Recent politics North or South of the border? Swipe left on that manure. Far better is the politicking around Westeros and the upcoming battle against the White Walkers. Game of Thrones fans are legion, and in the agonizing lull between seasons seven and eight, one good way to hang with the Starks, Targaryens, Lannisters, Tyrells, Baratheons, and Greyjoys (and any other families I’ve left off the list — here’s looking at you Boltons) is to hear the lush music performed by show’s composer Ramin Djawadi. Unlike a conventional orchestral event, The Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience is a spectacle for the ears and eyes.
I’ve sat among my fair share of orchestra audiences, and the Bell Centre audience doesn’t seem like the sort that would opt for three hours of 18th century pop by choice. Granted, there was almost no cosplay going on, but this was a jeans and hoodie crowd mostly. Fortunately, the team behind The Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience has a few tricks to keep everyone riveted. Sure, it’s what you might expect — photo montages and clips from all seven seasons, but there are also some rather funky instruments (a didgeridoo, the Armenian duduk, tablas, a dulcimer), a projecting stage echoing the aesthetic of the map that appears in the intro song, and a light and pyrotechnic show worthy of an 80s “metal” band. And that’s all just icing. At the core, the show consists of talented musicians and a solid chorus performing the beloved music. An especially appealing feature is that outside the core group of soloists (Molly Rogers, Pedro Eustache, Stevvi Alexandre, Michael Sobie, and others), the orchestra and chorus are local Montrealers.
The show is structured around select pieces, sometimes abridged, while progressing through each season sequentially. It’s runs as a refresher of major events — generally the big ones (ok, which ones aren’t big?) — the Red Wedding, Jon Snow and Ygritte’s relationship, the battle between Snow and Bolton, the attack on the wall, Cirsei’s walk of shame, her eventual defeat of the Faith Militant, Daenerys freeing the slaves from the masters, Daenerys’s dragons doing what dragons do, Melisandra being creepy, and the destruction of the wall. Every piece performed has a visual accent to compliment the action.
The audience is encouraged to cheer and boo their favourites. The politeness of Canadians, afraid to make their opinions known openly, unfortunately festers like greyscale. Only a few characters get the full love they merit, even fewer get the derision they deserve, and the ambiguous ones are greeted with a surprising silence. More encouragement is needed to get a Canadian crowd to participate. Anyway, to judge from what reluctant noises were made, though, Daenerys is crowd favourite. Jon Snow next. Then, there seemed to be a surprising hurrah for a few sexy dead folks, Oberyn Martell and Kahl Drogo. Arya Stark, Tyrion Lannister and Sam and Gilly also got a good hit. But I was surprised by the lack of boos for Stanis or Joffrey. Maybe everyone forgot them, considering how much people seem to hate hate hate Rodney Bolton.
The show has many highlights to it. Just after getting everything primed with the addictive opening credit theme, the first major highlight is seeing violinist Rogers being lifted 10 meters high in a dress that reaches the floor as red petals fall around her and onto the audience. Yes, she’s meant to be the Weirwood tree. Woodwind king Eustache on any instrument, especially when he whips around the flexible didgeridoo, is cool. The pyrotechnics that match with dragon scenes makes one fear for the musicians. Even halfway across the Bell Centre, I feel the heat.
The most impressive moments come when Djawadi himself plays. And, boy, can he play. He hammers out Arya’s theme, Needle, on the dulcimer with a swelling orchestra behind him. He rocks an electric guitar like a rock star, walking down the projecting stage. During season six closer, the “Light of the Seven”, he sits alone at a piano with the orchestra behind him. As the scene climaxes on the video screens, green smoke erupts from the stage below, surrounding him entirely, just as Cersei’s greek fire does the citadel. It’s dramatic and visually captivating. If there’s one thing to take away, it’s that Djawadi’s bold personality comes through in the show — and that’s saying something considering that there are many ways this show could have been presented.
Two and a half hours later, the show ends with a list of the dead. Isse Memoriam. There are even dead houses. I stay through the whole list, remembering characters who drifted into obscurity and feel sad over the loss of some who were too excellent to die (Margaery, I’m looking at you!). Fortunately, I begin to think of everyone who is still in play and wonder what role they will take in the final season against the White Walkers (not to mention, who will bonk?): Brienne of Tarth? Tyrion and Jamie Lannister? Theon and Yara Greyjoy? Sanza and Arya Stark? etc etc etc.
Overall, this spectacle is great fun for fans of the show (me, waving my hand in the air). It’s ear candy to hear the music performed live (me, waving my hand in the air again). I suspect even those dragged along by an enthusiastic pal/spouse/significant other/paramour/polyamorous family unit will be seduced by the epic music, but remain confused why everyone gets so excited over dragons. Hint: bring someone along who digs Game of Thrones. Shout your hearts out. Feel goosebumps and rage and joy at moments snatched from the show’s complex plot. It’s a great refresher if the land of Westeros sometimes seems as if it has drifted away across the Narrow Sea.
The Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience took place at the Bell Centre on October 12.