Exploring Distant Worlds: the Final Fantasy music concert

For an even more personal experience, I suggest listening to the Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy CD while reading this story. The CD is very good at capturing the quality of the concert and it a must have for any Nobuo Uematsu fan. 

Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy–The Concert

Come with me, for tonight we will be transported to the universe of Final Fantasy on a mystical ride carried on the wings of the music of the great Nobuo Uematsu, music composer for the Final Fantasy series.

These are the memories of my magical night at the gala affair a short while ago.

7:45 pm–A cool brisk night in the suburb of Rosemont, right outside of Chicago. We walk into the fabulous Rosemont Theater and look at what is front of us. The foyer is filled with people from all ages and nationalities, talking about Final Fantasy this and that. "No, you can’t forget to draw Siren out from the boss on top of the communications tower." "Well I went to Altepa, but had to switch out of my monk job and go white mage. I think I did a pretty good job at it."

This wasn’t some nerd infested convention hall — quite the opposite in fact. Everyone was wearing something formal, from the suits and sports jackets on the guys, to long elegant dresses complimenting the stylish hairdos on the girls. This was an orchestral concert, so everyone was acting their part. We walked up the grand stairway and into the balcony section where it seems we landed some pretty sweet seating arrangements. No need to bring your binoculars because our seats were dead center, hovering above the ground audience in what seemed to be a throne for a king. Everyone is able to find their appropriate seats and the concert hall is almost full! The turnout is quite surprising, but when such an event occurs so rarely, you can’t just let it slip by.

ff concert

8:05 pm–the Chicagoland Pops Orchestra and Festival Choir are prepared to start a memorable night of musical excellence. Out from the darkness the spotlight is fixed on the conductor of the night, Arnie Roth. A loud cheer erupts and Mr. Roth takes a bow and without an introduction heads straight into the first composition, Liberi Fatali from Final Fantasy VIII. Above the heads of the orchestra hung three large screens in which the opening scene and other various scenes from Final Fantasy VIII played out. The scenes play out perfectly with the composition, and the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It’s starting to be a surreal experience, with the sound of the instruments radiating so vibrantly across the whole concert hall. The video captures the audience in such a symbiotic way together with the orchestra that your emotions get the best of you.

Arnie Roth and the whole orchestra and choir bow before the audience as cheers ring out. He tells us a little about himself and how much work the orchestra and him put in to making this night as enjoyable as possible. He then tells us we are "off to Zanarkand". And off we go again, now to the vast, colorful world of Final Fantasy X. We see the relationship between Tidus and Yuna unfold as the game and song progress, finally being treated to the moving "The Sending" scene in which Yuna sends the spirits of the dead to the Farplane. The lights go down, the song ends and cheers ring out once again.


The stage is still engulfed in darkness, but something appears on the three large screens. It looks like Zell is having an argument with Seifer again, but the text is in Japanese! Everyone gets a laugh out of this, as the whole scene continues to go by in Japanese. Finally the player controlled Squall runs off the screen which starts the memorable "mechanical spider chase" across the town of Dollet. What other song can be more appropriate in a time like this than "Don’t Be Afraid," the famous battle song from Final Fantasy VIII. It looks like Squall ran into some trouble and now has the fight a guard, but luckily Selphie summoned Leviathan to take care of him quick. The team continues to run for their lives and even though the graphics of this game, compared to today’s technology, is primitive, the composition of the battle song thrusts us into the scene, cheering for Squall to get out alive, even though we all know what happens in the end. The song reaches its final grand forte sequence and Squall does a slow motion jump into the carrier as Quistis rains down canon fire from above. Cheers fill the room and Arnie bows once more. This is turning out to be one hell of a night.

"One of my favorite characters from any of the Final Fantasy’s is Aeris. And here is her theme," explained Roth. The slow, melodic tune that set the tone for the rest of Final Fantasy VII was played extremely well. Accompanied by scenes of Aeris when she first met Cloud, to when they talked on top of the playground alone and together. Fond memories of a girl that didn’t spend too much time in the story, but might’ve had the greatest impact to the player. The flutist plays her final sequence and Aeris above prays to the Lifestream, as her materia slowly falls into the water.

Then we head back to the roots of Final Fantasy in a brilliantly composed medley of a few great songs that came out of Final Fantasy I, II and III. The art made famous by the great Yoshitaka Amano was pictured on the screens, followed by newly made CG movies from Final Fantasy III. No doubt this was a tour down memory lane for some of the audience members as they remembered their days playing these games on their NES. How beautiful 8 and 16 bit midi can sound when played by an orchestra! It really revitalizes the games where limitation of technology restricted grand imagination. As we see our sprite characters traverse the flat over world, soothing and light hearted violins play in the back. As they are transformed into full blown 3D as seen in the CG intro of Final Fantasy III, upbeat violinists play the famous Chocobo theme.


