On 6 November, Bethesda held a concert in the Hammersmith Apollo, London, that showcased a varied selection of music from many of their titles. These titles included most of their biggest hits, such as Fallout 3, Fallout 4, Fallout 76, Skyrim, Morrowind, The Elder Scrolls: Blades, and Oblivion.
The music was performed by the Parallax Orchestra and Choir and was also held in support of War Child, a charity specializing in assisting child soldiers and refugees. It is a really good cause, and I recommend you check them out here. I was lucky enough to go to this concert, and, despite being totally unqualified to critique classical-sounding music, thought I would offer some thoughts on the concert as a whole.
The music ranged from across the titles mentioned above, including most of the more famous songs from each game. The orchestra played ‘The Song of the Dragonborn’ (to a cringeworthy cheer from Bethesda fanboys across the theatre), ‘The Streets of Whiterun’, and the Fallout 3 main menu theme, among many others. Surprisingly to me, they did not spend much time playing the chirpy 1950s music from Bethesda’s Fallout entries, only playing ‘I don’t want to set the world on fire’ and ‘Country Roads’. I was rather relieved by this, as I have already had ‘Butcher Pete’ so embedded in my skull that I likely will smear the lyrics on the asylum walls in shit when they finally put me away.
The musicianship on display was absolutely phenomenal, and I give full props to the Parallax Orchestra giving their all to songs from silly video games. I really felt I began to appreciate the artistry that goes into the music of major release video games. My particular highlights were the medley they did for both Morrowind and Oblivion, which immersed me in a thick fog of nostalgia that Stranger Things can only aspire to.
Bethesda was also using the event as an excuse to showcase the (at the time) upcoming release of Fallout 76. The composer, Inon Zur, was also in attendance, and he went on stage and conducted the main theme from the game. While the game has now been released to a, shall we say, mixed response, the music sounded absolutely wonderful, capturing the feel of a dead America and the dying hope to restore it.
Whether this translates well into the game when it is being drowned out by nuclear explosions, mentally deficient Super Mutant screeching and twelve-year-old racist cusses, I cannot say. What I can say, is that Bethesda are definitely very good at seeking out talent in the music industry and grabbing them for their games, and it really shone through across the night.
“Wow, is Connor actually writing something positive about Bethesda?” I hear my long repressed conscience gleefully snipe through a haze of Aldi-promotion-bought alcohol. Oh no, I am not. Bethesda’s composers are very talented, creative, and artistic people, but Bethesda themselves are still the creatively dead company they have been since Morrowind. That was the main theme I took from the night, as I tried to place the tense, exciting melody of Covert Action alongside the glitchy, boring, narratively rotten mess of Fallout 4.
The juxtaposition between the two was really quite stunning, and it just truly emphasized the almost deceptive strategies Bethesda employs to dupe you into buying their product. I remember being a wee lad of thirteen, still with a gleaming naivety not yet destroyed by years of substance abuse and live-action Disney films, waiting for the release of Fallout 3. The marketing made it look so good, as they showcased the early interactions in Megaton leading to the moment where you could nuke it out of existence. I was so excited and pre-ordered my copy at GAME as fast as I could. Then I actually played Fallout 3, and it quickly became apparent that they showed the ONLY meaningful choice in the entire fucking game. It is one of my earliest memories of genuine betrayal and the bitterness that comes alongside.
The music brought all these repressed memories back out, making the evening an emotional pendulum swinging equally between appreciation and disgust. The music makes you imagine an ideal version of the games, some gleaming mirage in the far distance. You hear the soft tunes of ‘From Past to Present’, and see in your mind’s eye some fantastic world full of depth, wonder, and adventure. Then you play Skyrim, and it quickly descends into the brave hero stealing everyone’s cheese wheels and bankrupting the economy with knock-off enchanted daggers of trouser dispelling. It’s all a sham, and all these wonderful composers’ and musicians’ work is attached to it. It is a real shame that these hard-working, dedicated people are linked to the company that actually thought the Fallout 4 Creation Club was a legitimate idea. Yes, real people in the games industry believed in that idea.
What else can I say about the concert? Well, alongside the brilliant orchestra were some ‘comedic’ hosts, who made various video-game related quips and jokes. For me, the pair were patchy and reminded me a bit of comedy acts you tend to see at Butlins, but they were inoffensive and charismatic enough to guide the audience through the evening. They had quite clearly been briefed by the Bethesda marketing team though, called them creators of some of the greatest games the world has ever seen. No doubt if the entertainers had even less pride, they would have come out claiming Todd Howard as the extremely tall savior of mankind, destined to save us all from the original sin of preferring Fallout: New Vegas to Fallout 4.
So in summary, Parallax Orchestra, Choir, Inon Zur and all other Bethesda related musicians: YAY! Bethesda themselves: BOO! Tune in next time, when Aaron (editor) asks me to review a piece of toast with the MCU logo burned into it.