I got to go to PLAY! A Video Game Symphony when the touring show hit North Carolina this month, and it was a phenomenal experience.
If you're not familiar with PLAY!, it's a live symphony performance of music from and inspired by video games -- from Mario to Halo -- with top-notch guest conductors ... conducting.
Our evening's guest conductor was composer, conductor, and symphonist Andy Brick (The Sims II, Arc the Lad, etc.), who aside from being a talented conductor, was personable, engaging, and entertaining (not a given in conductors, unfortunately).
Performances ran the gamut, with images from the games projected over the symphony as they performed, and to me the most technically and artistically sound pieces were the Castlevania, Kingdom Hearts, Halo, and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.
We were treated to two new performances in NC -- SIM City 4 and Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. The former was "OK" (solid, but not differentiated enough for my tastes), but the latter, while rousing in its own right, was even more enjoyable for me because it's one of the titles powered by my company's tech (of course, same goes for Oblivion).
My bias toward WAR and Oblivion speaks slightly to the subjective nature of this performance in general -- it's really going to depend on your emotional attachment to different games, and how those tunes resonate with you in their new form.
WAR was also enjoyable because WAR composer Brad Derrick made a guest appearance.
Also on the guest appearance front, guitarist Carlos Alomar performed on Silent Hill and the Chrono Suite. Alomar might not be a name familiar to you, but his work should be, since he's written and performed with the likes of David Bowie, John Lennon, Iggy Pop, Nine Inch Nails, Duran Duran, and more.
The venue -- the outdoor Koka Booth Amphitheater in Cary, NC -- is fantastic; despite being rained on through the last 4 performances (I was not going to leave, and, besides, I felt the rain added a certain additional gravitas to the Halo suite in particular).
As far as family-friendly (which the event is advertised to be) it's mostly there. There's some fairly disturbing imagery in the Castlevania Suite, and they basically show the entire launch trailer for Warhammer Online, which is bit intense for wee ones. For the most part, they did a great job with the content, and even Silent Hill kept from showcasing its more disturbing moments.
I picked up the CD / DVD combo after the performance, and framkly, am disappointed.
It's an OK CD, but did not (obviously) contain the two new performances from the evening, but it is also so dated that it does not even include the Mario suite, which I very much wanted in my digital library.
The DVD is a disappointment, and feels incomplete and unprofessional, though liner notes caveat this being the result of a challenge with the historic Prague recording location (which, to me, speaks to an opportunity to do it again, "right").
But overall, certainly a worthwhile experience (barring the OK leave-behind reminder), and one that I recommend to lovers of video game and / or symphonic music.