Video Games Live presents a new spin on old and new classic game songs
When veteran composer Tommy Tallarico dared in 2002 to produce Video Games Live—an audiovisual spectacle featuring symphonic music—no one in the business thought it would work.
Tallarico recalls the game publishers, symphonies, and concert venues telling him “people who play video games don’t go to a symphony, and the people who do go to a symphony certainly don’t play video games. You’re crazy, kid. Get out of here.”
But 11,000 people showed up to his first show in Los Angeles, silencing the doubters and starting a wave of momentum that still rolls today. Video Games Live now holds a Guinness World Records for the most concerts performed by a touring symphonic production (450, and rising), as well as the record for most concurrent live viewers at a symphony: 752,000 at a concert in Beijing, China in 2015.
“No time ever in the history of music have millions of young people around the world come out to watch a symphony,” Tallarico says. “Before Video Games Live, it never happened.”
The concerts feature some of the greatest video game music of all time performed by symphonies and choirs around the world with rock ‘n roll lighting, special effects, dynamic video screens, and a little stage magic to heighten the experience.
“I like to say it’s all of the power and emotion of an orchestra, but combined with the energy and excitement of a rock concert, and mixed together with all the cutting edge visuals and interactivity and fun that videos games provide,” Tallarico says. “I created this show for everybody. You don’t have to know anything at all about video games to come out and enjoy it.”
Though, a familiarity with the music doesn’t hurt. Tallarico describes video game music as an intimate embrace of sound that’s much more personal than the scores featured in other interdisciplinary mediums.
“When you play a video game, you become that character, and the music that you hear throughout the game becomes the soundtrack of your life,” he says. “It’s very different than if you watch a movie.”
Tallarico arranges music from storied game franchises like Super Mario Bothers, The Legends of Zelda, Warcraft, and Mega Man, while also highlighting the music from newer games like Overwatch and Undertale.
“I wanted to prove to the world how culturally significant and artistic videos games have become, but the other goal was to help usher in a whole new generation of young people to appreciate the orchestra and to appreciate the arts.”
Multiple successful crowdfunding campaigns validate his ambitions. The current Kickstarter for Video Games Live’s latest album shot past $100,000 in just two days, and has since met its $193,000 funding goal with three weeks left in the campaign.
“It really is a show by the fans for the fans. They help me decide which new songs to create and to record on the new album and to bring on the road with us,” Tallarico says. “It’s a different setlist every night. Over the last 16 years, I’ve created over 170 different segments for Video Games Live, but we can only play about 19 of them a night.”
Tallarico curates the setlist from Facebook discussion threads for each city, polling attendees on what they’d like to see and hear. Their input complements fixed-attractions, like Jason Paige (singer of the original Billboard chart-topping hit from Pokémon, “Gotta Catch ‘Em All”). He’ll perform at Video Games Live in Edmonton and at each stop of the tour across the rest of Canada.
“It kind of gives away what the encore is going to be—but that’s OK.”
Fri., Mar. 30 (8 pm)
Video Games Live
Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium