videogamesliveparamount1.jpg
Dave Lake
Review By Dave Lake

Video Games Live!

The Paramount

Saturday, Jan. 22

Tommy Tallarico is the P.T. Barnum of video games. The 42-year-old

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Video Game Ambassador Tommy Tallarico Brings Geeky Symphonies to the Masses

videogamesliveparamount1.jpg
Dave Lake
Review By Dave Lake

Video Games Live!

The Paramount

Saturday, Jan. 22

Tommy Tallarico is the P.T. Barnum of video games. The 42-year-old musician and TV host is perhaps the medium's most passionate promoter. He's a big personality with big ambitions, which fueled his co-creation of Video Games Live!, a touring multimedia concert event that showcases video-game music via orchestra, light show, and plenty of bombast.

Tallarico is a composer himself, having worked on dozens of games including Earthworm Jim, Unreal, and Prince of Persia, and seems to be single-handedly attempting to mainstream the medium's music, through both curating albums of game music and this tour, which has grown from three concerts in 2006 to more than 70 dates in 2009, with scheduled stops this year including South America, Australia, and Russia.

Like the demographics of gamers in general, the Paramount Saturday night was filled with folks of all ages, from Gen X-ers raised on Atari 2600s to adolescents (and their parents) well-versed in all-things Halo and Xbox 360. The show began with a tribute to classic games, as the orchestra--comprising Seattle musicians--ran through short bursts of themes from vintage games like Donkey Kong, Centipede, and Dragon's Lair, while clips from each played on three giant screens above the musicians. With a full orchestra to perform them, the old-school anthems were given new life as their 8-bit bloops and bleeps were performed by a full-on symphony.

Tallarico, an enthusiastic ringleader, served as emcee for the evening, introducing each segment and even playing guitar on a few, making Eddie Van Halen guitar faces while doing his best to not take away from the orchestra that played behind him. Short video presentations kept the show moving, the right approach for a generation raised on rapid-fire shooters and music-video jump-cuts. The songs performed by the orchestra ran the gamut from modern blockbusters like Halo to obscure Japanese titles like Afrika.

Unlike your average classical concert, Video Games Live! encourages crowd interaction and has a good sense of humor about itself. In between songs, amusing game mash-ups were shown onscreen, as clips imagined Donkey Kong paired with Mortal Kombat, Contra with Duck Hunt. Other highlights included an onstage Frogger competition, which the orchestra scored live, and an appearance--via Skype--from Ralph Baer, who invented the first home video-game console in 1966, whom Tallarico interviewed from the stage.

Though his circus is devoid of freaks, jugglers, and mimes, Tallarico takes pride in presenting his big top to the masses, not only by serving video-game music but by peppering his show with tidbits, trivia, and special guests, all in hopes of inspiring a new generation to have the same reverence for the history of gaming as he has. He may be clownish, but Tallarico's two-and-a-half-hour video-game circus is a well-produced and entertaining one, and just as much fun for the whole family as P.T. Barnum's.

Overheard in the bar: "Is the bar strangely empty?" a patron asked the not-even-a-little-busy bartender during intermission. "Not if this were a Sunday matinee," he answered.

BTW: Marty O'Donnell, whose compositions from the Halo trilogy were featured, revealed during his onstage interview that he used to write commercial jingles, including one famous kids' vitamin tune: "We're Flintstones kids, 10 million strong and growing."

 
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