Saturday Night: Final Fantasy: Distant Worlds At Jones Hall

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The Houston Symphony feat. Susan Calloway
Distant Worlds: Music From Final Fantasy
Jones Hall
July 16, 2011

Rocks Off scrambled like a mad bastard last year in order to catch Final Fantasy Distant Worlds at the Houston Symphony. This year, we were only marginally better prepared, but no less excited.

To be sure, much of the music promised to be the same, but there were enough significant differences planned that demanded our return to view them. In the negative category, unlike the first tour, legendary video-game composer and the mind responsible for most of Final Fantasy's stellar soundtrack, Nobuo Uematsu, was to be absent due to complications from the earthquakes. In his place, Final Fantasy XIII composer Masashi Hamauzu joined conductor Arnie Roth.

On the very positive side was the presence of soprano Susan Calloway, who has become a recurring musical voice in the game series through performances on the Distant Worlds albums. From her work on the tours and with Roth and Uematsu, she has graduated to an appearance in the main series. Calloway is scheduled to appear singing the song "Answer Me" in the upcoming Final Fantasy XIV, a game that is currently in the process of a massive overall for its PS3 release.

As the lights dropped and the music began, Aftermath thought that Roth made a mistake in his choice of opening number. Rather than utilizing what may the most famous musical overture in video-game history, the traditional harp-based main theme, Roth jumped right in to more action-filled numbers from Final Fantasy VIII.

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Lynda Rouner
Cheyenne as Aeris
Look, VIII had some of the best music in the series, we're not questioning that, but the game itself remains a black sheep in Final Fantasy fandom because of its chunky interface and feeling more like an interactive movie than a video game. What the music has in beauty, we think it lacks in emotional investment because more than a few gamers, us included, put down the controller long before the end.

It wasn't long into the first set though that we got what we had most been looking for, an orchestral rendition of "Melodies of Life" complete with chorus and vocal solo by Calloway. For our money, Final Fantasy IX is the most underappreciated of the games, released in an awkward time when people were preparing for the sixth-generation systems and disappointing fans who hungered for a PS2 release rather than a PS1.

The storyline of IX was Final Fantasy's last great epic tale, in our opinion, and no modern release has yet changed our mind on that subject. All of the action in the game culminated with the post-credits song "Melodies of Life" and to this day, we cannot watch the ending without tearing up a little.

Calloway delivered the song with power and grace, though we were a little thrown at first by the more classical arrangement of the tune having been so used to the cheesy J-pop and guitars of the original. Still, her voice brought to full life a moment we had until then held only alone in our hearts, and shared it with a packed house that soaked up her vocals like a desert soaks up rain.

We thought it would be impossible to top. We were wrong.


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6 comments
Yaynie
Yaynie

Last year was much better in my opinion obviously because they played a larger variety of songs. Dancing mad was pretty fucking awesome though. As for Susan Calloway I didn't really like how her singing went with the songs she sang. She wasn't a bad singer I just didn't like the way she sang them. (her pronunciation of "Suteki da ne" made me wince)  I agree with the guy who said she should have sung Eyes on me that would have had me in tears. I feel they should have not had so many of Masashi Hamauzu's songs from FFXIII they could have put some from X too. Overall it was good but not great.

Poop
Poop

Ah, my nerd is going to show, but I totally agree -- Final Fantasy IX was such an underrated game! I kinda freaked out a little when they played the main theme. I really wish they had played more music from the game, though, instead of so much from FFXIII, which was kinda too much at the end. I have to disagree with you on Susan Calloway, though. I thought her voice was generally too operatic and embellished to fit the songs, but it's probably akin to when you read a book and watch the movie, and it's just not how you imagined it. A song like "Melodies of Life" could've used a more subtle and ethereal vocalist. I'm surprised that the one song she was suited for, the sorta bombastic "Eyes on Me", was the only one she didn't sing. Really?   Also, seeing nerds at the symphony was just...weird. Still, I enjoyed the show overall. Even though the bartender didn't know how to make a gimlet (yeah, I was that asshole). 

Jef With One F
Jef With One F

I thought last year flowed better, was a bit more organic, but I really dug Susan. Maybe I'm biased because I would love pretty much any rendition of "Melodies" but I thought she brought a lot of pwer to the songs.

Musicbysusan
Musicbysusan

Wow this is funny to me cuz Im actually a rock singer ! LOL.  These songs kind of are what they are : "classically produced pop songs".   There aren't alot of ways to sing um. I would love to loosen up the interp, believe me, but the orchestra arrangements don't really allow for that.  You should check out my record and you'll see what I'm talking about.  

Poop
Poop

I mean I guess the fact that I was there makes me a nerd but like...I don't remember ever being THAT bad.

Also, I heard someone sobbing.

Jef With One F
Jef With One F

You should. I've been listening to her FB player all morning. She stomps colon.

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