The force was strong with my padawan, Johnny, when he surprised me recently with tickets to a touring show called "Star Wars in Concert". Basically this event combines the music of John Williams performed by a live orchestra and chorus with specially edited footage from the Star Wars movies played on massive screens. High society meets hard core geek. Was I to wear a shirt and tie or my Chewy is My Copilot tee shirt?
As we were eating breakfast Saturday morning my wife starts to read something out of the local newspaper: "Is there a Star Wars fanatic in your house?" I figured she was reading an article about the concerts to be performed Sunday. But it seems the hooplah started early with a free Star Wars event put on by our Arizona State University, the Arizona Science Center and the Challenger Space Center. Sadly, I have nothing to report on this front as laundry and yard work took precedence.
The concert was held at Jobbing.com arena (I hate these corporate stadium names) which is where Arizona’s hockey team plays. It is in the same "Westgate" complex that also houses the Cardinal’s football stadium. There is an outdoor retail and dining mall connected to all of this which is where you can find McFarlane’s retail store.
Upon entering the arena concert goers could gawk at a decent showing of Lucasfilm exhibits scattered throughout the concourse. Everything from full costumes and masks to blasters and helmets was enshrined in beautiful glass cases. I have to say it was pretty cool to be able to see some of this stuff way up close.
At one point I heard some hubbub behind me and turned to find R2-D2 cruising the hallway. From all appearances he looked to be acting of his own accord but upon further inspection I spotted his handler with an elaborate remote control. R2 would stop and as people approached he do that terrified astromech squeal. Pretty funny.
Our seats were on the floor about halfway back. This was a good location since it allowed us to see the screen head on. However, the seats higher up in the stadium probably had a better view of the orchestra itself. Before the concert started there was just random Star Wars sound effects playing. All would be quiet and then you’d hear a lightsaber ignite or a starship fly by. Then very quickly the lights went down and the Star Wars logo appeared on screen. One of a few goosebump moments.
The first score was accompanied by random movie scenes interspersed with live footage of the orchestra itself which is something we’d not see again until the end. I think this was my only gripe. Really what was special about this event was the live orchestra and chorus. That’s what I wanted to see. Yet as scores were being performed and scenes from the 6 Star Wars movies were playing I couldn’t help but be mesmerized by those and almost forget that I was in the company of live musicians. (This despite the fact that I’ve seen these scenes a thousand times and I suffer from a sort of Galaxy Far Far Away habituation.)
Anthony Daniels, aka C-3P0 was the event’s MC. He tends to have a flair for the dramatic and therefore served the performance well. Although as I watched him recount the history of the Empire and Rebellion with fervor I couldn’t help but wonder how much he and other actors who did not have too much of a career beyond Star Wars really feel about the mythos and franchise. For Anthony Daniels I get the impression that if there ever was resentment he seems to have now embraced his character and its place in the saga.
In the end this really was about the huge role the music played in the Star Wars movies. As conductor Dirk Brosse and the orchestra stood for its final bow I couldn’t help but reflect of how good of a decision George Lucas made when he brought John Williams on board for Star Wars.
Someone once famously noted: "A Star Wars fan and his money are soon parted." How true. The lure of concert tee shirts was too strong for Johnny and I despite the gouging prices. I, of course, had to get the "Cantina Band on Tour" shirt complete with mock concert dates and cities on the back. Johnny got the awesome Stormtrooper tuxedo 3/4 sleeve shirt.
One of the coolest exhibits was an original spread of William’s sheet music. We recently spent some time with our friends Shawn and Liz. Liz is a professional cellist up in the Chicago area. We got to talking about the music of John Williams and, being the classical music dimwit that I am, I asked her opinion of William’s scores. I recall her saying how fantastic and complex they really are. I guess there is good reason that he is the Academy Awards most nominated living person with 45 to date. John Williams has composed the music for more than 100 films, many of which rate highly in geek culture. In essence he has scored the soundtrack to many of our lives!