Melbourne will always be the spiritual home of Star Wars for me. The last movie I saw here before moving away would have been Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi. There were queues around the city block as we lined up to watch the weekend screening. I remember it being loud and magnificent.
I have already shared many of my feelings about the movie with my review of The Return of the Jedi in Concert at the Sydney Opera House with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra from earlier in the year. But when the concert was advertised with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra I knew that I had to go.
I’ve already said that the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra is my favourite of the two, seemingly more passionate about playing modern film music. But I’m not going to compare the performances here. Both were absolutely brilliant.
What was great about the Melbourne performance is that they had a pre-concert talk with Andrew Pogson and Dan Golding from the Art of the Score podcast, along with conductor Benjamin Northey (the third member of Art of the Score, Nicholas Buc, conducted the Sydney performance). As always, I learned something new about the music and I look forward to them doing a full show about it in the future!
The Melbourne Convention Centre’s Plenary is a great venue. Unlike the Opera House, there is no raised podium and those up the front can feel quite intimate with the orchestra, along with a great view of the screen.
The picture quality of the movie wasn’t the best, with bad compression artifacts, though this may be the movie itself. That said, I found myself seeing elements in the movie that I’d never noticed before, despite countless viewings. A big screen does make a difference.
My eyes weren’t entirely glued to the movie though. I had a fantastic view of the orchestra and it was a delight to watch them play. John Williams takes advantage of the full Orchestra and it showed. Their performance was brilliant. A couple of highlights: Yoda’s Death was as beautiful as last time with the live orchestra and “Into the Death Star” sounded better here than in the film (it sounds like it is tracked from the original Star Wars soundtrack with its lower recording quality in the movie).
I actually prefer the concert versions of a couple of my favourites, the Sail Barge Assault and Into the Trap and the music was a bit overwhelmed in the live performance, but that was consistent across orchestras so can’t be considered a criticism.
Knowing what to expect this time, I didn’t mind the lack of the choir so much. I almost had tears in my eyes as the Victory Celebration played.
At the end of a gruelling final hour straight of constant action cues the conductor did a final bow, his head wet with perspiration from the performance. And I walked out happy, the long ride down completely worth it.