Video Games Live in Philly: A Music Lover's Dream Come True

Jack and Tommy of Video Games Live

As a young gamer growing up, there were many things that I didn’t think would be be possible. One of the top things was the ability to experience my favorite gaming music live and in person.

On Sunday night, October 10th, I did just that.

Video Games Live made its way into my home city of Philadelphia, and it was an opportunity I could not pass up. The Kimmel Center played host to the concert, a beautiful venue to what would be my childhood dream come true: a symphony orchestra playing video game music.

Now, let’s get one thing clear: this is not your ordinary "sit and watch a orchestra play music" concert. It resembles more of a rock show than anything else. Lights, smoke, giant video screens that play clips of the games that the music is from, all of that comes in the total VGL package. Not only that, but audience interaction is a big part of it too, as two audience members were selected to participate in contests for big prizes. What did I see at Video Games Live? Well, I’ll tell you…

VGL Costume Contest

Before the show started, the crew of VGL held a costume contest, as they do at every show. The contestants, pictured above, made it hard for the audience to choose. The final two were Axl from Kingdom Hearts (red hair, blades in hand) and Master Chief (the one to his left), with Halo‘s big star winning the prize.

After the costumers left, the show began. The orchestra, conducted by Jack Wall of Mass Effect fame, took the stage, and the sweet sounds of gaming music goodness filled the air. Act One consisted of:


– A Retro Medley, including music from Pong, Defender, Donkey Kong, Ghosts and Goblins, Punch-Out!!, Gauntlet, and Tetris.


– The Metal Gear Solid Main Theme from Metal Gear Solid 2, complete with a soldier patrolling the stage and a man in a box scurrying across unseen (that man turning out to be Tommy Tallarico, host of the show)

– A great Sonic the Hedgehog medley that featured two of my favorites: Green Hill Zone and Casino Night Zone.

Space Invaders

– The first audience interaction segment. A randomly selected audience member was selected to come on stage and play Space Invaders for a chance to win a tabletop MAME cabinet, but instead of just playing the game, IR sensors capturing his motion made the tank move, and with a button to press in his hand, he became the defense against the Space Invaders. Unfortunately, he did not defeat all of the alien menace, and he was forced to take a consolation prize. This was a really cool segment, and the crowd was really into cheering the fan on.

Ralph Baer

– Before the next song began, Tommy treated the crowd to a quick interview with Ralph Baer, the creator of the first video game ever, via Skype. Baer talked to the crowd from his home in New Hampshire. Before Ralph spoke, Tommy showed a black-and-white video of Ralph playing the game he created (Pong) from the mid 60s. I appreciated that Tommy would take the time to try to educate the crowd about where their favorite hobby originated.

– The music then continued with "Baba Yetu" from Civilization 4. This was the first appearance of the Temple University Concert Choir accompanying the orchestra (my alma mater!). I hadn’t been too familiar with this song, but I have since found it and listened to it numerous times, it is a great track and it was well performed.

– Tommy then introduced Martin Leung, aka the "Video Game Pianist," who played a Final Fantasy medley with some of the most brilliant technique I’ve ever seen. What a masterful piano player.

– With no introduction after Martin finished, the orchestra hit us with a Metroid medley that spanned the entire series. This is when I started feeling nostalgic, hearing and seeing the best of Super Metroid all at once.

Flute Link

– Tommy introduced another guest to the show, Laura "Flute Link" Intravia, who performed a Legend of Zelda flute medley solo dressed as the Hero of Time himself, complete with a little Navi hanging over her shoulder on a wire attached to her costume. Like Martin, Laura floored the crowd with her excellent flute playing technique. It was not something I expected, but I loved it.

– The orchestra then finished the first act with an arrangement of the Legend of Zelda theme, which was probably the coolest arrangement of the theme I’ve ever heard. The same basic tune, played in so many different ways they all sounded unique. It was truly a great way to end the first act.


