Review: Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience | Phoenix New Times

Game Of Thrones Live Concert Experience Stuns Audiences With Spectacle

Spoilers inside.
Courtesy of Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience
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If you are reading this review of the Game Of Thrones Live Concert Experience and have not watched the hit HBO show that inspired the event that unfolded at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Sunday evening, consider this your spoiler warning.

Most of the audience in attendance were fans of Game Of Thrones, which is based on author George R.R. Martin’s "A Song Of Ice And Fire" series of books, so none of the epic tale's violent surprises would be ruined for them. They headed into downtown Phoenix decked out in outfits and hairstyles inspired by the players in the fight for the Iron Throne. If the eye-catching cosplay was not evidence enough, composer Ramin Djawadi asked for a show of hands from those in the audience who had not seen the hit series.

Several palms went up, including one belonging to my friend who was visiting from out of town and had joined me for the event. Djawadi pointed right at him and you could feel the eyes of thousands of people staring at us. I feared this would be an extremely long evening for my pal who was kind enough to accompany me. He doesn't know a Tyrell from a Targaryen.

The battle for power in the fictional world of Westeros is not something that even the most eloquent of fans can easily sum up at dinner several hours before the show. I humorously attempted to sum up six seasons of intrigue and spectacle for my buddy with the words “tits” and “dragons.” Djawadi and the talented musicians touring with him, along with local orchestra members, did a better job condensing the show into a two-and-a-half-hour highlight reel. They performed the show's sweeping music on the large, extravagant stage designed like the mechanized map featured in the show’s elaborate title sequence. Banners for each of the houses fighting for control of the Seven Kingdoms surrounded the orchestra as they set up the musical themes of the highest rated television program worldwide.

Throughout this concert, I wanted to see how this was more than an attempt by HBO to exploit the costly show’s rabid fan base and raise awareness for the show’s upcoming seventh season, which arrives a few months later than usual this year. Djawadi mentioned several times that the next seven episodes were coming in July. A promo even played at the beginning of the second half of the concert, which only confirmed my pessimistic suspicions.
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Courtesy of Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience

While in theory, the subscription service should be enough to pay for the beautifully rendered, computer-generated dragons that Daenerys Targaryen rides upon, Game Of Thrones continues to be the most pirated show on television. The network has to come up with creative ways to fatten their bottom line. Before season five began, IMAX theaters showed the last two episodes of season four on their oversized screens. An arena tour seems to be the next logical step for HBO to make some extra cash.

My pessimism did not last long. I felt the heat and fire rain down as the giant screens showed Daenerys laying waste to her enemies. It added a new dimension to a show I am heavily invested in. Watching Hodor nobly sacrifice himself to save Bran Stark from an army of White Walkers was already pretty emotional when I experienced it in my living room on my 32-inch television set while wearing my pajamas. Reliving the moment on a giant arena screen while an orchestra played the devastating accompaniment caused my feelings to run much deeper.

When you consider Djawadi only has a few months to flesh out each season’s score, it is phenomenal to see all the unique instruments the composer uses to bring his epic compositions to life.  It was as if he raided the inventory of the Musical Instrument Museum to find the sound he needed to sonically flesh out each character. Soloists, dressed in costume, walked around playing a didgeridoo, dulcimer, or a 12-foot horn resembling an elephant’s trunk that Djawadi created specifically for the tour. The musicians also shared a lovely rapport with each other. I caught the cellist playfully flirt with the violinist by poking her with his bow. It was a touching diversion to the drama and carnage that pummeled the audience onscreen.

Perhaps the concert’s greatest accomplishment was giving fans of the show a chance to collectively react to the violent saga in the same spirit as a sporting event. This made the arena setting much more suitable than a symphony hall. Cheering on Jon Snow while a brass section creates a feeling of despair seems more therapeutic than a talk show host quizzing a celebrity panel after each episode (I'm looking at you, Walking Dead). The crowd collectively gasped at Ned Stark’s beheading, voiced their disgust at Ramsey Bolton, shouted the word “shame” as Cersei Lannister began her Walk of Atonement, and cheered on Daenerys as she began her journey to King’s Landing. Marin’s fantastical creation warranted this beautiful spectacle.

The motivation for these audible reactions was lost on my friend, who walked out with more questions about Game Of Thrones than answers. Yet, like everyone else, he was enraptured by this massive musical spectacle. Djawadi stunned both fan and non-fan alike. I have the feeling my friend will be asking for my HBO Now password when he gets back home.

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Courtesy of Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience

Critic's Notebook

What: Game Of Thrones Live Concert Experience with Ramin Djawadi
The Crowd: Nerds!
Random Notebook Dump: It wasn't entirely instrumentals. Vocalist Stephanie Alexander sang a brooding ballad that made the Lannisters seem sympathetic. That empathy quickly dissipated as the infamous Red Wedding, where the Freys and the Lannisters give their violent regards to their enemies The Starks, played onscreen.
Personal Bias: I professed my love of Game Of Thrones and film and television scores to Djawadi during this interview. I could not be more pleased this cinematic show made it to arenas in such a creative way.

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