(Photo by Timothy Norris/Getty Images)
Last night, I was privileged to attend a performance of the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience at the United Center in Chicago. First, let’s state the obvious: if you’re a Game of Thrones fan and have the opportunity to go to this show, you should. Hearing Ramin Djawadi’s iconic score played with a full orchestra and choir is worth the price of admission by itself. After watching Game of Thrones for this long, just hearing songs like the Stark family theme, with its mournful strings, played by a stage full of musicians is enough to produce a swell of emotion. But when you hear it while towering images of Arya, Sansa, Bran, Jon Snow, and the rest are projected onto a massive screen overhanging the stage, it’s damn well enough to make you misty-eyed.
For some people, I assume. Certainly not me. *ahem*
HBO and Live Nation clearly spent a lot of money and time on this Experience, and it’s paid off. There are three stages (more like one massive stage divided into three parts, but you get the idea): two circular stages on each end, and a bridge-like one in the middle. Conductor Ramin Djawadi, the orchestra, and the choir mostly stay stationary on one of the far stages, filling the hall with music.
Soloists, both instrumentalists and vocalists, populate the other stages in strategic positions depending on the song. In a particularly memorable moment early in the show, a violinist ascends a dais on the stage opposite the one with Djawadi and the orchestra. A translucent sheet falls down around her, and the encircling video screens above bloom with images of red leaves. She’s playing from inside a weirwood tree. It’s beautiful.
— Game of Thrones (@GameOfThronez07) February 21, 2017
Other particularly impressive moments include the renditions of “Dracarys” (aka when Daenerys sacks Astapor) and “Light of the Seven” (aka when Cersei blows up the Sept). During the climaxes of these numbers, fire spurts from the stage and the screen. (And yes, it’s green for the wildfire bits.) In fact, during “Light of the Seven,” fire explodes from the floor around the piano where Djawadi is playing. I felt the heat several rows back, and can’t imagine how hot it must have been for him. That’s dedication, and those kinds of pyrotechnics definitely lend drama to these moments.
I saw watched some of the most powerful Game of Thrones scenes on giant screens with a live orchestra and freaking pyro. What a night! pic.twitter.com/70uyvXBPid
— Luke (@luke_theduke21) February 21, 2017
Also, this has to be mentioned: during a song about the North, the production pumps fake snow into the air. It wafts down into the stands where some attendees ill-advisedly tried to catch it on their tongues. It’s paper. But still, the attention to detail is noted.
The crowd at the United Center was all in. Pretty much everybody there is a Game of Thrones fan, so they can be relied upon to gasp and shock during, say, the Redding Wedding section of the show. Having a room full of the faithful produces good vibes, something Djawadi and the soloists appreciated during hearty cheers following each number. At one point, a soloist came out in a flesh-colored dress to sing the song that plays during Cersei’s walk in “Mother’s Mercy.” The crowd erupted into a spontaneous chant of “Shame! Shame! Shame!” It was a fun atmosphere.
— Dave Wischnowsky (@wischlist) February 23, 2017
It must be said that some moments of the show were better than others because some songs are better than others. “Light of the Seven” is just a more exciting song than “Son of the Harpy,” so the “Light of the Seven” section is more entertaining. But there are no down moments of the show, and Djawadi is always trotting out an interesting new instrument or spotlighting an evocative new vocal. The time passes quickly.
Sometimes it’s hard to concentrate on the musicians because the temptation watch the clips is too strong. After the Live Concert Experience is over, HBO might want to think about just touring the country with episodes of the show. It’s a big show and fits on a big screen.
One of the more memorable moments occurs during performances of “Let’s Play a Game,” “Bastard,” and “Trust Each Other,” all songs that feature during the Battle of the Bastards. The scene where Jon tries to save Rickon plays without alteration, with the dialogue intact. The only difference is that the live orchestra is providing the score. It was like seeing the scene for the first time, complete with all the attendant anxiety.
The team lightens things up at the very end, though, with an encore-like performance of “The Bear and the Maiden Fair.” It’s good to send people out on a happy note.
— Jesse (@DampToaster) February 22, 2017
The Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience runs a bit over two hours with an intermission. Based on the performance I saw, it’s a rousing success, and we can’t wait to see what Djawadi comes up with for season 7 (the show offered no new teases for the coming episodes, by the way, at least at the Chicago performance). Here’s hoping the rest of the rest of the tour is as much of a hit.
Here are the rest of the tour dates. If you go, I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I did!
- 2/23: Columbus, OH – Nationwide Arena
- 2/25: Uncasville, CT – Mohegan Sun
- 2/26: Philadelphia, PA – Wells Fargo Center
- 3/01: Washington, DC – Verizon Center
- 3/03: Montreal, QC – Bell Centre
- 3/04: Toronto, ON – Air Canada Centre
- 3/06: Boston, MA – TD Bank Garden
- 3/07: New York, NY – Madison Square Garden
- 3/09: Charlotte, NC – Time Warner Cable Arena
- 3/11: Ft. Lauderdale, FL – BB&T Center
- 3/12: Tampa, FL – Amalie Arena
- 3/14: Atlanta, GA – Philips Arena
- 3/16: San Antonio, TX – AT&T Center
- 3/17: Houston, TX – Toyota Center
- 3/19: Denver, CO – Pepsi Center
- 3/23: Los Angeles, CA – The Forum
- 3/25: Las Vegas, NV – MGM Grand Garden Arena
- 3/26: Phoenix, AZ – TalkingStick Resort Arena
- 3/29: San Jose, CA – SAP Center
- 3/31: Seattle, WA – Key Arena
- 4/1: Vancouver, BC – Rogers Arena
- 4/2: Portland, OR – Moda Center