video game orchestra performances such as Distant Worlds: Music from FINAL FANTASY or The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses.  Just like in those two other concert series, the orchestra plays various musical selections/arrangements from KINGDOM HEARTS, and the compositions are set against a backdrop of cinema cutscenes from the franchises’ various titles.

The setlist for KINGDOM HEARTS -World Tour- (Approx. 2 hrs):

Part One

1) Hikari -KINGDOM Orchestra Instrumental Version-
2) Dearly Beloved -KH II Ver.
3) Destati
4) Organization XIII
5) Twinkle Twinkle Holidays
6) Treasured Memories
7) The World of KINGDOM HEARTS
8) Fate of the Unknown
9) Threats of the Land: KINGDOM HEARTS Battle Medley


Intermission


Part Two

KINGDOM HEARTS III Trailer

10) Heroes and Heroines: Characters’ Medley
11) Lazy Afternoons ~At Dusk, I Will Think Of You…
12) Vector to the Heavens
13) Wave of Darkness
14) Daybreak Town: The Heart of χ
15) The Other Promise
16) Let Darkness Assemble: Final Boss Battle Medley
17) Passion -KINGDOM Orchestra Instrumental Version


Encore


18) Fantasia alla Marcia


This setlist was curated thanks to:

1) KINGDOM HEARTS INSIDER
(Tweet Dated March 10, 2017; Most recently accessed July 8, 2017)
http://bit.ly/2uCRk7b

2) KINGDOM HEARTS Orchestra -World Tour- Program

3) Author’s own recollections.

The orchestra that performed the concert was fantastic, and there was a definite thrill to hearing music that I was so used to only hearing in the KINGDOM HEARTS games or via an OST soundtrack live. During certain pieces, such as Destati, a live choir was also utilized and I remember being surprised very early on at how well they were seamlessly integrated into the orchestra.

Kingdom Hearts orchestra | Destati

The choir definitely impressed me during the concert, especially with how well they meshed with the orchestra. (Photos taken with permission during the performance of Destati).

Kingdom Hearts Concert | ChoirKingdom Hearts Orchestra | Destati | DestatiKingdom Hearts Orchestra | Destati Kingdom Hearts Orchestra | Destati Kingdom Hearts Orchestra | Destati

As KINGDOM HEARTS is a video game series that has expanded far, far beyond just KINGDOM HEARTS I and KINGDOM HEARTS II, it was quite appropriate that all of the games were represented in some form or another during the concert. This even includes the include the latest two entries: KINGDOM HEARTS 0.2 Birth by Sleep -A fragmentary passage-, the cinematic KINGDOM HEARTS χ Back Cover from the PlayStation 4 exclusive KINGDOM HEARTS HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue released in January 2017, and some video footage from the iOS/Android mobile game KINGDOM HEARTS χ.


The concert-exclusive canon cutscenes were well scripted and performed, and even though they were each fairly short, I was found myself still entranced by the leading ladies of the KINGDOM HEARTS series.


All of the cinematics were supervised by KINGDOM HEARTS’ director Testuya Nomura, and all but three pieces of the concert were set against a montage of clips from the KINGDOM HEARTS franchise. Of the three outliers, Dearly Beloved -KHII Ver. was set against a series of real-world video clips that ranged from ocean waves lapping against the shore to a city at dawn, that was obviously meant to be more abstract than concrete cutscenes from the games.  Fantasie alla Marcia was set against the credits for the concert itself while Yoko Shimomura, the composer for the KINGDOM HEARTS series, accompanied the orchestra on the piano.

Kingdom Hearts Orchestra | Dearly Beloved

Kairi’s monologue served both as the lead-in and accompaniment for Dearly Beloved -KH II Ver. This musical piece did not contain video of the the in-game worlds but instead had real life video clips accompanying it instead. (Photos taken with permission).

