Tomb Raider – Live in Concert
With the rising and continued success of video game music concerts in recent years, Tomb Raider composer Nathan McCree decided it was time for the original Tomb Raider trilogy to get it’s own concert, and so Tomb Raider – Live in Concert was born. Featuring the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Robert Ziegler, a veteran conductor of film music concerts, and with Shelley Blond, the original voice of Lara Croft presenting, this concert promised to be a celebration of everything Tomb Raider.
Many people I knew were going to this concert at the Hammersmith Apollo, which is rare for me. First was Stephen Reid, director of Immersive Minds, a games in education consultancy of which I am part of the community team, I also saw friends from my Jiu Jitsu class, a friend from my old youth music service days and Mark Robins, Bethesda’s PR guy who is responsible for getting video game music into Classic FM. It was great to see all of these people.
Before the music began Nathan did a pre concert talk, in which many interesting things were revealed about him. He started out as a programmer, where he was asked to programme a music sequencer. After writing music for his programmed sequencer, the company were so impressed that he became a composer from then on. Nathan also talked extensively about interactive music, which he is a big fan of, being the thing that makes video game music unique, and pushing the technology of the original Playstation to it’s limits. His technique for writing this music was that he composed interactive pieces of music that were small enough to be flexible, and based on the in-game locations and how Lara is feeling at each point. For this reason, the original Tomb Raider trilogy’s concert equivalents are stretched out as they were too short to be effective concert pieces.
There was an immediate striking atmosphere as soon as the lights went down and it was time for the concert to begin. This concert did feature a big screen and some electronic sounds. It’s always a risk including electronics with a live orchestra but overall I think the balance was handled very well, and helped to make each piece of music feel like it came from the game.
After playing a dramatic introduction, Shelley Blond comes on stage to talk about the history of Tomb Raider, she was an engaging host, and there were plenty of funny jokes levelled at Winston the butler. Then it was time for the suite to begin. One thing that was very helpful to me was the big screen showing the names of each piece of music as they began. I want more game music concerts to do things like this as it can sometimes be easy to get lost if you’re not 100% familiar with every musical cue.
We began with the Main Theme of Tomb Raider. The main tune was passed between the oboe and the orchestra leader, while the harp and piano provided a very effective backing. My immediate thoughts were that the music of Tomb Raider translated to orchestra and choir incredibly well, with the choir having a very effective raw sound. It was great to hear this theme played with real instruments. This authenticity carried on with “Where the Depths Unfold” and “A Friend Since Gone”. I particularly liked the mix of guitar and harpsichord.
They even added some lighting effects to up the atmosphere even more. The lighting turned green for “The T-Rex”, which was very effective with it’s fantastic orchestration, depth and strong rhythms. Robert Ziegler always conducts with an engaging energy that really suits film and video game music concerts, and the style of Nathan McCree’s music came across incredibly well with this set up, and is dramatically improved by the very real and raw performance of the orchestra, which was evident in “A Long Way Down” and “Longing For Home”. The big screen then showed gameplay footage during “Time To Run”. All the musicians gave their all during this piece and it was a fantastic finale to the first game’s suite. The one thing that I think could be improved about this is if it was a continuous performance for each game instead of one piece of music at a time with clapping in between each cue, I think that would’ve made it flow better.
Then it was time for Tomb Raider II to enter the spotlight. The Main Theme has more depth than the original’s main theme and it made for another great opening for the game. Once again the main tune was passed between instruments (mainly the clarinet and strings). This was followed by “Vertigo” which was calm and emotional, followed by “Venice”. I particularly like the string orchestration of “Venice”, it was spot on for the location and time period as well as being true to the in game cue. This was followed by “Lara”, which was surprisingly moving and finishing with “The Skidoo”. This piece entered James Bond territory with it’s drums, excellent percussion work and intense strings. This was followed by some more talking from Shelley Blond. The moment with Winston the butler was very funny, but I thought the talking went on for a bit too long. The first half was then closed out with “Bonus Track”, another moving piece of music.
For the second half, it was the turn of Tomb Raider III to enter the spotlight. It began with the Main Theme as always, this one with even more colour and decoration and plenty of tribal sounds to create a different atmosphere. This different atmosphere continued with “The Puzzle Element”, which was light and elegant, something we hadn’t heard yet in this concert. This was followed by “Something Spooky in that Jungle”. The unusual percussion in this piece was almost entirely electronic, which sounds like a recipe for disaster but thankfully it wasn’t too distracting. This was followed by “Tony (The Loon)” and “The Cavern Sewers”. When it was time for “She’s Cool” the lighting was switched to blue, helping to give a more relaxed, atmospheric feel, a common theme for Tomb Raider III.
Nathan McCree really made a huge effort with this concert as he even included a brand new never heard before piece of music called “In the Blood”. This piece featured elements of the main theme and the atmospheric music from Tomb Raider III. It was an effective piece, I think it could’ve included a bit more variety but it did what it set out to do. On the screen they included very funny footage of Lara shutting Winston the butler in the fridge, something everyone who’s played Tomb Raider has done, which got a huge laugh and cheer from the audience.
This was followed by excerpts from a youtuber called “GeekEtiquette”, who has done let’s play’s of some of the Tomb Raider games, admiring the music in her videos, to demonstrate the impact it’s had on people. This was followed by a thank you speech from Nathan McCree and then finished with a final medley. This medley revisited some of the most iconic moments of the Tomb Raider Trilogy, it was varied, strong and a fitting finish to the concert.
Overall I think this concert was a big success, the music was orchestrated very well and naturally translated well to live performance, the musicians gave it their all as did conductor Robert Ziegler and it was a big celebration of everything Tomb Raider. There’s a few days left to pledge on Kickstarter for an album recording of this concert, which I think Nathan really deserves, do it here https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1636910846/the-tomb-raider-suite. Plus Nathan is looking at doing a world tour of the concert if enough people get behind it. Well done to everyone involved, and I hope this project can go on to reach further heights.
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Posted on June 12, 2017 by Joe Hammond. Last modified on June 20, 2017.