Reed Pake ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Getting to hear the beautiful music composed by the brilliant Yoko Shimomura performed live by a seventy-piece orchestra and accompanying choir was incredibly emotional. Disney Concerts, La Feé Sauvage, and Square Enix outdid themselves by organizing this magical world tour.
The first thing I noticed when I arrived at Washington Heights’ magnificently ornate United Palace theater was the eclectic group of fans eagerly awaiting the event. People from all walks of life, some travelling long distances, came together to attend the first-ever official Kingdom Hearts concert in the 15 years the series has existed. Some dressed up in cosplay, many wore their favorite Kingdom Hearts apparel, and a few dressed formally with Kingdom Hearts necklaces or bracelets to proudly display their fandom. The crowd was the most engaged and jubilant I’ve ever seen for any concert, period; they knew how special this evening was.
When the lights dimmed, the audience was greeted with Hikari, one of the most iconic Kingdom Hearts songs. From the opening notes, alone, cheers erupted from the crowd and many tears were shed. The Dream Drop Distance opening sequence played on a massive HD screen behind the orchestra, accentuating the music. You could feel the nostalgia flood into the room. And this was only the beginning.
Just like the aforementioned Hikari, HD video cinematics supervised by game director Tetsuya Nomura himself complemented each piece throughout the entire show. The videos perfectly synchronized for each song, adding context to the performances. In addition to the cutscenes, brand new audio clips performed by voice actors Risa Uchida (Kairi and Xion) and Megumi Toyoguchi (Aqua) occasionally played in tandem to the music. These monologues added to the Kingdom Hearts lore by setting up Kairi, Xion, and Aqua’s roles for the upcoming Kingdom Hearts 3. It was awesome to be able to get an early scoop on Kingdom Hearts 3’s plot.
The night’s two-hour long performance was full of old favorites and new composition alike. The entire series was represented in the setlist, including the new Wave of Darkness final battle theme from A Fragmentary Passage and Daybreak Town from the mobile game. Classics such as Dearly Beloved and The Other Promise were given fresh arrangements, giving these already gorgeous compositions new life. The new bombastic versions of songs such as Destati and Waltz of the Damned were especially goosebumps-inducing when delivered live.
The show came to a close with a surprise encore performance that prompted the sold-out concert venue to burst into applause. Yoko Shimomura used this opportunity to humbly thank the guests and announced that she would be performing the Kingdom Hearts 2 ending theme, Fantasia alla Marcia, on the piano as part of the orchestra. The composer conducted this final performance with a baton in the shape of the series’ iconic “Kingdom Key” Keyblade. This spectacular closing act made the concert that much more memorable.
The Kingdom Hearts Orchestra World Tour was nothing short of breathtaking. Early on, my expectations were shattered by the supremely-talented orchestra and Ms. Shimomura’s genius compositions and arrangements. I left the concert venue with my heart full and my wallet empty from all of the concert merchandise I was compelled to buy after witnessing this very special performance. That’s how you know you had a good night.
If you would like to hear some of the songs performed at the orchestra, here is a playlist featuring twelve of the arrangements.