Milwaukeeans everywhere got a chance to grab their pokedex and their favorite starter for a night of Pokémon and music-filled fun — Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions made its way to the Riverside Theater. And just like the games themselves, the concert managed to combine traditional elements with more modern ones to create an unforgettable night.
The concert played orchestral arrangements of the classic tunes of Pokémon, composed by Junichi Masuda. All of the relevant moods for each song were emulated to a tee. “Pallet Town”, the theme of the town of the same name, was as bright and optimistic as trainers on their first day of Pokémon training. “Prepare for Trouble”, the theme of Team Rocket HQ, started off sinister and brooding and continually got more and more booming. And “Farewell” from the very end of Pokémon Black and White captured the sadness yet hopefulness of a long goodbye. There was even a classy bossa nova rendition of the Pokémon Center theme. But by far my favorite was “An Eternal Prison” from Pokémon X and Y, which chronicles the story of AZ and his lost friend in all its intensity and tragedy. Needless to say, a wide diversity of moods were on display that night, and we enjoyed every minute of it.
While the show featured plenty of traditional instruments and arrangements, it also employed more modern enhancements to make the show stand out even more. Chiefly among these innovations was the screen that hung over the orchestra. The screen played footage from the original games as the music played, showing everything from the hero traversing the twisted tunnels of Victory Road to Youngster Ben proclaiming is love for shorts. Computer-generated animations played in the background of the footage, accenting what was playing on screen from the blustery autumn trees beneath the burned tower in Ecruteak City to lightning crackling through the sky as Pikachu uses Thunder. The footage and the music complemented each other, producing a greater effect than the sum of its parts. The audience even cheered for the hero after a decisive mood in a battle.
The highlight of the night came during the show’s encore, where they played the Pokémon anime’s theme song. The fact that they actually played the full song was amazing on its own, but they got the whole audience singing along too. My only gripe is that they played clips from the newer iterations of the show, but that’s just the late-90s kid in me talking. Also, while the audience nailed the first verse, the second left a lot to be desired; it sounded like, “mumble, grumble, mumble… uuh… courage! Mumble, grumble.”
The fact that this concert got so many people of different ages and walks of life to come together to sing about friendship and animals that shoot lightning out of their cheeks is a true testament to the legacy of Pokémon. The performance more than delivered, and made all of the classic tunes better than ever.
Oh, and shoutout to the guy who played Jigglypuff’s lullaby on the saxophone outside of the concert doors afterwards. You know what’s up!