The hiatus is long and full of boredom as we wait for the seventh season of Game of Thrones.
Luckily, HBO, Live Nation, and Team Benioff & Weiss have given fans what is possibly the most creative, elaborate “Previously on” montage ever to help us make it to summer. With their support, show composer Ramin Djawadi has launched a 24-city North American tour featuring music from Thrones presented live with all the bells and whistles (and wildfire) a die-hard fan could want.
I was fortunate enough to attend New York City’s concert and see, for my first time ever, an arena show that really felt worthy of such a large space.
First things first: Game of Thrones Live runs through early April, so you may still have a shot at seeing it and if so, I highly recommend jumping on those tickets.
The stage, a 360-degree concept featuring two circular stages, a long connecting walkway, and some offshoots for various soloists is itself striking. The 80-piece orchestra, conducted by Djwadi, is certainly the main focus, but your eyes also can’t help but be drawn to the innovative ways video screens and revolving props, flashing lights, and, yes, bursts of fire and snow, are all meticulously coordinated to recreate an immersive experience.
It really is a spectacle of sight and sound.
And the sound is flawless, totally fitting for the bombastic show it represents. I’ve been in Madison Square Garden before and thought the sound quality so poor even metal acts like Mastodon sounded like a whimper. But this time, it was easy to get caught up in the swell of the choir singing Daenerys’ dragons’ theme or feel your heart thump in time with Wildlings’ drums. The percussion session was a particular standout, as was the really interesting assortment of ancient woodwind instruments—some created exclusively for the show, like a 14-foot long Wildling horn previously seen atop the Wall. Djwadi made some nice between-song banter and was a gracious, humble emcee and conductor, no more so than when he alone played Arya’s “Needle” theme on a hammer dulcimer center-stage.
Songs were played in a kind of seasonal progression, beginning with the opening credits song and going on to the Stark’s mournful motif, played by a fantastic violinist who stood on a rising platform that transformed, through screens, into a weirwood tree shedding actual red paper leaves. This was a small taste of a confetti blizzard that would later rain down on the seats closest to the stage during “The Battle at the Wall.” So much “snow” came down, it required 7 people to sweep it all up during intermission.
The only thing that could top the expansive music was the eager, expansive crowd.
I’ve watched Game of Thrones with 4,000 people before and this concert was very similar, only strangely PG-rated—the Red Wedding was definitely modified for network TV standards, not cable. Perhaps it felt too cruel to replay in full gory detail? Crowds cheered every time favorite characters appeared onscreen; obviously Jon Snow and Tyrion and Daenerys got a lot of fanfare, but Ygritte and Oberyn Martell got respectable applause, too. How we miss you, Prince Pantydropper! Even Bran got the crowd excited, but maybe that’s cheating because Isaac Hempstead Wright greeted everyone onstage. And the love was as loud as the hate for Ramsay Bolton. And Rickon’s pitiful running skills.
This is all to say that it was really, really fun to hang around with thousands of other die-hard Thrones fans and “Oh!” and “Ah!” when the stage flashed lightning or exploded with bursts of flame so large, you could feel the heat, to shout out “Mhysa!” or “Shame!” at the incredibly talented lead vocalist who changed into—or out of—pretty gowns. (She wore a clever nude-colored number for Cersei’s infamous walk; again, this was as family-friendly as Thrones will ever be.)
By show’s end, we had journeyed from “The Kingsroad” to “The Battle of the Bastards,” to the explosive fate of the Sparrows, the coronation of a new monarch and, with a final, epic flourish, to a hint of what’s to come in “The Winds of Winter.” And I was reminded of how excited I am to watch Season 7 and how susceptible I am to epic marketing.
Is Game of Thrones Live a highbrow and serious orchestra experience? No! It’s HBO. And I, TV-addicted monkey that I am, was thoroughly entertained.
Game of Thrones Live: The Concert Experience is on tour now.
Theresa DeLucci is a regular contributor to Tor.com covering TV, book reviews and sometimes games. She’s also gotten enthusiastic about television for Boing Boing, Wired.com’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast and Den of Geek. Reach her via raven or Twitter.