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Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience @ United Center

Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience feat. Ramin Djawadi
Where: United Center
When: February 22nd, 2017
Grade: 4.5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed and Photographed by: Neil Miller, Jr.

Heavy on atmosphere and overloaded with theatrics, TV and film composer Ramin Djawadi brought the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience to the United Center in Chicago last night and it did not disappoint.  In full disclosure, your ever-so-honest reviewer has only seen one episode of the show and that single episode is the pilot.  In spite of that, the music of the show has always been a point of interest even for those who aren’t religious viewers of the HBO hit.  It’s medieval, it’s dark, and it’s also as richly layered as, say, a Nine Inch Nails album – only with organic instruments instead of electronics.  As I am a sucker for a big production, it seemed unquestionable that this would be something that had to be seen with my own two eyes.

To call this simply a ‘big production’ would be a sizeable understatement.  The stage was monstrous, practically comprised of three stages for Djawadi and his arsenal of soloists to traverse the stage while performing music from the show.  Also backing the touring group was a large assembly of various local Chicago musicians who sounded nothing short of pristine.  The performance, spread across two separate acts, hopped, skipped, and jumped throughout the show’s storyline.  Even still, focusing solely on the music (as I was), Djawadi has meticulously crafted a narrative of his own.  There were crescendos both literal and figurative while the show found him switching duties between conductor, performer, and MC.  No, he didn’t spit any hot rhymes, but he did address the audience numerous times through the night to explain the creation of the show, his use of unconventional instruments to compose music for the series, and to introduce various members of his troupe.

My personal favorite moment from the 2+ hour long performance was a number titled “Needle,” which was preceded by Djawadi explaining his excitement to use a dulcimer to compose the song.  Watching him play the dulcimer for “Needle” was enrapturing – everything from watching him passionately crank out the composition on an instrument most people had probably never witness being played before to the way he muted the notes toward the end to create silence.  This wasn’t the only odd instrument of the night, but I’d be lying if I said I could tell you everything else that had been used to perform this luscious music.  Another favorite instrument of mine that was used in the show also happened to be the electric cello.  There’s something very rock ‘n roll about watching someone wail away on one of these aesthetically pleasing instruments and Djawadi’s soloists made it look downright badass.

Aside from the wild array of instruments, the gorgeous music, and Djawadi’s ability to conduct an orchestra and perform, the show was purely magnificent to watch too.  There were screens everywhere, explosions and pyrotechnics, snow and leaves made of confetti falling from above – you name it, it probably happened.  I went into this expecting a lavish production and those expectations were blown to smithereens.  This is a spectacle that begs to be witnessed by all – fans of the show and those who’ve never seen an episode alike.  Who knows?  Maybe after experiencing this blissful sensory overload, you may come out of it all wanting to watch the series.  That can definitely be said for me and even more, this made a full-fledged fan of Ramin Djawadi out of me as well.  He’s composed music for at least one film or TV show you’ve seen, that can almost be guaranteed.  But watching it all come to life onstage is an experience that needs to be seen and heard to be fully appreciated.  If you’re able to catch a stop on the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience tour, do yourself a favor and just go.

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