After a successful first show at the Pantages theatre in Los Angeles, The Legend of Zelda 25th anniversary symphony took in London's Hammersmith Apollo with a sold-out show that celebrated the series' captivating music.
Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma took to the stage to introduce the concert, the audience lapping up his every sentence, cheering his welcome and booing talk of a fan who recorded and uploaded the LA concert. Aonuma left the stage after introducing conductor Eímear Noone, who in turn introduced the second special guest of the evening: Zelda Williams.
Williams – named after the legendary princess by her father Robin Williams, of course – admitted her nerves at facing such a crowd but kept the tone light and her appearances brief, introducing tunes in blocks rather than individually. Later in the show she spoke of her love for the series in a surprisingly touching section that drew loud applause from the audience.
The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra and the 24-strong Capital Voices choir combined to present select tunes from a quarter-century of Link's adventures: from the classic overworld theme of The Legend of Zelda to a The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword encore, this was a selection designed to dip in and out of moods and themes, a pick-and-mix representation of the series' huge musical scope.
There were obvious highlights: the medley of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker tunes took in its intro theme, Outset Island, The Great Sea and more as in-game footage played on a giant screen behind the orchestra. Link's first cel-shaded outing may still divide fans, but in this context its artistry shone through: musical motifs blended together as the video perfectly captured its sense of adventure. It's still among the most beautiful games Nintendo has produced. Also as the show headed towards its close, none other than Koji Kondo himself made a special appearance with a solo performance on piano before briefly addressing the audience with a few warmly received words.
The only minor flat notes were in a tour of the orchestra, where individual instruments and sections played through all 19 ocarina melodies from Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask: while memorable in-game, in this setting they felt more like filler.
Taking in over 40 pieces of music – not including the Ocarina melodies or a cheeky compendium of jingles – the symphony was more than just a collection of fantastic tunes expertly arranged and performed: it was a celebration of the series' adventurous spirit and the sense of wonder and exploration that have captured gamers' imagination over the years.
The most striking part of the whole evening was how far Zelda has come in the past 25 years: what started out as an 8-bit adventure inspired by Shigeru Miyamoto's exploration of the fields around his home has become one of the most respected series in the industry. The players who took their first steps into Hyrule in 1986 could hardly have imagined they'd one day sit in a packed theatre to hear an orchestra perform that iconic theme, nor that they would one day control Link's every sword slash and item with motion controls.
It was a night enjoyed by all and filled with affection for Zelda, its music and the talented developers, musicians and performers who have all shaped one of the most influential and well-regarded gaming series of our time.
We're now only a few weeks away from the release of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, a game that's taken five years to develop, with Eiji Aonuma himself hoping it represents the series as a whole. We're led to believe that the first production run of Skyward Sword will include a bonus audio-CD recording of last night's performance, so don't forget to pre-order your copy today.
According to recent reports a "World Tour" of the Zelda Symphony will take place in 2012, with further details to be announced soon.
We would like to thank Nintendo and all the special guests for a fantastic evening of entertainment.