Winter Comes to Charlotte

With Ramin Djawadi at the helm, the "Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience" is a powerful celebration of fantasy and music.

| March 11, 2017

Ramin Djawadi and fellow performers on stage. (Photo by Barry Brecheisen)

Since its debut in 2011, “Game of Thrones” has gone on to become one of the most successful and beloved television series of all time, thanks in part to its lovable characters, epic battle sequences and moving musical pieces. Composer Ramin Djawadi and his team have managed to bring all of these elements together to create an incredible concert experience that will leave “Game of Thrones” fans in awe and will possibly convince newcomers to binge the series. Special emphasis needs to be placed on the word “experience” as this concert is a fully immersive journey that pulls the crowd in from start to finish.

On March 9, the Spectrum Center in Uptown Charlotte was filled with hundreds eager fans awaiting the start of the “Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience,” an event that had been highly anticipated for months. The excitement could be felt as everyone took their seats and marveled at the impressive stage that had been set up. With the lights dimmed, a single white dove flies across the three large video screens as a slow-building hum sound rings out. Sparks and smoke can be seen in the center of the stage as the main screen changes to a stormy sky with swords flying through the air. The smoke dissipates, revealing the famous Iron Throne as the iconic “Game of Thrones” theme song is played by the orchestra. It’s impossible to not sing along as you fly across the map of Westeros and Essos; the crowd goes wild as the journey through the Seven Kingdoms and beyond officially begins.

Make no mistake, this is not your average orchestra concert. That much was clear upon entry into the arena. Using the massive video screens to project scenes from the television series, Djawadi and his fellow performers allow the audience to relive the most important moments from the six seasons by placing the action right in front of them. Alongside the screens, a variety of special effects are used to make the experience fully immersive. During the performance of a chilling White Walker montage, thousands of small white pieces of confetti trickle down from above into the audience, meant to represent a bitter cold snow storm. In the equally moving composition “The North Remembers,” a single violinist plays on a platform as a Weirwood tree grows around her, with bright red leaves blooming and falling to the ground. As the theme to House Stark, this particular piece is enough to bring tears to the eyes of loyal fans.

Performance of Hardhome/Hold the Door. (Photo by Barry Brecheisen)

Across the Narrow Sea, there are plenty of musical montages dedicated to the Mother of Dragons, Daenerys Targareyn (Emilia Clarke). Fans are treated to a full recap of her tragic journey from a frightened young woman who is forced into a marriage with Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa), to the confident queen that we all know and love. One particular sequence uses the tense music and flashing lights to recreate the hectic Sons of the Harpy massacre, wherein Daenerys is rescued by her loyal dragon. More impressive is the arrangement “Reign,” where pyrotechnics accompany the orchestra as the Battle of Meereen is projected on the screens. This performance is especially immersive as the growing intensity of the music culminates into fiery explosions, allowing the audience to literally feel the heat from the flames. The musical pieces involving Daenerys are especially noteworthy for their usage of percussion instruments, which help to transport the audience to the sparse lands of the “Great Grass Sea.”

The concert also takes plenty of time to pay tribute to some of the more villainous characters, especially the members of House Lannister. Singer Stevvi Alexander takes the stage to perform “The Rains of Castamere,” one of the highlights of the night; Alexander’s voice is hauntingly beautiful as she sings the incredibly powerful House Lannister song. While Alexander is present for most of the pieces, this is where she really shines, sending chills across the audience and likely leaving her elegant melodies in everyone’s head for them to ponder later. In line with “The Rains of Castamere,” the concert takes a dark turn as Ramin Djawadi (jokingly) announces that the doors have been locked; the crowd is forced to relive the absolute horrors of the Red Wedding, a game-changing event where “the Lannisters send their regards” to the Starks in a series of bloody murders. As devastating as this part of “Game of Thrones” is, hearing the jarring collection of instruments shift to a somber farewell ballad in person is truly epic. Knowing how the Red Wedding plays out, in no way ruins the overall intensity and power of the moment.

Ramin Djawadi on stage. (Photo by Barry Brecheisen)

The most recent season of “Game of Thrones” introduced viewers to two of the most grand musical scores on television; these scores come from the final episodes of the sixth season, “Battle of the Bastards” and “The Winds of Winter,” arguably two of the greatest episodes of any show in television history. The former throws the audience into the middle of the great battle between Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) over control of Winterfell. While some of the violence is cut, the huge scale of the battle is not lost. Seeing Jon Snow and his army charge head first into certain death as the music changes from melancholy to downright catastrophic allows the audience to feel as though they are fighting alongside all of the soldiers. It’s in sequences such as this were the concert feels fully immersive, but the “Light of the Seven” is where the music really envelops the arena. There is something truly unsettling to hear this piece in person; “am I about to be the victim of a massive wildfire explosion inside the Spectrum Center?” flashed through my head at the start. As Djawadi plays an organ on a raised platform, the entire stage begins to turn an eerie, yet familiar green color. The growing tension alerts the crowd to the fact that something insane is about to happen. As the song reaches its climax, green fire and smoke erupts from the stage paralleling the chaotic scene playing out on the screens. Based on the cheers from the audience, it is clear that this song is the fan favorite; it is most definitely my favorite television musical score.

While music plays a crucial role in the television series, this concert allows fans to fully appreciate the soundtrack as it takes the forefront during this performance. Some songs are gentle and sweet, some mysterious and others are thrilling and triumphant, but all are packed with emotions and deep meaning. Attending this concert will leave you with the realization that Ramin Djawadi is brilliant, plain and simple. His ability to compose such magnificent pieces allows listeners to step outside of our reality for a moment and into the fascinating world of “Game of Thrones” (He is also the composer for the other HBO megahit “Westworld,” as well several blockbuster films). Special praise must also be given to the incredible local Charlotte Symphony orchestra and the Clover High School (South Carolina) Choir for contributing to the perfection of the night and for positively representing the region. This is the type of musical performance that sticks with you for a long time after it ends. While this is something that any “Game of Thrones” should absolutely attend, those who haven’t seen the series may just become a fan after witnessing this concert. Hopefully, my fellow concert-goers will share in the newfound appreciation that I have for the huge amount of work and care that goes into scoring a film or television series; if you’re not yet convinced that the music is an integral part, try watching one of the many incredible “Game of Thrones” scenes on mute and you quickly come to understand that the music serves as another layer to the overall experience. This concert definitely helps to hold fans over until the show returns for its 7th Season on July 16. For more information about the “Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience” and for tour dates, visit https://www.gameofthronesconcert.com/.

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Category:Arts and Entertainment, Music, Television

Jeffrey Kopp is the Arts & Entertainment Editor of the Niner Times. He is a sophomore double majoring in Communication and Political Science, with a minor in Criminal Justice. His interests include writing and keeping up with an excessive amount of television shows. He is also the go-to expert on all things “The Walking Dead.”

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Jeffrey Kopp is the Arts & Entertainment Editor of the Niner Times. He is a sophomore double majoring in Communication and Political Science, with a minor in Criminal Justice. His interests include writing and keeping up with an excessive amount of television shows. He is also the go-to expert on all things “The Walking Dead.”

Twitter