On June 9, 2018, the Kingdom Hearts Orchestra -- World Tour -- kicked off its second running year in Los Angeles at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. While the news of Kingdom Hearts III’s new release date overwhelmed social media, the two-hour concert itself was magical and worth looking back on. Natalie and Kyle attended the concert but had different perspectives; Natalie is a long-time fan of Kingdom Hearts, getting into the series when Kingdom Hearts II first came out, and Kyle is a recent fan who played the first Kingdom Hearts several years ago and has recently started exploring the rest of the series in anticipation for Kingdom Hearts III. We wanted to offer our insights on a concert that, while we both agree was spectacular from start to finish, is capable of being a deeply emotional and memorable experience for both new and old fans.
Natalie: Despite both of us having gone to Distant Worlds (the Final Fantasy counterpart to the Kingdom Hearts Orchestra concert) and being more familiar with and attached to that series, I think we can both agree that this concert was nothing short of magical.
Kyle: There was something about this concert that just felt like a bigger deal than Distant Worlds. A big part of what makes Kingdom Hearts so great is how it to recaptures what makes a classic Disney movie so special. And that was reflected in this show, from the presentation to the elation in the air; there was such a shared love from the audience and the performers. It felt special in that classical Disney way.
Natalie: I agree. The enthusiasm was infectious, which only made the concert even more enjoyable. It started off strong with the instrumental version of Hikari, which everyone knows and loves, but there wasn’t a single song or medley that made the vibe feel any less energetic. Even with the somber songs, you could feel people’s emotions as they sighed when songs like The Other Promise or Vector to the Heavens started. While you’re a recent fan of the series, even you got slightly emotional because of Yoko Shimomura’s brilliance in conveying emotions in her music.
Kyle: I totally did. It was weird because I wasn’t familiar with a lot of the tracks, and even the ones I heard before weren’t familiar enough for me to know them by heart. All the same, Shimomura’s composition combined with the power that came from a live orchestra was enough for me to get a bit misty-eyed. You seemed to start out a bit quiet, but as the show went on you were much more vocal and elated. It’s the kind of music that exudes nostalgia no matter how familiar you are with the series.
Natalie: Definitely! The entire concert is a bit of a nostalgia trip, especially when watching the videos. The editing for the videos that accompany the music was always on point; scenes matched the beats of the songs, so you can tell a lot of work went into even that aspect of the concert. It is a bit unfortunate though, since I know you haven’t finished all the games and were spoiled throughout the concert. Regardless, I feel like the lore of Kingdom Hearts is so complex (and convoluted at times) that even if you got spoiled, you still don’t have a clear idea of what’s actually going on. Maybe I would recommend to use slightly less spoilery footage, but I also think the videos could’ve been a lot worse in that department.
Kyle: There was a particular moment where they were playing cutscenes from Birth By Sleep that went full into spoiler territory. I had only played through about half of that game by the time we’d gone to see the concert, so a few things were given away. I don’t mind, though. If you’re attending a Kingdom Hearts live orchestra, the concert tour is probably assuming you’re a big enough fan to have played through at least one of the mainline titles. The sequences where they played cutscenes with dialogue and the orchestra filled in the actual music were brilliant, so again, I don’t mind the spoilers. You just can’t help but really appreciate every movement the symphony made in tandem with the footage. It fit better here than in Distant Worlds.
Natalie: Both concerts are fantastic, though. While the highlight of the concert was obviously the new Kingdom Hearts III footage, it would’ve still been wonderful even if we had gotten nothing. The track list made sure to cover every entry in the series and make each one feel important to the point that I was constantly thinking about how we’re going to need to write a lore primer for Kingdom Hearts III! I’ve always loved this series, but that love has significantly lost its enthusiasm at times because of all the waiting I’ve had to do between titles. However, this concert was not only memorable in its own right as an impressive concert, but it was also a great way of reminding me why I love this series and have still waited all these years for the next mainline entry in the first place.
Kyle: When Nomura appeared on stage at the end to present new Kingdom Hearts III footage, it was like each track of the show built up to that moment. Like you said, every game was represented at some point, with each one being like a movement of their own that was building to the crescendo that was the Kingdom Hearts III trailer. All of it reminded me I have a lot to catch up on before the third game comes out, and I couldn’t be more excited about that. I’ve only recently become a Kingdom Hearts fan, but I already feel an attachment and this concert both solidified and strengthened that connection.
The Kingdom Hearts Orchestra is the kind of show that brings out the best in the audience regardless of each individual’s history with the series. It was a thrill to experience fans reliving their fond memories with live music while also sharing their excitement over the upcoming new entry. Not many opportunities come up where you can hear beautifully composed music performed with that sort of power. If you have the opportunity to go to the Kingdom Hearts Orchestra concert, we absolutely recommend that you do, for this is a concert and special memory that we will look back on with much joy. Ultimately, what we’ll remember most from the concert isn’t the Kingdom Hearts III footage, as fantastic as that was; we’ll remember what it felt like to be in a room filled with people who shared a love for a special series, and were there to celebrate that with everyone else.