When comparing the titanic successes of Lord of the Rings (LOTR) and Game of Thrones (GoT); there is no doubt that both franchises brought fantasy to the forefront of mainstream pop culture. While GoT is still in progress (both in the books and on screen), it is guaranteed to be remembered (just like LOTR) for its astounding battle sequences, beloved characters, great direction and ground-breaking visual effects.
But among the many similarities is undoubtedly the incredible music. Both franchises have (musically speaking) taken us on a journey from the heights of honour and humanity, to the depths of evil and malice.
Which is why I decided to attend a one-off concert being held at the London Palladium. For the first time (as far as I’m aware), the music of Game of Thrones, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit could be celebrated in one singular experience.
Presented by Senbla and Silva Screen Live, the show is, according to some very effusive promotional material:
a celebration of the music from the most memorable moments from across the world’s of Middle Earth and the Seven Kingdoms, with the stunning musical accompaniments performed live by a huge orchestra, creating an immersive live concert experience that is every bit as thrilling as the twists and turns in the world’s respective histories.
Might be overselling it there, guys! I don’t think just listening to the Rains of Castemere is going to quite match the twist of the Red Wedding! But nonetheless the excitement was palpable as I entered the auditorium of the London Palladium.
And then I saw this…
A gigantic bloody screen! I see this more and more with live musical performances. For some reason the music is no longer considered enough to entertain an audience. Maybe that’s just a result of the Youtube age, with attention-spans having taken a nosedive off a cliff.
Still, I have seen several excellent orchestral performances that included a screen (such as the memorable Star Wars: A Musical Journey); so it was hardly indicative of a lesser performance.
You may, however, have noticed only the Tolkien-related works are mentioned for the first half of the performance. I suppose for the sake of simplicity it makes sense that the two franchises be separated by an interval. But a little bit of me would have liked to see a mix of all three franchises. Perhaps done by themes, such as love or war.
Unfortunately with no programme available it was difficult to say who was leading the orchestra or exactly what the title of each individual piece was. But it did start off with a bang, with a mix of bombastic themes such as The Bridge of Khazad-dûm mixed in with a few other pieces from the Moria escape sequence in Fellowship of the Ring.
Said music might have even been more enjoyable if the aforementioned gigantic bloody screen has decided to play anything LOTR related!
To be fair, the cost of paying for and editing a solid 45 minutes of LOTR footage would have been insanely expensive. So I can understand why they didn’t. But did they have to use generic stock footage of mountains? That’s all there was! For 45 minutes! Perhaps artwork from Alan Lee or John Howe might have been a good replacement? Or even just a single still image from the part in the film that the music represents? Anything but boring mountains!
We soon moved into the main theme for LOTR before slowing down with the more upbeat tune of Concerning Hobbits. But as the music continues you start to realise just how varied Howard Shore’s work is. True, it was only 45 minutes out of a total of nearly 24 hours of music. But considering LOTR is essentially a simplistic battle between good and evil, I would have expected far more repetition of themes and melodies. But no, each composition truly felt unique, even all these years later. No wonder Shore won a Best Score Oscar for two films of the trilogy. (Somehow he didn’t even get nominated for The Two Towers!)
After the interval came the Ramin Djawadi- scored compositions of GoT. And yes, there were more mountains. Though I had to laugh a little as these ones were all covered in snow! #WinterHasCome
By the time the first few melodies had been completed, you realise that pretty much all of Djawadi’s work on the show is incredibly dark and foreboding. Yes, there’s the occasional grandiose piece, such as Winds of Winter. But there’s not one piece that could be said to come close to the light-hearted and whimsical nature of “Very Old Friends” or “The Grey Havens.” from LOTR. (But hey, when most of the show you’re scoring is about rape and murder, I imagine you don’t get a lot of leeway in the matter!)
Having said that, I have to give full points to the organisers for tricking us into believing the best piece of GoT music wouldn’t be played! After the second half had ran 45(ish) minutes, the conductor turned to the audience to indicate everything was finished. He took his bow, the entire orchestra followed suit, applause echoed through the auditorium, and the conductor exited the stage.
He came back…
And they started playing the first few notes of Light of the Seven.
You could literally hear about a dozen people whisper “YEEEEESSSSS!” It was truly the cherry on top of the musical cake. If you’re not sure what I’m referring to, it’s the music playing during the final episode of season 6. Trust me, you’ll recognise it when you hear it.
Minor screen issues aside, I have to say it was a pretty enjoyable night! If you’re interested in attending a similar event (and live in Europe or North America), then I would suggest checking out the Game of Thrones Live Concert Tour in 2018. It’s being led by Ramin Djawadi himself and threatens to be utterly amazing! Apparently it includes an 80-piece orchestra and choir performing highlights from the series’ musical score on a 360-degree stage. In addition they use LED telescoping, wall screens, special 3D designs, and an actual 12-foot long Wildling horn! Roll on 2018!