Game Music, Reviews

Returning Home to Your Home: Distant Worlds Japan Concert DVD/CD (Review)

January 17, 2011 | | 3 Comments Share thison Facebook Returning Home to Your Home: Distant Worlds Japan Concert DVD/CD (Review)on Twitter

Wow, Square Enix had an incredible turn around on this one. You may remember our concert coverage of the Distant Worlds music from FINAL FANTASY Returning Home concert that took place in November 2010, but here we are in January with a full concert DVD and double CD release containing all the music from both evenings’ performances.

Having read Kai’s write-up, I was greatly looking forward to checking this out, and I think you’ll find a lot of surprises in the track list. In addition to world premiere arrangements, there are a slew of guest performers, all of whom perform wonderfully.

Check out our review of the Distant Worlds Returning Home concert DVD and CD after the jump.

We’ve covered numerous Distant Worlds concerts and CDs on OSV, so I think I’m going to simply stick to what’s new and who was there instead of going into every track in detail. So with that said, let me present you with the track listing:

Disc 1:
01  One-Winged Angel [Final Fantasy VII]
02  Victory Theme [Final Fantasy]
03  Don’t be Afraid [Final Fantasy VIII]
04  Final Fantasy I~III Medley 2010 [Final Fantasy I-III]
05  Love Grows [Final Fantasy VIII]
06  Ronfaure [Final Fantasy XI]
07  J-E-N-O-V-A [Final Fantasy VII]
08  Dear Friends [Final Fantasy V]
09  Vamo’ alla flamenco [Final Fantasy IX]
10  Aerith’s Theme [Final Fantasy VII]
11  Chocobo Medley 2010 [Final Fantasy series]

Disc 2:
01  Opening ~ Bombing Mission [Final Fantasy VII]
02  Zanarkand [Final Fantasy X]
03  Those Who Fight [Final Fantasy VII]
04  Dancing Mad [Final Fantasy VI]
05  Blinded by Light [Final Fantasy XIII]
06  Fang’s Theme [Final Fantasy XIII]
07  March of the Dreadnoughts! [Final Fantasy XIII]
08  Fabula Nova Crystallis [Final Fantasy XIII]
09  Saber’s Edge [Final Fantasy XIII]
10  Navigator’s Glory ~The Theme of Limsa Lominsa~ [Final Fantasy XIV]
11  Twilight Over Thanalan [Final Fantasy XIV]
12  Answers [Final Fantasy XIV]
13  Primal Judgment [Final Fantasy XIV]
14  The Man with the Machine Gun [Final Fantasy VIII]
15  Tina’s Theme [Final Fantasy VI]
16  Encore: Clash on the Big Bridge [Final Fantasy V]

With that out of the way, you can see that there are a considerable number of repeats from previous Distant Worlds album releases, but that’s to be expected. There are a number of new arrangements, and the inclusion of a host of solo performers gives many of the pieces new life.

Let’s jump right in. So, what’s new? First of all, “Final Fantasy I~III Medley 2010.” This version drops “Chocobo’s Theme” and shortens other sections in the arrangement to work in the “Final Fantasy” series theme, since it wasn’t performed separately here. That leads me to “Chocobo Medley 2010,” which is essentially “Swing de Chocobo” with a tacked on introduction that charges forth with an Aaron Copland-esque Western frontier sound, complete with deliberate string and brass stabs. It’s a fresh take on an arrangement that everyone has heard probably too many times, so I appreciate the change.

This was the first time I was able to hear and see the “Dancing Mad” arrangement. While the organist seemed rather unsure of herself and had a few missteps, I enjoyed the performance a whole lot, although it looks like they were running out of video to use, reusing some of the limited FMV sequences on several occasions and going to a Kefka vs. Terra match-up from Dissidia, which I thought was anticlimactic.

The encore is also an entirely new arrangement, and was chosen specifically for fans in Japan. It makes excellent use of choir, militaristic percussion, and brass, coming off as an epic final battle theme that never was. It’s just a shame that it’s only three and a half minutes long! I hope they take this arrangement on tour from here on out.

To mention the guest soloists, I’ll start with classical guitarist Meng-Feng Su. He played with the tour during their stop in Taiwan where Uematsu and Roth were apparently so impressed that they invited him to perform in Japan for both “Dear Friends” and “Vamo’ alla flamenoco.” Not only is this man an excellent guitarist, but he also has that superstar look with a bowtie and a fancy hairdo. I was very impressed with the elegance of his performance. Benyamin Nuss, a name everyone who reads OSV should probably know, was also on hand, lending his magical fingers to “Love Grows,” “Those Who Fight” (from the Piano Collections: Final Fantasy VII CD, which is a treat to see live), and pieces from Final Fantasy XIII.

While Distant Worlds has performed pieces from Final Fantasy XIII before (including their stop at San Diego’s Comic Con in 2010), they performed a total of 5 pieces here, including Nuss’s solo “March of the Dreadnoughts!” from the Piano Collections: Final Fantasy XIII album (one of the best tracks on that album), and on “Saber’s Edge.” His piano work on the latter was quite amazing given that I rarely think of that boss battle theme as much of a piano piece. Frances Maya also came on stage to perform “Fabula Nova Crystallis,” which was quite lovely, but was more of a tease at only 2:30 in length. I wish Maya had been featured more prominently.

There are also 4 pieces from Final Fantasy XIV, a couple of which have been performed before. “Twilight Over Thanalan” is still incredibly lovely, but most fans will likely turn their attention to “Answers” featuring Susan Calloway and “Primal Judgment.” The former is the vocal theme from Final Fantasy XIV, going in the direction of “Distant Worlds” from Final Fantasy XI with its epic length and use of choir alongside Calloway’s powerful voice. I don’t know why, but for some reason, the solemn melody here reminds me of an old Christmas carol, and has a certain rustic quality about it.  Perhaps this is Uematsu’s attempt to plunge into a more “Western” sound. There’s a really powerful call and response section in the middle between the choir and Calloway which really struck me towards the middle of the piece.  “Primal Judgment,” on the other hand, is a tumultuous battle theme that is more about intensity than melody.

That’s all there is to say about the music, really. The great thing about this collection is that it combines the programs from 11/06/10 and 11/07/10, which featured Final Fantasy XIII and XIV, respectively. It’s the best of both Distant Worlds, and there’s also a bonus behind-the-scenes video on the DVD following Uematsu and Hamauzu in the days leading up to the show. I chuckled a few times at Arnie Roth’s efforts to speak Japanese, which I thought was a sincere attempt to connect with fans in Japan.

While the price tag for this collection is steep (5,600 Yen), I think the exclusives and amazing performances by all of the soloists makes it worth your consideration. The great thing is that, unlike the VOICES DVD, this set comes with the CDs as well to take the music on the go. The DVD/CD set will be available from CD Japan on 01/19/2011.

What do you think of the set list? Are there particularly performances that you’re looking forward to hearing, or glaring omissions that you think should have been performed?

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