Most of us will never get the chance to venture to Westeros (and few of us would survive a day if we did), but for the fortunate fans who managed to snag tickets to one of the 24 performances of the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience currently traversing the country, you’ll swear you stepped right through the screen and into HBO’s blockbuster series.
The 24-city tour stopped off at the Forum in Los Angeles on March 23, where Thrones composer Ramin Djawadi (along with a full orchestra and choir) took the packed house on an epic musical journey across the realm and beyond, from the highest peaks of the Eyrie to the sweeping plains of the Great Grass Sea.
Fittingly, the Iron Throne kicked things off, with sparks of pyrotechnics and clangs of metal giving the impression it was being forged right in front of us, before the music swelled and the beloved theme song began.
The show’s expansive 360-degree set consisted of 807 linear feet of moveable LED video screens suspended above seven stages from “King’s Landing,” where the orchestra and Djawadi were positioned, to “Winterfell,” where solo violinist Christine Wu hauntingly embodied the North’s sacred weirwood tree as its leaves began to fall with the onset of winter.
At a press preview for the concert, Djawadi told Mashable that his main goal for the tour was to conceive a completely unique experience for fans and the finished product certainly delivered.
“Weve had filmed music concerts before, where you play the music along to the scene, and well have that too, but I wanted to push it a bit further and create a more immersive visual design that also places you into the different scenes,” he explained. “We want to be north of the Wall; we want to be with the dragons; we want to be in Winterfell; so theres certain scenes that really invited what the stage can do. There are screens that can surround the orchestra but theyre still see-through. When were north of the Wall, you can put a digital snow storm onto those screens you can still see the musicians, but everybody is at the Wall.”
Djawadi also revealed that in addition to traditional equipment, the orchestra uses 11 rare instruments over the course of the show, and the musicians even “created some special instruments just for the tour, because certain things I can do in the studio, you cant do live.” These include a hammered dulcimer to perform Arya’s “Needle” theme, a pipe organ, and a 12-foot wildling horn that resembles, according to one audience member, “a flaccid didgeridoo.”
To further blur the line between fantasy and reality, Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) even lent her voice to the proceedings; Westeros’ new queen welcomed her subjects to the concert by issuing a decree that cell phones must be silenced unless attendees wished to be “boiled alive in the blood of their children.”
And the fans were eager to immerse themselves some even got into the Westerosi spirit by dressing up as their favorite characters although the Forum insisted that all swords and dragons had to be left at home for the festivities.
There was no shortage of heat on stage, however; the concert combined projected visuals of snow and leaves with practical effects including confetti, water and, yes, plenty of fire utilizing bursts of flame to evoke Daenerys’ dragons, and gouts of green smoke that engulfed the stage at the frantic climax of “Light of the Seven” a safer alternative to the wildfire that destroyed the Great Sept of Baelor at the end of Season 6.
Almost every major character and house got a chance to shine Theon Greyjoy’s betrayal of the Starks featured a special platform on the “Pyke” stage that enabled cellist Cameron Stone to splash water as he played, while Melisandre’s segment allowed solo vocalist Stevvi Alexander to demonstrate both her range and stage presence in an appropriately blood-red gown as the lights glowed ominously crimson.
But the real thrill was getting to see Game of Thrones‘ most memorable moments play out on a grand scale. The series is known for its staggering setpieces, but there’s nothing quite as visceral as watching the Battle of the Bastards rage on gigantic screens, the percussion of war drums rattling our bones as Jon Snow’s forces brutally clash with Ramsay Bolton’s following the murder of Jon’s
cousin brother Rickon. (Watching the youngest Stark meet his demise was no easier the second time around the crowd couldn’t help but heckle him to “zig-zag” as he ran straight into the path of Ramsay’s arrows.)
“The Rains of Castamere” the chilling Lannister anthem that preceded the infamous Red Wedding was another highlight, as Djawadi brought out special guest vocalist Serj Tankian to perform a new arrangement of the iconic song, drawing ecstatic cheers and shouts of “The North remembers” from the audience as Walder Frey’s forces murdered Robb Stark and his followers.
Djawadi previously revealed to Mashable that he started off with six hours of material for the concert, and paring it down into a two-hour show proved to be one of his biggest challenges.
“We had to take a step back and say ‘what are the key scenes? How can we find a nice balance with the characters and the different houses?'” he admitted. “But the other thing is that we wanted to take people from Season 1 through 6; start at the beginning and take you through, and by the end of the show youll be at the end of Season 6 and itll be a nice way of summarizing the [series]. The big idea being that everybody after the show is really pumped for Season 7 and says ‘now Im ready for something new.'”
As Djawadi, Alexander and the orchestra performed the rousing strains of “The Winds of Winter” to close the show, “pumped” was a fairly understated description of the mood in the Forum, and the crowd leapt to its feet as the final shots lingered on Daenerys and her dragons setting sail for Westeros, triumphant plumes of fire spurting from the stage.
Winter may have come, but it’s clear that Game of Thrones is hotter than ever.
The Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience tour continues through April 2.
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