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Monday, November 09, 2009

We saw STAR WARS: IN CONCERT in Charlotte this past weekend!

The Force was with us on Saturday night! Along with lifelong friends Chad Austin and Eric Wilson, I got to see Star Wars: In Concert when it came to Charlotte.

Chad and I hooked up in Burlington, and then high-tailed it down I-85 to rendezvous with Eric at his impregnable fortress. We wasted a few hours at Concord Mills Mall (which according to Eric is now the most visited attraction in the entire state of North Carolina), got some grub to eat and then went back to the Wilson homestead real quick so I could "get dressed" for the show. Then we headed out for the evening.

Here's the Time-Warner Cable Arena in downtown Charlotte, where the concert took place...

And here I am in my Jedi attire for a night at the Coruscant Operahou... errr... Charlotte's biggest indoor venue...

I hadn't seen this many people in Star Wars garb since Star Wars Celebration III in 2005! Granted, most of 'em Saturday night were kiddies, but there was at least one other guy there in full Jedi uniform. My getup aroused plenty of oggling, as you'll soon see.

Inside the arena before the show we got to check out a bunch of props, costumes and other artifacts from the Star Wars movies. And I wish my sister could have come (she was off running a half-marathon elsewhere during the weekend) 'cuz Chik-Fil-A was one of the show's sponsors and they had a bunch of their famous cows walking around in Star Wars costumes! Here's Eric and I with "Obi-Wan Cow-nobi"...

Chik-Fil-A also had a cow as Princess Leia (complete with hair buns) and Darth Vader walking around.

This being a major Star Wars event, the 501st Legion was well represented. Several stormtroopers (in both standard and scout armor) stalked the promenade and posing for photos. Here's Chad getting "taken into custody" by the 501st...

And then, right as Eric and I were getting this photo of Chad, something very neat started happening: people began coming to me to get their photos taken with!

And it only got better once we got to this big backdrop of the Coruscant skyline set up for photos...

Offhand, I think I posed for about 15 or 20 pictures: with children and not a few adults!

We stuck around for awhile and during a break in the "photography session" and with ten minutes before showtime we headed on in to our seats. Here's Eric, Chad and me awaiting the start of the concert...

So, what is Star Wars: In Concert like?

It's a musical and multimedia celebration of George Lucas's beloved film saga. Conducted by Belgian composer Dirk Brosse and narrated by Anthony Daniels (who portrayed C-3PO in each of the Star Wars films) and specially pre-recorded voiceovers by James Earl Jones, Star Wars: In Concert conveys the entire mythic arc of the Skywalker family - and particularly Anakin Skywalker's rise, fall and redemption - through the medium of John Williams' amazing score, accompanied by select scenes from the movies playing out on a gigantic screen behind the orchestra.

In fitting Star Wars fashion, the concert began with the THX brand's theme blaring out of the speakers ("the audience IS listening" y'all) followed by the 20th Century Fox fanfare as the arena darkened. And then the Star Wars logo burst onto the screen as the orchestra began to play as a montage of clips from the movies reeled away.

Anthony Daniels took to the stage, introduced Dirk Brosse and began his narrative of the story: how the Republic had stood for thousands of years but that a darkness was growing. And so began "Duel of the Fates". I have enjoyed this piece three times now in live performance. This was probably the best one I've heard yet.

The story then shifted to the events on Tatooine circa 33 years before the Battle of Yavin, where a nine-year old slave boy named Anakin Skywalker was dreaming of freedom and adventure. "Anakin's Theme", "Moisture Farm" and "The Flag Parade" were the next pieces of the set, showing us everything from young Anakin's home life (including his building C-3PO) on through the Boonta Eve podrace.

And then came "Across the Stars". I had been waiting since 2002 to hear this performed live. This has become one of my all-time favorite pieces of Star Wars music and the orchestra did not disappoint! Anakin and Padme's growing love for each other even as the galaxy teeters on the brink of war had never sounded so beautiful.

