Last weekend, I and many other people traveled to the faraway land of Chicago to attend the...wait, what was this thing called...
<looks at my notes>
..."NieR: Orchestra Concert re:12018"....
Sure, yeah, the NieR concert they're touring around right now. Here is my detailed report.
Since the release of 2017's NieR:Automata, there's been no shortage albums, concerts, and NieR chill music mixes to study/work to all over the place. In fact, there's a decent chance you've listened to these soundtracks over and over or watched one of these concerts uploaded to YouTube.
To my knowledge, all of these concerts have so far taken place in Japan. Which is one of the reasons why I lost my goddamn mind when Square Enix announced that they were bringing one of these performances to the United States. Something I never thought I would see suddenly became a reality. So my friend and I, talking about how this was likely a now or never situation, decided to fly to Chicago to experience this for ourselves.
Going to the NieR concert, I had a similar feeling to when I attended a Hatsune Miku concert a few years earlier. It's a little jarring to be in a normal environment one minute and then seeing a gathering of YoRHa's the next. Walking up to the main entrance, my friend and I followed a couple dressed in white and black maid outfits. Inside, nearly everywhere you looked there was somebody cosplaying. In the concert hall, you can see a lot of white wigs scattered everywhere. A few rows in front of us, there were four people—a 2B, a 9S, an A2, and a 60—each carrying Minnesota Vikings jackets. There were people holding and/or giving each other white flowers, which would probably make a lot more sense to me if I ever played the original NieR. While waiting for the show to start, we talked to the people next to us. It turns out everybody traveled from somewhere to be there. Being in place like that, talking to strangers who are really excited for the exact same reason you are, and standing next to cosplayers who put in a ton of effort creating those incredible costumes is just a nice, wholesome, sweet moment.
While waiting for the show to start, the scale of the production really sat in. The concert I embedded in this here blog has a dozen or so different musicians. For this show, there was around a hundred musicians, a choir, and a decently sized screen. Now, since I was at The Orchestra, I wasn't going to be that guy who was going to use their electronic devices during a performance like that, so unfortunately I don't have any footage of the actual show. However, I did take a few photos when it seemed appropriate. Like when Emil sang their store jingle right before the show started. If that doesn't get y'all in the mood, I don't know what will.
With the concert itself, I was pleasantly surprised by how much music they played. I honestly had no idea how long they were going to go or what the set list was going to be. Turns out, there were two sets, both lasting about an hour each.
First, there was a NieR Replicant / Gestalt set. I never played the original NieR, but I listened to the original soundtrack a lot throughout last year. That's why I have a pretty strong connection to these songs even when they are divorced from the story. They ended up playing basically all of the big hits for me, such as "Song of the Ancients", "Ashes of Dreams", "Kaine", and "Emil". One thing I particularly enjoyed was how they used diary entries between songs, footage from the game, on screen text to help retell the game's story. As somebody who has listened to songs like "Shadowlord", but sure as hell had no idea what a Shadowlord was, this was a neat way to help stream this set together.
After an hour's worth of NieR music and a twenty or so minute intermission, it was time for the NieR: Automata portion. Similarly with the NieR Gestalt / Replicant half, the Automata set was filled with bangers ranging from "City Ruins", "A Beautiful Song", "The Tower", "Amusement Park", and—of course—"The Weight of the World".
If the NieR set list was designed to re-tell the story, Automata was more like a mood piece. The screen showed various cut scenes from the game and pieced together some stuff like...showing endings C and D, and dramatizing ending E with a pretty baller lyric music video...they also showed stuff like Simone giving a monologue, and a bullet hell, but the bullets were images of the machines like Pascal. You could tell that the Automata portion was structured around the assumption that basically everybody there played through at least that game. In fact, at one point during the show they mentioned that Yoko Taro helped cut together the NieR Gestalt / Replicant footage, because he figured not a whole lot of people played the first game. Even though they both had a different style and flair to them, the two sets were well done and were effective ways to present those games.
As for the music, it was about as great as you would expect. Being in the same room as an orchestra and choir bringing those songs to life was something truly to behold. The concert had a nice flow between more dramatic songs like "Ashes of Dreams", to more quieter songs like "The Tower", to the more bombastic songs like "The Dark Colossus Destroys All" from the original NieR, which was the final song of the show. When they played that song with the full force of the orchestra, you can imagine they picked that song as the finale as if they wanted to remind you one last time how much power something like that can produce.
Overall, between the song selection, the presentation, and the performance of everybody there, the NieR concert definitely met my expectations.
At the beginning and end of the concert, the NieR concerts had a number of special guests.
First, there was Keiichi Okabe, the composer for both NieR and NieR: Automata. They opened the show by talking about how great it was to bring this concert around the world and thanked everybody for coming out. Next was Emi Evans, who came out on stage to sing "Kaine" and "The Weight of the World". Up next as the concert was coming to a close—
Holy guacamole, I saw Yoko Taro! That's wild! I didn't meet him or anything, but, yo, that was still pretty dope.
Overall, I was really happy I managed to make it out the NieR concert. This is probably my favorite orchestral concert I've attended, let alone of the video game variety. There are some video game concerts that won't require too much convincing for me to go to if I had the opportunity. However, hearing NieR's beautiful and haunting score come to life like that was something else. The production that went into retelling those stories and connected all of the songs together was just icing on the cake. Who knows if they will keep doing these concerts or where they will be held if they do so. That said, if you love the soundtrack to NieR, I wholeheartedly recommend going if you ever have the chance.
As an added bonus to seeing one of my favorite video game soundtracks played live, I also went to Chicago! This trip was also an excuse for my friend and I to eat some damn good food. Like going to Kuma's Corner, a kickass burger place that plays heavy metal music, to eat this monster...
...and going to a pizza place that served this pizza shaped lasagna.
Like this pizza just has sliced tomatoes on it. You're crazy Chicago!