Star Wars In Concert Review

There are many different ways the Star Wars franchise could have presented on the road. I shudder to think of the rejected ideas: Star Wars The Musical, Star Wars on Ice, or maybe even Star Wars The 3D Experience. Of all the possible shows I am extremely pleased that they landed on Star Wars in Concert. Capturing the heart and soul of Star Wars, this two hour celebration is the equivalent of a legendary rock group reunion tour where all the best songs and moments are recaptured and relived.

A contemplative Yoda onscreen over the orchestra during Star Wars™: In Concert.

A contemplative Yoda onscreen over the orchestra during Star Wars™: In Concert.

Everything about Star Wars in Concert is done on an epic scale. An 86 piece orchestra is combined with a huge choir and backed by a 100-foot LED high-def screen, which is one of the largest, clearest high-def screens I've ever seen. The massive screen is surrounded by three other textured screens which envelope the entire back of the stage. This all is combined with a dizzying array of lighting and special effects which include full stadium lasers, smoke, huge fire and steam jets, providing some explosive exclamation points to the music.

The show opened appropriately enough with "Star Wars (Main Theme)", the iconic piece which filled the Rose Garden with a palpable excitement. The crowd roared and cheered throughout the song. It was an amazing experience to hear a stadium full of people respond so enthusiastically to a piece of orchestral music. This is part of the magic of Star Wars in Concert, behind all the flash of all the staging, the real star of the evening was John Williams's legendary score.

Yoda brandishes a light sabre onscreen over the orchestra during one of the musical segments of Star Wars™: In Concert.

Yoda brandishes a light sabre onscreen over the orchestra during one of the musical segments of Star Wars™: In Concert.

As the orchestra played, montages of clips from the Star Wars Saga were projected on the huge screens behind them. I've never seen these films look better; the crisp clarity, the deep color, even footage from the original series is literally jaw dropping. Seeing the films presented this way really accentuated the fact that the Star Wars Saga still isn't available in Blu-Ray. I really hope that Lucasfilm will piggy back the excitement of this tour with a high-def release. The film montages combined clips from all six Star Wars movies (including original character concept drawings), often interspersing segments from the original series with the three prequels. The occasional clip had the sound from the film, usually featuring one of the many legendary quotes.

For the hardcore Star Wars fan I'm sad to report that the footage from the original Star Wars trilogy is the revised footage from the special edition releases (including things like the new approach to Mos Eisley Cantina). Also you'll probably cringe when you see Han Solo and Greedo in their cantina duel and realize that Lucas is standing strong with Greedo now shooting first (for more on this see Han Shot First). But these minute details are easily forgiven, contexted in the absolute Star Wars love fest that is Star Wars in Concert.

Actor Anthony Daniels narrates a portion of the story from the films onstage during Star Wars™: In Concert.

Actor Anthony Daniels narrates a portion of the story from the films onstage during Star Wars™: In Concert.

After the theme song came to an end and the crowd finished their uproarious applause, Anthony Daniels (who played C3PO) was introduced. Daniels immediately began narrating the over-arching story of Star Wars, not as if it were some fairytale or fiction, but as if it were a real story with real people. Daniels was the perfect choice for this role, as his humor and enthusiasm provided the connecting point between the audience, the orchestra and the clips from the movie. While Daniels's narration is infused with the occasional quip, it never droned on too long and was never cheesy.

STAR WARS: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back key art onscreen during Star Wars™: In Concert.

STAR WARS: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back key art onscreen during Star Wars™: In Concert.

STAR WARS: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back key art onscreen during Star Wars™: In Concert.

Each number of the evening was accompanied by a themed segment looking at each aspect of the Star Wars Saga including the story of Anakin and his transformation into Darth Vader, Pod Racing, Droids, Luke and Leia, Yoda, The Death Star, The Rebel Alliance triumph over the Empire, and Vader's redemption. I really enjoyed how each segment focused on a specific aspect of the saga. Pulling some of these themes out of the context of the individual films enables them to be viewed from a new perspective. I especially enjoyed the segment on Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. It's a really nice portrait of their relationship across the original trilogy films and seeing their relationship chronicled in this way really gave me a new appreciation for it. The biggest benefactors of this style of presentation are the three prequels. Divorced from some of their baggage they really shine. I found a real sense of fondness for the core story from the prequels, which was both a surprise and a delight.

C-3PO onscreen with lights and lasers during Star Wars™: In Concert.

C-3PO onscreen with lights and lasers during Star Wars™: In Concert.

With so much to experience on the gigantic high-def screen, it's easy to overlook the phenomenal performance of the orchestra and conductor Dirk Brosse, who tackles the monstrous task of performing music so ingrained in the audience's mind that even the slightest deviance would be noted. Brosse does an exceptional job conducting a pitch perfect orchestra with an extraordinary level of comfort and ease. Brosse was never showy and seemed dedicated to presenting the orchestration that really honored John Williams's score. His work was a real partnership with the video segments and Daniels's narration and the three elements worked in perfect harmony, a real credit to Brosse's talent.

I really can't imagine a better tribute to the Star Wars Saga than Star Wars in Concert. It's an event which can be equally enjoyed by fans of the series both old and young. The fact that it can draw so many people to come together to celebrate and enjoy classical orchestral music is simply amazing. The Star Wars series and John Williams's score both deserve to be celebrated and Star Wars in Concert is the most profound celebration possible. I highly recommend the Star Wars in Concert tour and hope that it will return to Portland again in the future, because I would absolutely go see it again.