I have to say something here: Star Wars: In Concert engenders a whole new appreciation for George Lucas's movies. In two hours' time we saw the story of six full-length features presented as a single cohesive and compelling story. Call me crazy for saying this if you wish, but Star Wars: In Concert reinforced something that I have believed for years: that in decades still to come, the Star Wars saga will be held up as classical opera on the same level as Wagner's Ring cycle or Parsifal.

(Something else too: for the first time since all of the movies have been released, at last I see it as one story of equal parts, instead of thinking that Episode I is the weakest and The Empire Strikes Back the best installment of the series. Star Wars: In Concert... did something for me as a fan, that I'm still trying to articulate.)

Daniels continued with his narration: about how Anakin's lust for power to save the ones that he loved ultimately and ironically led him toward the Dark Side. Palpatine completes the young Jedi's seduction even as he finishes the master stroke of his takeover of the galaxy. So it is that an Empire is born and with it, Darth Vader. "Battle of the Heroes" - another of my very favorite Star Wars pieces - began, and was then followed by "The Imperial March".

Following a twenty minute intermission the concert began again. "The Asteroid Field" and "Princess Leia's Theme" were next. Then it was the haunting and reflective "Tales of a Jedi Knight", which quickly segued into "Cantina Band".

The diminutive green Jedi Master was the next to receive musical attention as the orchestra played "Yoda's Theme", the screen showing us every aspect of Yoda's career: from his mentorship to his swordsmanship!

Next up, spaceborne combat erupted to the strains of "TIE Fighter Attack". And then it was "Luke and Leia", as the relationship between the brother and sister was chronicled from birth on through their first meeting on the Death Star and then the revelation that Luke and Leia were the offspring of the very man they had been leading a war against.

If you love Ewoks (and who doesn't? Okay, forget I asked that...) then you'll thrill to hearing "Forest Battle" performed live. We certainly did!

Winding down the mythic narration, Daniels spoke of how Anakin Skywalker finally threw off the chains of hate and rage that had bound him to Darth Sidious for so very long, and through love for his only son found redemption at the cost of his own life. The orchestra performed "Light of the Force". And wrapping up the main show, they played "Throne Room/End Titles" for the finale.

But what is a magnificent concert such as this without an encore? "I get the feeling that you don't want to go home yet!" Anthony Daniels told the crowd. "Yeah!!" everyone screamed. The lights went down again and the orchestra did another performance of "The Imperial March".

And then the show was over. The credits rolled on the screen, while David Bowie's song "Ground Control to Major Tom" played over the speakers. How geeky cool is that? :-)

It was a heckuva grand evening: probably one of the best that I've had in awhile. Getting to share it with two good friends, and being able to entertain quite a few folks with my Jedi getup, made it even more special.

Star Wars: In Concert is touring the United States and Canada right now and is scheduled to begin a worldwide tour later on. I absolutely recommend going to this if it's at all possible. And I would love to see a DVD of this concert be made available at some point. PBS has been running a special about it lately, so I know they've already done filming for it. This is the kind of experience that more than deserves preserving for the ages.

But don't let that possibility deter you from seeing it now if you can, folks. Star Wars: In Concert is a performance you will remember for all time!


qemuel said...

Wowzers,it sounds fantastic! Wish I could have attended.

Galto said...

Great review from a true fan! What does it mean that I had chills of excitement while merely reading it????

I have my ticket for the Toronto show on the 26th and I cannot wait! I feel like a 9 year old kid again, seeing Star Wars on the big screen for the first time in 1977. Nice thing is I'll be sharing the experience with my niece and nephews, all big fans like me.

I saw the PBS preview in HD. Looks amazing, and I will buy a Blu-Ray when it's released.

Larry said...

heh...and my wife calls me a nerd because I recognize the version of the Enterprise being show in a TNG commercial is actually from TOS...
Sounds like you had a good time.

AfterShock said...

Man, I wish I could've gone with you Chris! It sounds like it was a heckuva night! :)

Glad you all had a great time!

Carts and A said...

"heh...and my wife calls me a nerd because I recognize the version of the Enterprise being show in a TNG commercial is actually from TOS...

We don't hock Trek here. NOW GET OFF OUR LAND!!!

Man, Fanboys is a great movie. Great review!! I was at the CLT show as well and thought it was incredible!!