Kingdom Hearts Orchestra | Dearly Beloved Kingdom Hearts Orchestra | Dearly Beloved Kingdom Hearts Orchestra | Dearly Beloved Kingdom Hearts Orchestra | Dearly Beloved

The third exception, Twinkle Twinkle Holidays (which was a medley of Nightmare Before Christmas’ Christmas Town in KINGDOM HEARTS II and Neverland in KINGDOM HEARTS I when flying around Big Ben), curiously had no video accompaniment aside from the composition’s title card, and I cannot tell if this was done on purpose or if it was a glitch with the video. Due to the focus being placed solely on the orchestra for Twinkle Twinkle Holidays as a result, it became abundantly clear that the strength of the video game concert genre comes not just from the music, but from the videos themselves, as the overall piece (while performed amazingly by the orchestra, and I still definitely enjoyed it) ended up lacking the crowd’s enthusiasm and energy that existed for the other pieces and it felt very much like the oddball as a result. This sole blip did not lessen my enjoyment of the concert, however.

After the intermission, the newest trailer for KINGDOM HEARTS III (focusing on Hercules’ world) was played for the audience. If you haven’t already seen it, please check it out:

One of the things that was most-touted things about the KINGDOM HEARTS Orchestra -World Tour- was that it would contain exclusive canon cutscenes. These three cutscenes, interspersed throughout the concert, each focused on one of three people: Kairi, Xion, and Aqua. The cutscenes did not contain any deep plot revelations, but they did showcase more of the three different character’s motivations leading into KINGDOM HEARTS III, and they served to show a deeper glimpse into each their own individual personalities. The concert-exclusive canon cutscenes were well scripted and performed, and even though they were each fairly short, I was found myself still entranced by the leading ladies of the KINGDOM HEARTS series. With that being said, the only disappointing thing about these cutscenes was that in order to really understand the full context of the dialogue and to understand why these characters feel the way that they do, you had to have played all of the prior entries of the franchise up to, and including, KINGDOM HEARTS 0.2 Birth by Sleep -A fragmentary passage-. Furthermore, while Aqua’s and Xion’s cutscene imagery showed the character models, supporting cast, and worlds themselves, Kairi’s served as a seamless lead-in/tie-in to Dearly Beloved -KH II Ver. and contained the same video imagery style as that piece:

Kingdom Hearts Orchestra

Kingdom Hearts Orchestra

The various voiced pre-recorded tracks were overlaid the orchestra’s performance, and it was so expertly mixed that neither drowned out the other. (Taken with permission).

During the concert itself, Yoko Shimomura (with a top notch translator, as Shimomura-san does not speak English) appeared on stage during several occasions to thunderous applause each time, and it was obvious that she was clearly moved by how much everyone loved and appreciated her music. After the concert’s encore closed with Fantasie alla Marcia (which Yoko Shimomura accompanied on the piano), Shimomura-san spoke again to the audience and thanked us with great sincerity for attending and then introduced Tetsuya Nomura on stage, who promised news for KINGDOM HEARTS III at D23 (which runs July 14-16, 2017). That all being said, I was more than a little bit surprised that the conductor did not address the audience as well.

Kingdom Hearts Orchestra | Organization XIII

Organization XIII was the fourth piece performed during the KINGDOM HEARTS Orchestra -World Tour- Concert. The audience clearly had their favorites, and were cheering when that Nobody would appear on screen. (All images taken with permission).

Kingdom Hearts Orchestra | Organization XIII Kingdom Hearts Orchestra | Organization XIII Kingdom Hearts Orchestra | Organization XIII Kingdom Hearts Orchestra | Organization XIII Kingdom Hearts Orchestra | Organization XIII Kingdom Hearts Orchestra | Organization XIII

Overall, I loved the concert. With a concert length of approximately two hours (which included the intermission), KINGDOM HEARTS Orchestra -WORLD TOUR- was an amazing opportunity to see all of the music of a series that is now entering its fifteenth year. While there are no new dates announced, it is my fiercest hope that the concert series extends its run to be brought to more of the world because (to be honest) I would love to see it again.



The KINGDOM HEARTS Orchestra -World Tour- CD can be preordered from the Square Enix Store (Release date August 2017).

What is your favorite KINGDOM HEARTS music piece? Where would you like to see the concert come to next?

Let us know in the comments below!

About Quentin H.

Likes pina coladas and getting caught in the rain. And video games. Cannot forget those video games. Anime too. Should not forget that either.