A sudden thrust of a chorus of violins began the concert with the iconic opening theme of “Game of Thrones.” Smoke billowed from center stage as the Iron Throne rose from beneath. Giant screens synced with the orchestra’s performance played the “Game of Thrones” title sequence, drawing the audience into the show’s world. The audience was now in Westeros, engulfed by the sounds of crisp strings, thunderous drums and a bellowing chorus. Though at times overwhelming, the “Game of Thrones” Live Concert succeeded in creating an authentic experience through its detailed stage effects and engaging musical performances.
Ramin Djawadi, the composer of the “Game of Thrones” score, directed the orchestra. While the soloists traveled with Djawadi for the duration of the tour, the members of the orchestra and the choir were local musicians. The choir skillfully supported the orchestra with its swelling background vocals, and the orchestra performed music true to the sounds heard from the series.
The stage design was captivating: Two large circles on each end connected an elevated pathway with spokes curving out from it. The orchestra performed on one end, while the other was used for solos. Above each circle were layers of massive cylinders with screens hanging from the ceiling. During the performance, soloists went out onto the spokes of the stage and moved into the audience. The concert was dynamic, given that the soloists interacted with both one other and the audience. All of the soloists brought the concert to life by taking on the ethos of “Game of Thrones” characters, through their movements, costumes and expressions during each song.
The horn soloist had the most striking musical impact of the concert. With a multitude of ambient noises, each solo was distinct from the last; this was primarily accomplished through the use of a variety of instruments ranging in size from that of a recorder to that of a stationary Tibetan horn. On television, these sounds fade into the background and thus the audience takes them for granted. Yet, in concert, the audience can recognize the important role that the strange low hums of the horn soloist plays in creating the atmosphere of “Game of Thrones.” The soloist’s passionate performance was one of the highlights of the concert, casting a spotlight on the musical beauty of what is normally disregarded as background noise.
Each soloist made use of the stage. Transforming with each new song to help frame the scene, the stage created the diverse locations of “Game of Thrones.” For the song “Goodbye Brother,” massive cylinders were lowered as a curtain rose around the first violinist during her solo. The screens on the cylinders transformed into the leaves of a tree, while petals drifted down from the ceiling. During the song “What is Dead May Never Die,” the anthem of the seafaring House Greyjoy, the cello soloist sat at the end of the stage with water splashing in front of him. One of best scene designs was of the show’s Church of the Seven, which was expertly crafted through lighting techniques. A single massive spotlight, shown through a seven-pointed star, hung from above, casting its shadow across the stage. The audience reacted most, however, to the song “Dracarys.” When the screens displayed the dragons from the show attacking their enemies, large blasts of fire shot up from the stage, matching and amplifying the intensity of the drums.
Though the stage and effects did help to bring the atmosphere of “Game of Thrones” to life, the concert felt overwhelming at times. Often, it was difficult to know where to focus. Giant screens played video clips that sometimes distracted from the performance. During one of the songs, characters from the show were shown on screen. The audience responded with passion that varied depending on the individual characters. The image of Joffrey Baratheon incited insults and boos, while Daenerys Targaryen received thunderous applause. While experiencing the passion of the “Game of Thrones” fans added to the charged atmosphere of the concert, it sometimes made listening to the orchestra difficult.
A significant highlight of the concert was Djawadi’s keyboard performance for the “Light of the Seven.” Djawadi spoke to the audience about his experience with the show and then walked across the stage and sat down at the piano. The song opened with a simple repeating melody, played softly by Djawadi. Watching the composer of the music perform this emotional solo was an inspiring experience. The song gradually grew more complex, as strings and vocals accompanied his melody. The keyboard rose as the stage began to glow green from below. Reflecting the intensifying playing of Djawadi, the stage lights grew brighter as the melody began to crescendo. Djawadi’s passion was evident as he played. This main set closer embodied the concert at its best, as the stage effects enhanced — rather than distracted from — the musician’s performance of the incredible soundtrack.
The “Game of Thrones” Live Concert had had an overwhelming amount of movement and effects, but the skillful performances of the musicians and Djawadi in particular are what made the experience memorable. The concert was at its best when the stage effects did not dominate the scene, but rather supported it, letting the music be the focus of the show.
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