I Went to NieR: Orchestra Concert re:12018: A Report From the Scene

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clagnaught

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Edited By clagnaught

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.

Before The Show:

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.

Based Emil
Based Emil

The Concert:

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.

The Guests:

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 SHIT YOKO TARO!!!

!
!

Holy guacamole, I saw Yoko Taro! That's wild! I didn't meet him or anything, but, yo, that was still pretty dope.

From left to right: Yoko Taro, Emi Evans, Keiichi Okabe, and conductor Arnie Roth.
From left to right: Yoko Taro, Emi Evans, Keiichi Okabe, and conductor Arnie Roth.

Conclusion:

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.

Oh, And Also: Chicago!

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...

No Caption Provided

...and going to a pizza place that served this pizza shaped lasagna.

No Caption Provided

Like this pizza just has sliced tomatoes on it. You're crazy Chicago!

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Zeik

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There's no chance I ever would have been able to go, but I'm still a little disappointed I had no idea they were doing an American concert and that I wasn't able to be there. Nier and Automata may have my favorite soundtracks of all time.

It sounds like it was a lot fun.

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imhungry

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Incredibly jealous of you. They're stopping in Thailand for whatever reason and I dearly wish I had pulled the trigger on flying out for the weekend and going but alas, I'll settle for living vicariously through this blog post.

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UnknownBeef

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Ah man, I had no idea they were even doing any of these here in the US. I would have gladly traveled to LA to see that one! Maybe I'll get lucky and they'll do another someday...

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csl316

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I was at the Saturday show since it's a 30 minute drive. The Chicago area really gets spoiled with video game concerts, and this Nier show was one of the best.

The music was perfectly performed, and the presentation was geared towards making the music mean something even if you haven't played the games. I loved it.

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Manburger

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Great write-up! Sounds like a truly lovely time! Really rad seeing Yoko Taro show up.

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I'm glad you had a good time! Hate to be a wet blanket, but my wife and I went and had a very different experience.

To start, we found almost all of the arrangements to be lackluster. Working in some extra hollywood ost style bombast and arranging almost every vocal lead into the string section while the singer twiddled her thumbs backstage were both decisions I wasn't happy with.

The other bummer was... man, I know I'm getting old. Look, when you go see an orchestra, even a pops show, at least wear a collared shirt. And please don't sing, loudly hum, or air-conduct in your seat. I thought I was embarrassed a decade ago when I saw nerds dressing themselves poorly at the same venue for Uematsu, but it turns out they were doing fine! There weren't't even any sweatpants last time!

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#7  Edited By SimplyFalco

Nice write-up! I live in Chicago and was fortunate enough to attend the Friday concert. Even knowing most of what happens, the music in Nier is good enough that I'd really like to play the game. Hopefully that rumored remake / port happens.

Most noteworthy event of the night for me happened afterward during the meet and great. One of the attendees asked Yoko Taro to sign her thigh...

P.S. for anyone who felt they missed, out, the FFVII Remake concert tour tickets go on sale 2/27.

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csl316

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@simplyfalco: Remake concert?? I love all the music from the trailers so I need to jump on that.

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Blastoise_M

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Good writeup. I went to the LA show and had a blast too, my one complaint being the lack of vocals. Apparently J'Nique Nicole had other commitments the tour didn't plan around, so I knew she wouldn't be there. Even with Emi Evans there though, she only appeared on two songs, Kaine and Weight of the World.

So as a result, the song selection was a little bit limited, and some of my favorite vocal-heavy songs were omitted from the lineup (Voice of No Return, Peaceful Sleep, they even skipped Pascal's Village!). It felt like they wanted to lean more heavily on the purely orchestral/choral score, and while hearing some of those arrangements was interesting (A Beautiful Song definitely lost some of its power, but is still incredible), I still found myself wishing for more.

That said, it was still a fantastic show. The audience was really into it and well-behaved (one guy hummed a little near me but he stopped), the creators and performers were all grateful for the support, and overall I'd happily go again if they did another tour.

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nutter

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Hey! A real Pizza!

I watched a little of that video you posted from another event. Thanks for sharing. I thought Nier: Automata had some outstanding music and did really cool things with it. As an avid concert-goer (rock bands at nightclubs), it’s really bizarre to see footage of the game, people reading lines from the script, etc. on stage.

This isn’t something I’d attend, so it’s cool hearing that it worked for the target audience.

I remember seeing video of Arika Yamaoka performing Silent Hill music in more of a rock setting and thinking I’d be interested in seeing that. I think Silent Hill might have my favorite music from a video game series.

It’s cool, seeing where music in games has gone. I think old 8-bit stuff had to be very inventive due to the lack of tracks that could be overlaid. Stuff like Mario, Zelda, Metroid, River City Ransom, and Maniac Manson still stand out to me.

Then you had this time were so much was orchestral, because games could sound like movies. A lot of character was lost then. I think Nier is a GREAT example of taking arrangements and doing cool things with them for the medium.

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