The Adrienne Arsht Center hosted an orchestrated performance that has been 25 years in the making. The music performed has been critically awarded, has a large following, is an international sensation and has transcended its place from its original genre of video game music. What began as single, 8 bit digital sounds has now been transformed into a remarkable performance by a 71 piece concert arrangement. After traveling and being happily received in gorgeous concert halls in Japan, Sydney, London, and New York, finally South Florida received the lifetime work and performance of Nobuo Uematsu. Distant Worlds: music from Final Fantasy played fantastically leaving applause, smiles and tears in its wake at the Knight Concert Hall.
As wonderful as the concert was, there was a chance that it may have never come to pass. As the story goes, the original producer of the acclaimed video game series was about to fall out of the industry over two decades ago. He tried one more time at what he assumed would be his final work, hence the name Final Fantasy. However, he also brought along a young composer for what he assumed would be his final project. Nobuo’s genius may have been limited to simple sounds that could make a fisher price keyboard look like a grand scale piano, he produced simple masterpieces. In fact, the music of the series has been regarded just as highly as the games. Years later in the nineties when teenagers were quoting teeny bop songs from NSync, Britney Spears, and Backstreet Boys, they were also humming along to the first full scale concert arrangements of Final Fantasy 7’s “Theme of Aerith”.
For years artists like Nobuo were discredited and marginalized. It was not his fault that his work was a casualty of the greater genre argument of whether video games could be considered art. Luckily, Nobuo was able to stay a step ahead of the criticism and labeling by using inspirations from Jimmi Hendrix, Elton John, and even hard rock styles to give his music life and stay in the hearts and minds of its listeners. Just listening to the original Nintendo songs and then in a full symphony arrangement is a remarkable moment of appreciation. It’s as if all these years Nobuo knew how astonishing his music was meant to be, patiently waiting to unleash them from their old technological restraints.
Nobuo’s greatest gift as a composer is in understanding that his work must be given back to those that gave it such a following. This is not music that was simply used for background filler; it was emotional, powerful and driven. It was full of pomp and courage for the action sequences that allowed young heroes to be a dashing knight, and it was tender and comforting when faced with the death of a beloved character. The previously mentioned theme of Aerith and “Road to Zanarkand” fall into the latter category, and Grammy award winning conductor Arnie Roth individually noted the emotions of these pieces by presenting two real life wedding proposals for the entire concert hall to witness. The newly engaged couples kissed, applauded by the audience, and Nobuo could be caught smiling; his music celebrates victory and accomplishments, what greater conquest could be honored by his music than that of love.
Those who came into the Knight Concert Hall on November 23, were in for a wonderful night. Vocalist Susan Calloway enhanced the event by providing some soothing, strong, and magical lyrics to many of the romantic songs like “Eyes on Me”. But one song in particular was also anticipated, and Nobuo would not disappoint for an encore. It was this one song that was a fitting end to a night of dreams fulfilled and new experiences to look forward to. The infamous “One Winged Angel” is a piece so evil, complex, and harrowing that it brings back images of a cruel villain. Nonetheless, fans sang out the Latin lyrics with huge smiles knowing that their musical hero Nobuo Uematsu was nearby hearing “SEPHIROTH” in Miami.