Act Two was even better than the first, taking me back to days of innocence with games I played over and over and over again.

– The act started with a Kingdom Hearts medley that made all of the anime/RPG fans shriek and cry with joy. I literally saw a girl tear up over how moving the music was.

– A World of Warcraft medley followed without introduction, rousing a great reaction from the crowd. I’m not a WoW guy, but I must admit that the music is incredible.

– The classic Super Mario Bros theme was next, in a Mario medley that also included the classic underwater theme from the original Mario adventure. I became six years old all over again.

– Speaking of Mario, after the orchestra played it, Martin Leung came back and played the Mario theme on his own. Blindfolded. Without missing a note. After I thought he couldn’t top it, he broke into the Athletic theme from Super Mario World, which was impressive enough, but then he threw in the speed-up theme, then played the song in double time. I really thought his fingers were going to fly off, but by jove, he did it!

– The orchestra returned with a medley of the Square Enix favorites Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross, which brought the crowd to its feet. "Flute Link" also made an appearance in the medley, showcasing that excellent flute talent of hers.

GH Contest

– The next song was Sweet Emotion by Aerosmith, played by both the orchestra and a Guitar Hero contest winner who followed along on the big screen with Guitar Hero Aerosmith. The contest winner played for the chance to win a gift bag with tons of great prizes, including a Nintendo DSi. All he had to do was score 175,000 points on the Hard version of the song. Being the showman, the contest winner requested a ramp-up to Expert mode, and at the 172,000 mark, FAILED THE SONG. Tommy took mercy on him and gave him the prize anyway.

– The orchestra returned for what was to be my favorite part of the show: a Mega Man medley that brought the house down. It started with the intro to Mega Man 2, flowed into the intro of Mega Man X, and ended with the Dr. Wily Stage 1 and 2 Theme from Mega Man 2. This is where I teared a bit (not kidding), as memories of playing MM2 as a kid flashed into my head and I could not help but feel like I was part of the history they were displaying on the screen behind the orchestra. Everythign about this part was perfect.

– The main show concluded with the main theme from Bungie’s masterpiece, Halo. Tommy took care of the guitar parts, the song sounded as if I was playing Halo 2 again, and Master Chief himself appeared at the end with the red flag and a plasma rifle. A great end to the show, but we weren’t quite finished yet…


Of course, the orchestra conceded, and we were treated to three more segments of VGL goodness.

– Tommy led the crowd in a sing-along of the classic Mario theme (doot doot doot, doot-do-deh-doot, doo doo doo doot doo doo doo da doo doot), which was great. A room full of gamers shouting "doo" to the tune of the most famous game theme of all. Can’t beat it.

– The Square fans were appaeased next, as the orchestra broke into "One Winged Angel" from Final Fantasy VII. An incredible rendition of the song, with the only complaint being that it wasn’t the Advent Children mix with the insane guitar solo.

– The last music of the night was from Konami classic Castlevania. It was a great way to end what had been an incredible concert, as the crowd was still begging for more as the orchestra left the stage.

What’s great about Video Games Live is not only the music, but the thought that goes into every single part. The characters on stage, the lights, and the video turn an ordinary concert into a semi-interactive extravaganza. Also, I neglected to mention above that before most of the segments, the creator of the game/music addressed the crowd in a pre-recorded message. I saw Hideo Kojima, Koji Kondo, and Yuji Naka in one night. How awesome is that?

Overall, I was incredible impressed with Video Games Live, and I cannot wait until I get the chance to see them again. If VGL is coming to your town, make sure you see it in action. You will not be disappointed.

If you do go, make sure to remember…

Keep listening. You’ll never know what you’ll miss if you don’t. 


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Author: Jason Fanelli View all posts by
Jason lives and breathes gaming. Legend tells that he taught himself to read using Wheel of Fortune Family Edition on the NES. He's been covering this industry for three years, all with the Node, and you can see his ugly mug once a week on Hot Off The Grill.

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