The Sydney Opera House is by far the most iconic music venue in Australia. And I can’t help but feel a sense of childlike glee each time I see a performance there. Getting off the train at Circular Quay, overlooking the Harbour Bridge, walking past the ferry docks and approaching an international icon still feels special every time you do it. This time, I was here for Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions. This is music from the iconic Pokémon games being performed by the Sydney Symphonic Orchestra. As an avid gamer – I was stoked.
Entering the venue was a bizarre mix of patrons. It ranged from 30somethings in suits – business people just the right age to have been pulled into the Pokémon universe in 1998, to parents with young kids dressed as Ash Ketchum, who have probably grown up on Pokémon since they could read. Strangely, the guy sitting next to me said he had never watched or played Pokémon, but thought he would come along to see what it was like. It is first – and most likely the only – time that I have seen the Opera House concert hall lit up with the screens of hundreds of 3DS consoles, constantly checking Streetpasses.
The night started with an emphatic version of the opening music made famous by Pokémon Red and Blue, as the covers of the game scrolled past on the screen above the orchestra. The conductor – Susie Seita – wore a long white coat, reminiscent of Professor Oak’s lab coat. Producer Jeron Moore took to the stage to explain the show to us. To tell us we were about to undertake a journey many of us had taken before, starting in Pallet Town, and picking our starter Pokémon. This was met by someone near me loudly yelling “F**K BULBASAUR!” as I sat and seethed in silence, containing my love for my favourite leafy starter Pokémon. Jeron listed the games we were about to experience, with a subtle round of booing going around the room at the mention of Pokémon Crystal. This was to be a journey from Redand Blue to X and Y.
The next 90 minutes we were taken on a breathtaking voyage through the Pokémon universe. The music ebbed and flowed through battle themes, town levels such as Pallet Town and Ecruteak City, while the screen behind the orchestra showed an extremely well edited video of in game footage from each game, showing battles, scenery and most importantly – showing the evolution of the games.
The largest cheer – understandably – went around the room when the on screen video showed one of the most famous battle greetings from the Pokémon franchise. “Hi! I like shorts! They’re comfy and easy to wear!”
The orchestra itself contained a large range of people, male and female, young and old, and I was left wondering how many of these were actually Pokémon fans, and how many were just baffled by the room full of nerds they were performing for.
At the end of our Pokémon journey, Jerom came back to the stage to introduce the final songs. One was Kiseki – the ending song from Pokémon X and Y, which translates to Miracle. He spoke of how many within the Pokémon franchise regard these shows as a miracle. They are a way of strangers coming together and sharing memories that they have made over years since 1998. And then we were treated to some trainer-esque advice “Even if you’re progressing slowly, keep walking. If you do, you’ll reach your dream”.
Kiseki was played with the final cutscene from X and Y, and while I won’t spoil for anyone who hasn’t played it, I will say there were not many dry eyes in the room. The mood shifted however, when the instantly recognisable anime theme started playing. I have to say, listening to a few thousand people (mainly adults), singing Gotta Catch ‘em All in the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall was definitely one of the most surreal experiences of my life.
Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions really is the best name for this show. The performance itself showed the evolution of the game series, while the crowd who appeared to watch it showed not only the evolution of the game fans, but just how amazingly gaming and music can create feelings of togetherness among strangers. My two favourite things are video games and live music, and to see them come together in such a unique and beautiful way was an unforgettable experience. While Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions has left Australia for now, it is not one to be missed when it returns.