There’s something to be said about a classical orchestral concert that has an average audience age of somewhere between 18-30 years old. As a classical musician myself, I’m more than familiar with looking out into an audience of silver-haired punters looking to get their fill of higher-brow, artistic culture. But thankfully, Pokémon: Symphonic Evolutions wasn’t aimed towards the latter crowd, and it’s about time more Australian symphony orchestras took these types of risks.
The production made its Australian première at the Adelaide Festival Theatre on November 17th, and will then move to the Sydney Opera House on the 20th and 21st. Under the baton of American conductor and orchestrator Susie Seiter, the Adelaide Art Orchestra played orchestral renditions spanning each generation of Pokémon games with the fantastic skill expected of a professional ensemble.
Slideshow of the Green Room activities.
The event kicked of earlier than the concert with the Festival Centre’s Green Room offerings, where various gaming activities and historical Pokémon memorabilia were on display. Crowds of people — both young and not-so-old — gathered around a Super Smash Bros U setup, an N64 playing Pokémon Stadium and the entertaining trivia challenge situated by the bar. Between all of this was a display cabinet full of Pokémon games from as early as the original GameBoy entries, with special edition consoles, and up to recent console releases.
When the theatre doors opened for the audience to take their seats, many were enjoying the casual rounds of “Who’s That Pokémon?” projected on the screen above the stage. And goodness me, do people recognise the silhouettes of Charmander, Squirtle, Bublasaur and Pikachu.
The overall concert was an adventure that started from the first generation games through to the end of Pokémon X and Y. As was announced before the first piece started, projected above the stage was captured footage that began with creating our character, choosing our starter Pokémon (with huge cheers from the audience when each was displayed – something, again as a classical musician, though I am certainly not accustomed to, but relished in the excitement) and leaving Pallet Town. The entire visual narrative was endearingly accompanied by the orchestra and momentarily interspersed with digital percussion. Specifically the moment I felt chills was the epic climax to Pokémon Black and White, mostly because of the symphonic orchestration. Props need to be given to oboe player Josh Oates and flute player Samantha Hennessy for their multiple, beautiful solos throughout the show.
As a nice nod to the fans, ‘Gotta Catch ‘Em All’ was the first of two encores, which Seiter led the audience into singing along with. The second was a rendition of ‘Kiseki,’ the end theme of Pokémon X and Y.
Ultimately, the concert was a special moment for the PokéFans of Adelaide, considering the only other video game-centric orchestral concert to have played here was the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra’s Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy in 2012. The atmosphere was as jubilant and enthusiastic as anyone would expect from a popular culture event such as this. Given the huge success of PAX in Melbourne just weeks ago and now these Pokémon concerts — albeit only being played by two Australian orchestras, with the second being the Sydney Symphony Orchestra — goes to show there is a market for catering to younger people and speaking their language.
And most importantly, a warm thank you to the Adelaide Art Orchestra for taking on the show and making it a hugely memorable experience. Here’s hoping more professional orchestras Down Under will consider filling the huge demographical void just waiting to be played to.