Review of Distant Worlds: The Final Fantasy Concert

I managed to get tickets to see Distant Worlds the Final Fantasy Concert performed at the Royal Albert Hall in London, and wow. Just wow. In case you hadn’t heard of it, Distant Worlds is a musical spin-off with Nobuo Uematsu and Arnie Roth performing a sort of greatest hits of Final Fantasy music performed by a full orchestra and choir.

Seeing them in London meant you got to see the performance with the Royal London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Maida Vale Singers rounding it off as the choir. As each show is a little different this occasion featured Rikki, the original vocalist on Suteki Da Ne, as well as Susan Calloway the chief vocalist on the Final Fantasy XIV soundtrack with Arnie Roth conducting.

While the songs play you are treated to various cutscenes from the games, so expect a mixture of blocky footage of Original Final Fantasy VII and cutting edge CGI during Aerith’s Theme

The set list featured was:

  1. Prelude (Final Fantasy Series)
  2. Apocalypsis Noctis (Final Fantasy XV)
  3. Victory Theme (Final Fantasy Series)
  4. DragonSong (Final Fantasy XIV) – featuring Susan Calloway
  5. Ignis and Ravus (Final Fantasy XV)
  6. Suteki Da Ne (Final Fantasy X) – featuring RIKKI
  7. Festival of the Hunt (Final Fantasy IX)
  8. Answers (Final Fantasy XIV) – featuring Susan Calloway
  9. Dancing Mad (Final Fantasy VI)

    Set 2

  10. Opening: Bombing Mission (Final Fantasy VII)
  11. Main Theme of Final Fantasy VII (Final Fantasy VII)
  12. Aerith’s Theme (Final Fantasy VII)
  13. JENOVA Complete (Final Fantasy VII)
  14. Cosmo Canyon (Final Fantasy VII)
  15. Cinco de Chocobo (Final Fantasy VII)
  16. JENOVA (Final Fantasy VII)
  17. One Winged Angel (Final Fantasy VII)
  18. Final Fantasy (Final Fantasy Series)
  19. Encore:
  20. Zanarkand (Final Fantasy X)
  21. Battle at the Big Bridge (Final Fantasy V)

To be honest the whole thing was pretty fantastic, and if you ever get a chance I strongly recommend you go and see it. I have seen bands like AC/DC, The Eagles, Lynyrd Skynyrd, KISS, Judas Priest, Metallica, Slipknot, and Billy Joel, and this is by far the best music I have seen live. I took a mate who had never played a Final Fantasy game, never listen to the music and even he was blown away.

I didn’t take many pictures, as I was toally lost in the moment and I hate people who sit at gigs constantly on phone.
Oh, and blurry Aerith

But if you really care, here are my impressions:

Worst: I’ll start with the worst as on a scale of 1-10 this was maybe a 5 or 6. This is Suteki Da Ne. I was excited to see Rikki perform the song as I can’t imagine many people will have done. But she is not a musician to the same standard as all these god tier musicians. She was a little flat in singing, and to be honest nobody sat around me seemed to be too enamoured with it either. The version on the CDs performed by… Susan Calloway is better.

Biggest Surprise: I have never played Final Fantasy XIV, so I don’t know the soundtrack. But Christ Susan Calloway is a fantastic singer. It turns out she is the vocalist on a number of the recordings with vocals on the 5 Distant Worlds albums. So her voice was recognisable, she shone with a full orchestra surrounding he, while Rikki wasn’t to the same standard.

Favourite Moment: Has to be Dancing Mad. Seeing this live with a room sized organist is simply brilliant.

Oddly disappointing moment: The second half of the set was entirely songs from Final Fantasy VII, now I LOVE the soundtrack to VII, it is my favourite soundtrack despite the Opera and Dancing Mad being on VI, but I felt they could have played a couple less songs from this one. Every concert has a version of the Chocobo Theme, so it wasn’t a surprise they played Cinco, since they were doing VII, but Cosmo Canyon? I like the song, it has it’s place, if you listed your top 20 tracks from VII it’d feature. But is it one of the best 22? I would only give this a 7/10 to be honest. It’s good, but everything else in the setlist in 9 or 10 out of 10. It ultimately makes Cosmo Canyon feel like filler. Yu also didn’t need two versions of the Jenova themes.

Couldn’t have been that bad, I took a picture of it

Top 5:

  1. Dancing Mad. Obviously, i’ve already told you it was my favourite moment.
  2. Apocalypsis Noctis. Never played XV, I think I will just to hear this song in context
  3. Aerith’s Theme. Yeah, yeah, I complained about too much VII, but Aerith’s Theme can’t help but uplift your soul. It is soothing to the core.
  4. Answers. I have the song because I own all 5 Distant Worlds albums (Its on Distant Worlds III) but I have never listened to it. She features very heavily on the album, but seeing this live has bumped Answers onto my main Final Fantasy playlist. On the CD it is a little schmaltzy, but live it is powerful and emotional.
  5. Battle at the Big Bridge. This is a “new” one, in that it is on Distant Worlds V, and Final Fantasy V. Which is the only one in the first 10 I have not played.

Blurry Kefka is Blurry

The big crowd pleaser was One Winged Angel, which to give it it’s dues is fantastic and everybody loves. But when compared to the technicality, composition, and musicianship of the other songs makes it feel a little like comparing Hanson to Tchaikovsky.

Overall it was fantastic, and would easily get a 10/10 for overall quality.

If you ever get the chance to see it DO. If by chance you were there and disagree with my summary why not shout at me in the comments.

I'm awesome. I write about videogames occasionally but spend most time painting and playing Warhammer in varying formats.

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7 comments on “Review of Distant Worlds: The Final Fantasy Concert
  1. pix1001 says:

    Great write up! I saw them last time they played London and was sad not to be able to make it down this time. It is really interesting to hear what different people pick as their highlights and such.

    My highlight was Cosmo Canyon all the way, nothing else comes close to that for me and I was stunned to tears when it started as I wasn’t expecting it – it’s my favourite track from the entire series! Looking at the track listing though there did seem to be an awful lot of VII so it might well be overkill!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. AK says:

    Nothing from FF8? That would have disappointed me. Still sounds like a great time, though. I saw what I think was a spinoff of this program at a con, a chamber orchestra that did a very nice job with the material, but I’d like to make it to one of these concerts.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Angie says:

    Oh I’m so jealous! I saw them in my college city many years ago and I’ve been hoping they’ll be back or come to a town within driving distance again, but no dice. To Zanarkand brought me to tears. Listing go everyone chant the lyrics to One Winged Angel have me chills.

    Liked by 1 person

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