Nier's Incredible Concert Brings Video Game Music To Life
The Nier games are truly special. From the original NieR that we received in the West back in 2010, to its sequel NieR:Automata which landed in 2017, these games go above and beyond thanks to their enrapturing stories, fascinating characters and in-game worlds that are just wonderful to be in. And yet, it's the music of Nier that stays with you most. Among these tracks are some of the most captivating pieces a video game has ever offered, including orchestral scores that have always felt as if they wouldn't be out of place in a formal concert hall.
Well, these pieces finally got the treatment they deserved thanks to NieR:Orchestra Concert re: 12018, a series of live music performances around the world. Featuring a range of compositions from both Nier titles, all composed by Keiichi Okabe (who's also worked on Tekken 7 and Drakengard 3, as well as the Ridge Racer series), the show came to London's Royal Festival Hall on February 2nd, and Square Enix were kind enough to invite me along.
Performed by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra and the Chamber Choir of London, each section of music felt right at home in the modern auditorium, with its minimalist wood paneling prioritising acoustics above all. Introduced by Okabe-san himself, each piece had a visual accompaniment either from, or inspired by, the games. The footage from the first game actually used the Japan-exclusive NieR RepliCant version, which isn't so familiar to those of us in the West.
The highlights of the night both came when vocalist Emi Evans took to the stage to perform two songs. Evans has performed on both Nier titles, along with games from the wider Drakengard series and Dark Souls franchise, among others. The final piece she performed for us was 'Weight of the World', an epic ballad that made for a stunning climax to the evening, especially because of its significance during the finale of NieR:Automata.
In short, the performance was beautiful. Conductor Arnie Roth cut a compelling figure throughout the show, pushing his musicians constantly and showing warm appreciation for the audience's applause. From the sombre tones of 'Snow in Summer', to the epic crescendo of 'Bipolar Nightmare', every piece of music was tied together seamlessly with the help of voice recordings from Nier series characters like Emil and 2B/E.
After a well-deserved standing ovation, Nier series director Yoko Taro and producer Yosuke Saito took to the stage alongside Evans and Okabe to tease future musical performances, and that's definitely something I'd like to see more of. As they joked about the expense of putting on these shows, it became clear that there is a huge, active audience for video game music performances. We've seen it with Final Fantasy, Zelda and others, but now that more obscure games have managed this transition into the concert hall, it's the right time for many more series to dive in.
Featured Image Credit: Square Enix