"There is really one character in all of the Final Fantasy’s that we can say we adore, our yellow friend, the Chocobo!" The audience is in full agreement and gets a laugh at the spirited Roth as he conducts the ragtime/jazz/swing sounding theme for dear Chocobo. And to our surprise a little yellow 8 bit Chocobo is dancing on screen! The audience gets a kick out of this and cheers the chocobo on. Soon we are introduced to the transformation of the chocobo in each of the Final Fantasy’s, starting with a cute 8 bit sprite all the way to Final Fantasy VII’s clunky bird. And what is this? Tidus’ chocobo seems to be dancing along to the beat of the song! What a great ending to a theme of such a beloved reoccurring character.

Popular themes that seem to resonate in many games of the series are war, conflict and struggle. No doubt Final Fantasy XI exemplifies these themes as you are chosen to represent your nation in an epic battle against the beastmen. And what song can represent this theme better than Final Fantasy XI’s own "Memoro de la Stono: Distant Worlds". Accompanied by a female singer who sang the song incredibly well, it added a whole new perspective to the works of Uematsu-san. His talent spans across many mediums and the lyrics tied to this song shows his true love and passion for his work. The passion of the singer and choir with the sheer dedicated love sprouting from the instruments of the orchestra really made this one of the best songs of the night.


"A little tidbit about the next song, I have worked together with Uematsu-san for awhile and I came to find out that this composition in particular is very deep and heartfelt to him. This is the Theme of Love." Shown with scenes from the upcoming Final Fantasy IV remake, the audience really felt the dedication that Uematsu put into making this love song. The melodic flute and timid violins in the background showed how music can bring out emotion that sometimes visual stimulation cannot provide. Followed by "Love Grows" from Final Fantasy VIII, it is obvious that the theme of love across each and every game of the series is one that separates Final Fantasy from the rest. With such great character development, their relationships wouldn’t be complete without a heartfelt score to show just how much love can affect not only the character, but the player as well. But what truly made "Love Grows" spectacular to listen to were the brilliantly edited scenes that accompanied the song. Scenes of Rinoa crying on Squall’s shoulder as the clouded environment opens up and a field of flowers blossoms instantaneously, and the love story that was ended prematurely between Laguna and Rainne.

ff viii

Continuing with the theme of love, the audience was ecstatic to find out the "Maria and Draco" would be played next, the song from the famous opera scene in Final Fantasy VI. Out came three singers that would fulfill the roles of baritone and soprano, and the song took off. Slow at first, to show the love that each of the characters had for each other, then faster as the struggle between them grows larger, then finally to a crashing finish as both the female and male singers sing their final note together. I suddenly felt goosebumps all over as what I just witnessed was going to be something I will never forget.

Arnie Roth and the orchestra bow for what seems to be the last time. Roth walks off stage as the audience claps and cheers for what seems to be almost a minute, no doubt waiting for an encore performance. And of course here he comes, waving and acknowledging that we all want one more. "Well it looks like all of you want us to perform one more song" Roth says. "One Winged Angel!" someone in the audience exclaims. The audience lets out a big laugh and cheers at his request. Roth replies with "Well you are very predictable aren’t you. I know everyone wants to us to perform that one but we have a song that I know all of you will like as well." Random sighs and disagreements scatter the hall, but most of the audience claps and listens. "This is Terra’s Theme."

arnie roth

The song no doubt was beautiful and it was a good song to end the concert with. Arnie Roth bows once again and walks off stage. Something is strange though; the orchestra and choir are still sitting and standing in place. Realizing this, the audience claps and cheers louder and louder, asking for another encore. To our great pleasure, out comes Arnie Roth with Nobuo Uematsu following him. The concert hall erupts in a deafening cheer of respect and gratitude and Uematsu-san waves and bows with a huge smile on his face. He thanks the audience for coming to the first North American concert show of the world tour and heads out after a warmhearted reception. "I don’t believe I have to tell you what song we will be playing next" Roth says jokingly. Loud bursts of joy come from the audience as they get ready for the final song, "One Winged Angel". Cue the cellos, violins and choir because here begins one of the most famous songs from the whole Final Fantasy series. We were treated with scenes of Sephiroth and Jenova from the original Final Fantasy VII followed by scenes from Advent Children. With such a strong and surreal performance, we were engulfed in the moment of battle between Cloud and Sephiroth.

The final note is played, and our trip across the musical mind of Nobuo Uematsu is over. A concert like this is extremely hard to pass up, so if one is coming to a town near you, I highly urge you to be a part of the experience that is the modern musical legend, Nobuo Uematsu. It is people like him who can make a game seem more and more like a wondrous literary phenomenon than just a game. A high caliber developer such as Square Enix knows that they are out there to produce only the highest of quality experiences for gamers to engulf themselves into. With a long running record of producing such great stories accompanied by absolutely spectacular musical scores, they continue to sit on the throne of storytelling through the interactive medium that is video games. A toast to one of the most brilliant musical minds of the modern era, this is for you Nobuo Uematsu, for many more years of remarkable music making.

Nobuo Uematsu


The Program:

Liberi Fatali

To Zanarkand

Don’t Be Afraid

Aerith’s Theme

Fisherman’s Horizon

Swing de Chocobo

Vamo’alla Flamenco

Final Fantasy I-III medley

Bombing Mission

Distant Worlds

Love Grows

FFVI Maria and Draco Opera

Final Fantasy VII Theme

Terra’s Theme

One Winged Angel


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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