Electric pairing: video-game music at Red Rocks

"The Legend of Zelda — 25th Anniversary Arrangement" is among the crowd favorites during the "Video Games Live" touring production. (Courtesy photo)
“The Legend of Zelda — 25th Anniversary Arrangement” is among the crowd favorites during the “Video Games Live” touring production. (Courtesy photo)

By Marc Camron
Rocky Mountain Gamer

Once upon a time, video-game music consisted mainly of electronic bleeps and bloops, usually indicating a shot being fired, a crude ship exploding or a little yellow face scarfing up dots.

These days, game music often features the sort of sweeping scores one might expect to find in an epic film or on Broadway.

Colorado gamers and music fans alike will get a taste of that Wednesday when “Video Games Live,” a traveling symphonic show showcasing video-game music from the past 30 years, performs with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra at Red Rocks Amphitheater to showcase one of its most ambitious shows yet.

Not only is Tommy Tallarico creator and CEO of "Video Games Live," he plays guitar in the show. (Courtesy photo)
Not only is Tommy Tallarico creator and CEO of “Video Games Live,” he plays guitar in the show. (Courtesy photo)
“The reason I created ‘Video Games Live’ is I wanted to prove to the world how culturally significant and artistic video games in general are, let alone (the) music,” said Tommy Tallarico, founder and CEO of “Video Games Live.”

Indeed, creating “Video Games Live” was no easy task.

“It took me three years from forming the company to put on our first show,” Tallarico said. “We only did three shows the first year, but we’ve been growing ever since, and 2015 will be our biggest year yet.”

Tallarico performs 40-50 shows each year, all over the world. The next month, a particularly busy one, will find him bouncing from Australia to Texas to Colorado to Cologne, Germany, then to China and Malaysia — 16 shows on four continents.

But the Red Rocks show really has him psyched.

“Everybody is so excited about Red Rocks, and it’s one of Tommy’s dreams to perform (there),” said Tony Pierce, a vice president of program innovation for the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. “So we’ve got a bunch of special things coming to the table that don’t always happen at the ‘Video Games Live’ shows.”

In addition to some of the most popular pieces from the “Video Game Live” repertoire — including “The Tetris Opera,” “The Legend of Zelda — 25th Anniversary Arrangement” and music from “Halo,” “Final Fantasy” and “Donkey Kong” — the Red Rocks concert features a plethora of special guests and world premieres.

Thanks to Red Rocks’ standing as one of the finest music venues in the world, many composers agreed to come and conduct their best works: legendary LucasArts composers Peter McConnell and Clint Bajakian, with music from “Monkey Island”; Christopher Tin conducting the first video-game song to win a Grammy, from “Civilization IV”; Russell Brower, composer for Blizzard Entertainment, conducting music from “World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor,” and Denver native Austin Wintory conducting music from “Journey,” the first score from a video game to be nominated for a Grammy for Best Score Soundtrack. “Journey” lost to the film “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”

31DCFGAM-4World premieres at “Video Games Live” include music from beloved adventure games “Grim Fandango” and “Broken Sword,” as well as Wintory’s upcoming music for “Banner Saga 2.” The “Banner Saga 2” performance will be accompanied by never-before-seen visuals from the game. The premieres also will act as something of a warm-up for the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, which will record the game’s official soundtrack this fall.

In addition to all the great music and the kinetic video content that goes with “Video Games Live,” fans are encouraged to participate in many different ways. Before the concert, “Guitar Hero” players who wish to show off their skills can compete to play onstage while the Symphony performs in front of an envious audience.

Tallarico also encourages people to dress up as their favorite video-game characters and show their cosplay skills onstage.

“It’s a chance to stand on the same stage the Beatles and U2 did,” he said.

And, as with all the “Video Game Live” shows, everyone is invited to stay after the concert for a meet-and-greet with Tallarico, the performers and the special guests. It’s all part of sharing the love of the music.

“It’s a big program that really shows off the orchestra,” and it emphasizes one of the Colorado Symphony’s goals, Pierce said.

“Sometimes people have their initial exposure to the Colorado Symphony (at shows like this), so we need to show them what the power of live symphonic music can be,” he said.

For Tallarico, running “Video Games Live” is a dream come true. Performing for more than 20,000 people in venues as varied as Red Rocks or sports stadiums in South America, Mexico and Asia — it all proves his instincts were right.

“They said, ‘You’re lucky if you sell 500 tickets’ … but 11,000 people showed up to that first show (at the Hollywood Bowl), and I’ve been doing it ever since,” he said.

If you go

What: “Video Games Live” with the Colorado Symphony

When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 5

Where: Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 18300 W. Alameda Parkway, Morrison

Tickets: $25-$45

Info: 303-623-7876, coloradosymphony.org, 720-865-2494 or redrocksonline.com

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