Eorzean Symphony felt like a fitting send-off to Final Fantasy XIV: Fanfest 2023
Earlier this week, I shared my impressions of how music was the star of the show at last weekend’s Final Fantasy XIV Fanfest; it feels appropriate then that Square Enix also invited us to attend the Eorzean Symphony that was scheduled for the same weekend in Las Vegas, wherein an orchestra played a selection of songs from the MMORPG, spanning the basegame and all 4 of its expansions.
While I enjoyed the concerts that were performed during Fanfest, I’d like to emphasize that there were absolutely issues with the soundstage for both that were included with the Fanfest admission; issues that, thankfully, were not present at the Eorzean Symphony due to its much more suitable venue. The show itself was split into two halves; A Realm Reborn, Heavensward and Stormblood were represented in the first half of the show - while Shadowbringers and Endwalker comprised the latter. Both Amanda Achen and Jason Charles Miller were present to provide vocals for tracks such as Close in the Distance, Dragonsong, Flow, Your Answer and more.
The overall pacing of the show was breakneck, with very little fluff; in-between selections of songs from each expansion members of the XIV team such as Masayoshi Soken, Naoki Yoshida, and Koji Michael-Christopher Fox would grace the stage to announce the next set of songs that would be played, but the overall commentary was sparse, and the focus of the show was almost entirely on the music - as well it should. The orchestra did an incredible job with their performance, and I would be very hard-pressed to find any complaints with the music whatsoever.
If I could nitpick, and fully understanding that a game like Final Fantasy XIV, with a tracklist as packed as it is, naturally not every iconic track could be performed. Even then, considering the impossible task of choosing which of the game's hundreds of tracks to perform - they did a great job. You can see the setlist for yourself on the official website, and they managed a solid balance between the obvious picks as well as a few choices that might not have been immediately obvious - but fit in nonetheless.
Last year I had the chance to attend Distant Worlds: Coral, which of course is a similar Orchestra series; and while the vibes of the night were very similar, there was absolutely a more intimate feeling with this showing. The crowd in attendance, while it was still a very large and packed house, was a smaller showing; and although the pacing of the music was very quick, there were moments where the audience itself was invited to participate.
At both Fanfest as well as the orchestra, you could purchase an Elpis Flower light; if you’ve played the latest XIV expansion in Endwalker, then you can probably already guess where this is going. During the performance of Close in the Distance, at the key moment of the prepared FMV accompanying the song, the conductor paused for a second to wait for the audience to turn on their lights (you can actually see a similar instance from last year’s show in Japan, as uploaded to the official Final Fantasy XIV Youtube channel earlier this year). By no means did the performance need this collaboration with the audience, but it was a touching moment that stood out nonetheless.
Speaking in aggregate, it's easy to make connections with the setlist they chose, and extrapolate the thought process that might have gone into the selections. While Heroes feels like an obvious choice, From the Heavens - a song from the Omega raid series - stands out as a track that only players who were truly engaged with XIV's entire package would be familiar with. Crucially, both of their inclusions raise an eyebrow as Endwalker's two Ultimate raids - Dragonsong's Reprise and The Omega Protocol - feature them quite heavily.
In any other instance I would think I might be looking too deeply into things, but considering that it's more likely that any XIV fans that would endeavor to attend might be familiar with the current expansion's high-end content, it wouldn't shock me if that was indeed a consideration when it came time to choose the tracks to be played. While The Omega Protocol had not yet released when the first show of the tour debuted in Japan, the team must've known it was upcoming; and with the consideration for the audience the team showcased elsewhere in the concert, it would fit in with the rest of the show.
All of that aside, for those of us that had the chance to attend both Fanfest as well as this show, it’s fair to say it offered a fitting send-off to the weekend. Although it was a separate event entirely from the convention itself, if you had the chance to attend yourself - or acquire tickets for the showing scheduled for the European Fanfest - chances are you won’t regret it. Final Fantasy XIV’s music has always been such a major part of its identity, and I couldn’t be happier having had the opportunity to hear it live on an orchestra for myself. Much like with Fanfest, for many of us, the Eorzean Symphony was a reminder of just how much we have sunk into Eorzea, to the point that we could call it a second home; and the shared experience of celebration is something I wouldn't have traded for the world.