AndyO Blog

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Star Wars in Concert

A week ago, on October 13 , Cameron and I attended Star Wars in Concert at Key Arena in Seattle. If you haven't heard about this tour, it's a concert with a full symphony orchestra playing in front of a huge high-definition LED screen. For this event, Lucasfilm produced several montages from all six Star Wars films that play on the screen throughout the concert. Composer John Williams arranged new compositions for each montage. As an added bonus, there's a exhibition of movie props--from the original Darth Vader costume to Chewbacca to view outside the concert area before the show.

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My connection to the Star Wars: A New Hope soundtrack goes way back. It was one of the first records I ever bought (in fifth grade), and I played it until I wore it out. But as much as I love the Star Wars films and music, I'd never heard any of the music played live. Star Wars in Concert was the perfect opportunity to finally hear it.

Cameron and I had excellent seats, right above the left side of the stage, seven rows up. As we waited for the show to start, we heard lightsaber sounds buzzing over the PA, and the orchestra tuning up behind a white curtain. Kids waved their lightsabers around like glow sticks at a rock concert. Suddenly, the lights went out, and the symphony started playing the Fox Fanfare, like you hear before every Star Wars film. The white curtain dropped to the ground, and the symphony blasted into the Main Title, with hi-def images playing behind them.

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After each track, actor Anthony Daniels, who played C3PO in all six Star Wars film, came out and told the story of Star Wars, setting up each sequence -- like "Droids," "Narrow Escapes," "Princess Leia," etc. After he spoke, he'd either sit on a seat at the side of the stage or he'd go backstage.

The stage itself was designed to look like it belonged in the Star Wars universe. The massive orchestra filled the stage, and a choir stood in the back for the first half of the show. There were times that the hi-def screen just projected images of the orchestra, provided by two jib cameras swinging around on stage right and left and one stationary camera at the sound board.

sw3_yoda

The new arrangements of the music were good, but I think they could have gotten away with playing the soundtrack to certain sequences in the original movies. For example, they played the track for the TIE Fighter attack on the Millennium Falcon from Episode IV, but it was to a montage of all six movies. I'd even be willing to pay to go see a live orchestra play behind the entire original Star Wars film, like they did for E.T. - The Extraterrestrial.

Tracks that sounded especially good live were Anakin's Theme and Across the Stars (Love Theme from Star Wars: Episode II). These themes usually get overpowered by more exciting ones, like Dual of the Fates or the Main Theme; but in a live setting, sequenced at the right time, these themes take on a life of their own. I always like how Williams alluded to Darth Vader's theme in Anakin's Theme.

All in all, seeing this show was well worth it. I recommend this for anyone who's a fan of these movies or likes symphonic music.

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There are a couple of historical notes about the Star Wars soundtrack that show how important the music was to the film

First, during the 1970s most films didn't include symphonic soundtracks. If you go back and listen to many of those movies, you'll hear bands or minimal compositions. George Lucas knew that Star Wars needed the majesty of a full symphony orchestra to help propel the film.

Second, I read a story that Lucas showed Star Wars to an audience of friends, including Francis Ford Coppola, without the soundtrack (it wasn't done yet). Evidently, everyone who watched the film thought that it was a disaster. But Lucas must have known that the soundtrack that John Williams was writing was his secret weapon. 

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Here are some photos of the exhibit and the characters wandering around the exhibit:

 StarWars 022 StarWars 023 StarWars 024 StarWars 025 StarWars 026  StarWars 028 StarWars 029 StarWars 030 StarWars 031 StarWars 032 StarWars 033  StarWars 035 StarWars 036 StarWars 037 StarWars 038 StarWars 039 StarWars 040 StarWars 041 StarWars 042  StarWars 044 StarWars 045

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