02/25/17 Uncasville, CT Mohegan Sun Arena
02/26/17 Philadelphia, PA Wells Fargo Center
03/01/17 Washington, DC Verizon Center
03/03/17 Montreal, QC Bell Centre
03/04/17 Toronto, ON Air Canada Centre
03/06/17 Boston, MA TD Garden
03/07/17 New York, NY Madison Square Garden
03/09/17 Charlotte, NC Spectrum Center
03/11/17 Sunrise, FL BB&T Center
03/12/17 Tampa, FL Amalie Arena
03/14/17 Atlanta, GA Philips Arena
03/16/17 San Antonio, TX AT&T Center
03/17/17 Houston, TX Toyota Center
03/19/17 Denver, CO Pepsi Center
03/23/17 Inglewood, CA Forum
03/25/17 Las Vegas, NV MGM Grand Garden
03/26/17 Phoenix, AZ Talking Stick Resort
03/29/17 San Jose, CA SAP Center
03/31/17 Seattle, WA KeyArena
04/01/17 Vancouver, BC Rogers Arena
04/02/17 Portland, OR Moda Center
Winter is already here… it’s Music that is Coming --
The Seven Kingdoms come to life in a way like no other as the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience kicked off its all-arena twenty-four city North American tour at the Xcel Energy Center in St . Paul.
Headed by score composer Ramin Djawadi who leads an eighty-piece orchestra and choir (with locals from the Twin Cities community and McNally Smith College of Music helping out), the two-set concert was one of the most immersive audio/visual experiences for any cinematic property.
Based on the HBO series adapted from author George R.R. Martin’s books, the world of Westeros was seen in all its glory through giant center and movable satellite octagonal three-layered telescoping screens, with special 3D designs rising from the stage floor as the orchestra performed musical score highlights from the series' six seasons on a 360-degree stage at the center of the arena.
The large stage was divided into three main parts with runways connecting each- the main stage (called King's Landing) featured Djawadi as conductor with the orchestra and choir, while the opposite end (Winterfell stage) was mostly for choir and also solo performances. In between those stages was a center with four smaller stages often filled with roving instrumentalists (some playing exotic instruments), with each named after different locations from the world of Game of Thrones.
Djawadi's previous credits include his Grammy-nominated score for 2008’s Iron Man as well as Pacific Rim, Clash Of The Titans and Warcraft and he recently worked on HBO’s Westworld, with bits from that score heard during the countdown to the main show starting.
The first hour-long set started with an exclamation as soundbites were heard through the speakers and a dry ice fog filled the stage, as the iron throne rose slowly to take its place near the center. Key moments between well-known characters, done mostly chronologically from the TV series, were shown on screens as the orchestra played.
Early in the show, a violinist memorably ascended a dais on the Winterfell stage as a translucent sheet fell around her, and the encircling video screens above bloomed with images of branches from inside a Weirwood tree as red leaves fell around her as she played.
Everything in the production was perfectly timed as their combining video clips and dialogue would interlace with the music being performed, with sometimes the video muted and only the audio heard. With the pageantry of the roaming musicians, size of the massive orchestra, special effects, and clips played on the screens, it was often a challenge trying to take all of it in at once, in the very best of ways.
The crowd that filled the arena’s lower bowl was varied—from younger die-hard fans of the show (some in costume) to older couples perhaps interested in the orchestral music, to everything in-between. The audience was mostly quiet and respectful; not as much as a pure classical concert, but more so than at a typical arena show.
‘The Rains of Castamere’ from season three (with Djawadi on hammered dulcimer) was particularly gripping, due to the nature of the scenes, with the music further enhancing it. Scenes from the show would often seem completely refreshed, watching them presented in this massive format with the live orchestra providing the soundtrack.
After a twenty minute intermission, the second seventy-minute set began, the story picking up from the halfway point of the series, highlighted by the Battle of Castle Black which takes place in season four. With a song about the North, a virtual snowstorm took place, both on-screen as well as in the arena as blowers sent the white flakes into the air.
A soloist came out in a tan dress to sing the song that plays during Cersei’s walk in ‘Mother’s Mercy’ as the crowd echoed what was on screen; chanting “Shame! Shame! Shame!” and soon after, ‘The Battle at Hardhome’ would transition directly into ‘Hold the Door’.
A highlight of the second set was undoubtedly ‘Light of the Seven’, bringing to life when Cersei blows up the Sept of Baelor in the series, with Djawadi on the far stage playing a rising and transforming piano as fire spurted from the stage and screens (with lighting turning it green for the wildfire bits) and the heat easily felt from my seat, halfway up the lower level.
After covering the moments from the show’s six seasons, the orchestra, conductor, and roving musicians, took their bows to a standing ovation, with Djawadi looking especially happy and relieved that it went so well.
“Every flight begins with a fall” Martin writes in the books, but the only miscues this opening night were a couple minor pixels out on one of the octagonal screens and an overly loud hydraulic rising and lowering on the Winterfell stage.
Things took a merry and whimsical turn at the end, with an encore-like performance of ‘The Bear and the Maiden Fair’, with Djawadi strolling about with guitar with other musicians playfully singing, "All black and brown, and covered with hair.”
Spoiler’s Notes- there is no reference to the series’ season seven, set to debut on HBO later this summer, as Djawadi has been so busy with other scores and this show, that he has not yet started work on the new score.
And, if you are not completely caught up on watching the show (like myself), a lot of the key scenes are shown, and the encore doubles as an In Memoriam segment on-screen, showing all the main characters lost along the way.
That said, Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience was an exhilarating and immersive experience; crucial for any die-hard fans of the show, for anyone that enjoys soundtrack music performed live, and even for the casual fan, as this provides a completely new perspective on the series.
“The brightest flame casts the darkest shadow” Martin writes in the books- in this case, the live concert can deliver both, in a way you’ve never seen before.
Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience at Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul (20 Feb 2017)