[ATTENDED: July 10, 2016] Pokémon: Symphonic Evolutions
We have been really enjoying the Mann Center this year. And since Clark (whose birthday was not so long ago) has been really enjoying Pokémon this year, this seemed like a perfect evening–orchestral Pokémon music at the Mann.
A friend of ours had seen it and said it was fun, so we bought some balcony seats (never been up there before), had a meal en route at Red Robin (yum), and made it with minutes to spare. There were no baseball cards for this event (pity), but there was plenty of people watching.
I really didn’t know who would come to this show. I assumed it would be families with little kids. It never occurred to me that there would be hundreds of cosplayers here too. There were people in costume (!)–I didn’t get any good pictures–there were 20- and 30-somethings in Pokémon hats and shirts and there were plush Pikachu all over the place (including in the orchestra!).
The conductor was Susie Seiter and the music was composed by her husband, Chad Seiter and his co-worker Jeron Moore. The original press release states:
This has been the brainchild of me [Chad] and co-creator Jeron Moore for over 7 months now…. We have all been working very closely with The Pokémon Company International to create an authentic Pokémon experience, and all the music is approved by original Pokémon composer Junichi Masuda himself.
The show is turning out awesome – we have a large 80+ piece orchestra, and I’ve been working on 80 minutes of new arrangements, putting the Pokémon music into an epic symphonic Hollywood context. The show will be conducted by my wife, and LEGEND OF ZELDA: SYMPHONY OF THE GODDESSES conductor, Susie Seiter – who has also painstakingly orchestrated all the music. It will also feature innovative percussive and electronic accompaniment by Andrew Aversa.
So we sat down and out came the conductor. But before the show started, Chad came out and introduced the show. He said that this was the first show they had performed since Pokémon Go came out and they took a photo of all of us holding up our login screens. For some reason our game wasn’t connecting there, which was very disappointing since we heard everyone saying–there’s Charmander, there’s Squirtle. There’s even a photo of someone catching a Pikachu in the audience.
I have seen a few orchestral shows before, but there was something really amazing about this one. Perhaps it was where we sat–the angle was great–or perhaps the size of the orchestra, but it was so much fun to watch this spectacle. And, yes, the music was pretty fantastic too.
What made the show especially fun, though, was the audience. Typically an orchestral show is quiet and reserved. Not here. The crowd went nuts before each piece and went absolutely crazy when their favorite Pokémon came on screen. I had to assume the orchestra really enjoyed getting wild cheers instead of polite applause.
The entire premise of the show was cool. The music and visuals showed the journey through the history of Pokémon video games. There was a giant projection screen behind the orchestra and as they played the Overture, the title screens from all of the different games scrolled past:
- Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue
- Pokémon Yellow
- Pokémon Gold and Pokémon Silver
- Pokémon Crystal
- Pokémon Ruby and Pokémon Sapphire
- Pokémon Emerald
- Pokémon Diamond and Pokémon Pearl
- Pokémon Platinum
- Pokémon Black and Pokémon White
And people whooped and cheered for their favorites.
I can’t say that I know much about the music from Pokémon, but Clark assures us that the music wasn’t actually from the games–whether the music was original or taken from the game and transcribed for orchestra I’m unclear.
For the songs proper, they would show a title and then as the orchestra began they would show a clip from the game. Most of the clips were dialogue-based, with snatches of the “plot” spelled out with dialogue (here’s a short video from Instagram). But some of the clips also showed some battles.
It was interesting to watch the early games, looking so very 8-bit. But also to see how the gameplay has evolved over the years. The first games really set out to explain just what the heck was going on. I also enjoyed that the graphics always had to write the word like this: POKéMON to fit in the accent. The visuals of the battles also became more interesting as the games evolved as well.
It was really fun to follow along with the videos on screen. And occasionally they would project the orchestra playing. Often they focused on the first violinist as he did solos. We saw the cellists a few times and the oboists. I really enjoyed when they got the camera back by the kettle drums. And once in a while, the camera would focus on the conductor’s face–something you don’t see too often. She was animated and fun and clearly having a ball. (Although, I must say it was a little sad seeing so many empty spots in the audience).
I especially enjoyed watching the percussionist. A woman in the back would migrate from xylophone to cymbals to tubular bells–carrying her music with her from station to station. It was really cool seeing tubular bells played in person (and so clearly–the sound was outstanding as I have come to expect from the Mann). There was one time when I saw her rush back to her cymbals and crash them just in time.
And this is where the coolness factor hit me a few times. These were people playing this music live, right in front of us. I mean, duh, but not duh. The music was flawless–80+ people perfectly in sync, playing some wild intense music and some quiet beautiful pieces. Realizing that if she hit those cymbals a second late everyone would have noticed. It was especially easy to forget them because we were watching a video–but the orchestra was right there and you could focus on one section and be amazed.
During intermission, we wandered around a bit and watched others play Pokémon Go. I bought the two posters for the show (and watched the very last plush Pikachu get sold).
For the second set, the graphics got better and the music grew more intense. Although from the start, the music was pretty great. There were no lulls, no slow movements used as a connector to something else. There were certainly a few slower pieces–ones that brought us back down after the intensity of some of the other songs. But most of them were dramatic and action filled. It was great.
During the last few pieces, some electronic music was added. I couldn’t see who was doing it, but it was a neat addition, especially during the “Fights” section of the “Friends, Fights and Finale” piece. It had such a dramatic start that Susie even turned to look at us as if preparing us for what was to come.
And that was it.
Except not, because unbeknownst to me, there were going to be two encores. The first was a delight for Sarah: the Pokémon theme song (Gotta Catch Em All) which Sarah seems to get stuck in her head a lot. It was neat hearing it orchestral but even more fun was that they told the audience to sing the words (and the conductor even turned around and conducted the audience) who sang enthusiastically and quite well. The final song was the end credits to Pokémon X&Y, and Chad told us that the song KISEKI (which means miracle) originally had words but since it played over the closing credits of the game, it was just instrumental. For the concert, they showed us the words karaoke-style and it was while reading those words and thinking back to some of the other story lines that I realized that Pokémon was more than just a weird kids game.
I mean, on the surface it’s really weird–catch animals in a ball and have them fight for you. And maybe that’s how it started, but they really tried to put a lot of thoughtfulness into the stories as well. And, combined with the music, it made for a surprisingly emotional ending.
Oh and Chad and Susie signed our posters after the show, which was pretty neat.
- Pallet Town (from Red, Blue, and Yellow)
- Prepare for Trouble (from Red, Blue, and Yellow)
- Born to be a Champion (from Red, Blue, and Yellow)
- Ecruteak City (from Gold, Silver, and Crystal)
- Songs of the Towers (from Gold, Silver, and Crystal)
- … (from Gold, Silver, and Crystal)
- Ancients of Hoenn (from Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald)
- Falling Ashes (from Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald)
- End of the Road (from Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald)
- Dreams and Adventures (from Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum)
- Routes of Sinnoh (from Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum)
- The Lake Guardians (from Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum)
- Pokémon Center
- The Day I Became King (from Black and White)
- N-Counter (from Black and White)
- Farewell (from Black and White)
- An Eternal Prison (from X and Y)
- Welcome to Kalos (from X and Y)
- Professor Sycamore (from X and Y)
- Friends, Fights & Finales (from X and Y)
- Gotta Catch ’em All (Pokémon Theme)