It’s Dangerous to Go Audio, Take This: Zelda Symphony

Video game music is something that is near and dear to my heart. Even as a wee bairn in the 80s, or was it the 90s? Anyway, whenever it was last century, I could be found using my passed-down cassette player to record the various sounds that console sound chips at the time struggled to force through the family tube television. I think only the addition of rabbit-ears antenna would have made this opening paragraph more dated. Man, I remember listening to FDR on the wireless….

Anyway, my desire to capture the euphoric soundtracks of Kabuki Quantum Fighter and Low G Man aside, I say this because I needed a preface for my next statement: I never really found the Legend of Zelda soundtracks as enthralling as others might. Now, hold your white-maned horses, I’m not saying that I ever found them awful and there are some great tunes in there and I listen to and enjoy a lot of the ZREO stuff, but I never found it resonating with me unlike, say, Suikoden or Shining Force or Breath of Fire or, yeah, some of the Final Fantasies.

So when I decided to attend the Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses event, it was more in support of the concept and the spectacle than the intense physical desire to hear the “dun dun DUN!” bit performed by a hundred bored musicians performing material that they would surely feel was below them. It was also out of a desire to see some big breasted milk maidens, or at least some saucy Gerudo ladies. Failing that, I would settle for a particularly handsome Hyrule soldier. Failing that… I’d go with a Goron. Take what you can get. They seem like they’d be good cuddlers.

I guess I knew things were going to be a bit special when I arrived to the throng of people outside the Chicago Theatre. It was never going to be an empty house, of course, but we’re talking sell-out levels here with about 3,600 people turning up for the event. Everyone, including myself, was using the opportunity to load up on Streetpass connections (thanks for helping me get those Streetpass related Theatrhythm trophies, guys!), which may have dulled conversation a bit but, hey, we were honouring our silent protagonist that way. As an aside, if you’re going to a Zelda concert and are planning to go all Streetpass, don’t make your Mii Link. It’s really the super most obvious thing ever and now I have about 40 of them running around in Mii Plaza and I have to pick which ones are going to be made into Kokiri Burgers. Kudos to that one creative Zelda Mii though.

zelda concert
In a field where even orchestral tracks are usually synthesised, it’s impressive to see any sort of live symphonic performance, I think.

“Excuuuuuuse me, Princess” you might be thinking at this point, seeing as I haven’t mentioned anything about the, y’know, music yet. The music was excellent. I mean, I can’t say much about it, you have to listen to it. It was really good work and made me appreciate the music of the series more. Even the best quality sound file rips pale in comparison to some of the goodness we got that night. I got goosebumps during the opening and as the evening went on, I realised how many more evocative Zelda tracks there are than I had previously remembered.

Speaking of realisations, you don’t really realise how many concerts would be improved by a giant screen showing skeletons being hit with swords until you witness it yourself for the first time. We got served up a dungeon medley, a Kakariko Village medley and then the (awesome) Song of Storms. Of course, being October in Chicago it was already raining so all the jokes had already been made but there you go. Here’s a replacement joke: What do you call it when Link takes a dump in the TARDIS? Legend of Zelda: A Stink to the Past. Ho ho ho.

For those of you still with me after that, then the concert proper kicked in. Four movements, each one revolving around a classic game of the series: Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker, Twilight Princess and Wand of Gamelon. Or maybe it was Link to the Past. Biggest reaction of the night goes to Irish conductor Eímear Noone pulling out her Wind Waker baton (uhuhuhuhuhuh) for the Wind Waker movement. I can’t say that every performer on stage that night loved Zelda or whatever, but both Eímear and organiser Jeron Moore certainly know their stuff.

Even the merchandise was (relatively) reasonably priced. $35 for a t-shirt and poster may seem like a lot but this is in a city where $35 will get you two cokes, if you’re willing to let your server spit in the second one. Always get your merchandise straight away, guys, or you’ll end up like me when I went to an Authority Zero concert and got a small t-shirt after the event in my excitement, which works great for a 6’3” man with a 34” waist. Luckily, I got my swag early and spent my time laughing at everyone else. No, I’m joking, I was really trying to look down Skyward Sword Zelda’s dress. No, I’m joking, it was Saria. Okay, it was Groose (that hair!). Don’t tell anyone.

zelda concert cosplay
Flash in a theater? Last time I did that I got probation.

I tried to get some photos but as my C-F assigned camera is a box with a bird inside holding a slate and chisel a la The Flintstones, I decided to use my cell phone instead. So I was not afforded the chance to herd cosplayers together with my giant camera yelling “Smile! You’re on Herpaderp Website!” but I did get this great shot of my boots when I forgot the camera was on a two second timer. I am not bitter.

Things wrapped up with three encores. Three really obviously planned encores but we ate it up at this stage as no-one was ready to leave. Ballad of the Wind Fish, Gerudo Valley (for the ladies, or at least the ladies who steal men to get themselves impregnated, so the cast of Maury, I suppose) and a Majora’s Mask medley (by popular demand because everyone knows Majora’s Mask rocks). Rocks, moon. No? Okay. You don’t understand how Pavlovian you are until someone pretends to leave and comes back three times and you cheer each time.

Real talk, I’m not saying you should go to this thing if you have no interest in Zelda or orchestras or video game music in general. It’s too expensive for that, the cheap seats are about $30. If you’re on the fence, however, I say go for it. It’s an experience and the sense of a very real, tangible community experiencing this long-running game series with you. The music was great, with some really interesting takes on some of the tracks, the laughs were many and no-one even whined about the convoluted timeline too much. It was wonderful. How many opportunities will video game fans get to enjoy something like this? I doubt I’ll get to see Suikoden: Symphony of the Crap Side Games any time soon.

Regardless of whether or not video games are art, video games certainly contain art and music is one of the most amazing forms of artistic expression. Over the past 40 years or so, composers and technicians have crafted superb tracks first out of beep and boops and progressing further and further to the fully orchestrated soundtracks we (sometimes) enjoy today. Symphony of the Goddesses showcases this art form and evokes so many emotions and memories in the listener as most good music does that there’s really no reason for me to restrict it as “a video game concert.” This is music and you should listen.

For more information on Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses, which will be touring Texas, New York, Florida, California and Alberta, Canada in the coming months, check out their website.

One thought on “It’s Dangerous to Go Audio, Take This: Zelda Symphony”

  1. “Regardless of whether or not video games are art, video games certainly contain art and music is one of the most amazing forms of artistic expression.”

    word. what a great night.

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