Here is the formal Star Wars in Concert Set list:

Star Wars (Main Title)
Duel of the Fates
Anakin's Theme
Moisture Farm
The Flag Parade
Across the Stars
Battle of the Heroes
The Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme)

INTERMISSION

The Asteroid Field
Princess Leia's Theme
Tales of a Jedi Knight
Cantina Band
Yoda's Theme
TIE Fighter Attack
Luke and Leia
The Forest Battle
Light of the Force
Throne Room/End titles

Encore: The Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme)

In addition to the main show, Star Wars in Concert features a number of costumes and models from the Star Wars Series.  If you go to the show be sure to allow extra time prior to enjoy these displays. They were swarmed by people at the Rose Garden and so picture taking was very difficult.

For more information about Star Wars in Concert:

Photos: Courtesy Lucasfilm LTD. © 2009 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM where indicated. All rights reserved. Used under authorization.

Geoff Kleinman

10 Comments

  1. Not for CHILDREN!

    Wilkes-Barre, PA
    Wachovia Arena
    17 November 2009

    I just got home (1.5 hour drive) and had a lot of time to think about the concert and the environment.

    While I enjoyed the music, the special effects and Mr. Daniels – this show is not for 10 and under unless they are very mature, theatre savy and/or have very strict parents.

    Just because you plop your kids down in front of the Tele to watch DVD's of Stars Wars, buy them action figures and bed sheets does not mean that they will appreciate this performace. This is not a movie with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra playing along to the LED screen. The clips from the movies are not full length and are edited and joined together to set the tone of the musical movement.

    What did I experience for $125? Surrounded by poorly behaved children who only were interested in playing with the toy light sabres they sold in lobby…kicking seats…potty breaks and spilled sodas and popcorn…talking during Mr. Daniels naratives…just general rudeness and lack of parenting. And adults (I don't use the word parents) because they acted like children as well when asked to mind their children.

    Please, do not bring your children to this perfomance!

    The professional musicians in the The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir have spent countless hours and years perfecting their craft. The tech (Design and Production) staff have also spent many hours perfecting the visual experience and cordinating the visual effects to the musical movements and edited movie clips/montage.

    While I did view some well behaved children under 10 they were few and far between.

    I will be using my airline miles to travel to the Air Canada Centre, in Toronto, ON on Thu, Nov 26, 2009 07:30 PM

    I will report to as my experience there.

    I have floor seats 9th row 3rd seat in from center.

  2. "With so much to experience on the gigantic high-def screen, it's easy to overlook the phenomenal performance of the orchestra and conductor Dirk Brosse"

    I would like to add, that it would have been nice to have had additional smaller LED screens to stage left and right that were consistantly panning The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir in synchronization to the movemnent and movie clips. This would have added to the musical experience for those who appreciate not just the movies but the amazing original scoring by composer John Williams.

  3. you know what greg? i totally agree with you not for imature children, I'm from Mexico and I'm gonna watch it on june i really hope not to see fucking kiddies kicking seats and yelling because it's a pain in the ass for both the audience and the orchestra, it takes hours of rehersal and patience to perfect that kind of music

  4. Honestly, I really liked the orchestra (I played for about 8 years once upon a time). That part was very good. My issue is entirely with the sequencing of clips from the movies and clip selection… Playing the Mos Eisley cantina song and then also throwing into it the movie clips scenes from the Jabba's Palace song in the remade ROTJ?? WTF is that!!

    Also, calling the it the "Forest Battle" on the Endor Moon, but then having battle scenes from Episode 1 battle??? Please!!

    When they showed the pod race, it was cut up so badly as to not resemble the actual race!! Final laps were cut to look like the first lap, first lap was most of the second lap, and most of the second lap was the final lap??? Ridiculous!! I haden't even watched the movies for years and I know it was all screwed up.

    My recomendation is to go and shut your eyes and enjoy the orchestra.

  5. That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard… to not bring children! You really think the musicians who have practiced and perfected their music would rather have no kids in the arena, than to actually GET PAID? I do agree that people should keep their children under control and not affect anyone else's experience. My child's seat costs just as much as your seat, so get over it!

  6. This performance deserves two different ratings. For those that hadn't bought the Soundtrack to Revenge of the Sith and those that had. This would be a 6 out of 10 for those that had not bought the Soundtrack and a 3 out of 10 for those that did.

    Those that did buy the Star Wars Revenge of the Sith soundtrack. The soundtrack came with two CDs. The first CD was music from the third prequel and the second CD was, essentially, the entirety of what you saw at Star Wars in Concert. The entire collection of videos during performance as well as the symphonic portion were heard and seen on the second CD. The only difference was the strange and stupid addition of a weak laser light show.

    For those that did NOT buy the soundtrack, I can see why this performance was pretty damn entertaining. They summarized the entire movie saga pretty well and seeing the symphony behind it all was awesome. The addition of Anthony Daniels, the voice of C-3PO, was great. His narration between each section of the story was quirky, funny and altogether a crowd pleaser.

    The video performance on the soundtrack disc 2 and in this performance was the weak point. The saga was presented in disjointed and seemingly unorganized scenes from the entire collection of films. In particular, a section of the saga devoted to the Battle of Endor included battle scenes from Episode I's Gungan and Trade Federation showdown which took away from what the point of the section was. It seemed like a shotty editting job where scenes that might have had the same keywords to them were pasted together regardless of how well that would flow with one another. In some of the dialogue scenes, the audio was drowned out by the loudness of the music.

    The audience seemed at the end of the performance satisfied with a great attraction, but as a Star Wars fan you might want to research this and judge for yourself.
    Altogether I thought it was a good time, but I couldn't escape the glaring fact that I had seen the entire thing before on the Revenge of the Sith soundtrack disc 2.
    I was thinking as I left the arena, "I spent $65 on a concert I had seen 3 years prior for $20 on a disc."

  7. my only question is, how long does the concert last?

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