A good score is often the soul of a movie or television show. It can rip the emotion out of you and burn a scene into your memory. It’s Dr.’s Grant and Sattler setting their eyes on their first dinosaur in Jurassic Park, or the Fellowship setting out in Lord of the Rings. You can’t think about these iconic moments in cinematic history without the score playing through your head.
Ramin Djawadi has managed to weave the Game of Thrones score into our modern cultural fiber in much the same way. From its triumphant opening theme to the sombre Rains of Castamere, the music in Game of Thrones will punch you in the face or force a few tears with unforgiving intent. So when I first heard that there was going to be a Game of Thrones concert, I figured it would be like any other score performance. Little did I realise that the “Experience” part was what they were really selling.
It hit me about a quarter of the way through the first half of the show. Montages for the various characters and major houses had just played on the triple-screen setup, including a dynamic circular display that raised and lowered depending on the desired effect. Glorious house banners unrolled from the rafters and the crowd went ballistic. They cheered as Sean Bean decided a man’s fate with heavy heart. They applauded as Emilia Clarke and Jason Momoa shared an uneasy introduction. Hell, they even boo’d when Jack Gleeson (dis)graced the screen for a few seconds.
Yes, the characters of the story are important, but this was an event that was specially crafted for us “show watchers”. That is, people who hadn’t yet read the George R.R. Martin novels before the show made its debut. People who associate these actors and songs with their respective characters and scenes. We consumers of pop-culture who will forever imagine Peter Dinklage’s face when we do crack open A Song of Ice and Fire for the first time to read about the crafty “halfman” Tyrion Lannister. It was a show of grand appreciation for the fans who have been there since HBO premiered the series back in 2011.
Perhaps the most captivating aspect of the show was in how the stage designers and crew made excellent use of space within the MGM Grand’s Garden Arena. In order to transform a concert into a full-blown attack on the senses, they knew they’d need more than just the musical talent and some clips from the show. They would need to dominate the enormous stage and make every set unique. This meant bringing out the percussionists to center stage and having them pound out Stannis Baratheon’s ominous battle song in unison with the drummers who were on his ships at The Battle of the Blackwater. Or having flame throwers at just the right angles to make it look as though Drogon is breathing fire into the audience.
Easily the most dramatic use of the stage and screens on the moving platform came when Ramin Djawadi himself played the piano and pipe organ portions of Light of the Seven. Notice how the green flames of wildfire intensify on screen as the explosion becomes more imminent in the following clip:
There were also very subtle details that you really had to look for. When the Weirwood was brought to life and its crimson leaves began to fall on the screen, actual red paper leaves floated down to the VIP seats below them. Then there was the gladiator pit scene with the Sons of the Harpy. People were whispering things like, “Is that guy wearing a mask?” I swear there were people scattered among the crowd that had Sons of the Harpy masks, but no one could tell for sure until the very end of the song. It was then that a few masked and robed individuals began to circle the orchestra stage in golden masks.
The music itself was nothing short of perfect. I often forgot that there was an orchestra playing at all with how seamlessly the music played to the events transpiring on screen. However, much credit is due to the musicians who are travelling with Djawadi. They’re all world class performers in their own right, often rocking out with the crowd and taking you out of Westeros and into a concert in the blink of an eye. Pedro Eustache in particular really brought the “wow” factor in the form of some unique wind instruments that are responsible for some of the sounds and music you hear in Meereen and other fringe regions of the Game of Thrones universe.
There was even a 14-foot long horn that was used when the Wildlings attempted to climb The Wall. But I think everyone’s favorite was an instrument that had a long fabric component to it that emitted different sounds depending on how he fast he swung it around, or what angle he held it at. Very cool, and truly remarkable.
Considering how massive Game of Thrones has been over the years and how significant themed conventions are, it’s refreshing to see something with a little more mainstream appeal held for hardcore fans of the show. It shows that the people behind the clockwork credits really do care so much about their fans that they’d take the time to travel the country and bring their creations to life, one city at a time.
The Game of Thrones: Live Concert Experience is a work of art unto itself. It adds a level of accessibility to the show that’s never before been seen, and injecting the social element reels the audience into the Great Hall at Winterfell. When you get thousands of fans pumping their fists in the air and high-fiving when Melisandre brought Jon Snow back to life, you’ve created something magical.