Review by Chris Kohler
When speaking of notable RPG soundtrack composers, one of the first names mentioned must be Motoi Sakuraba. While he doesn't yet have as great a name recognition among English-speaking fans as, say, an Iwadare or a Mitsuda, Motoi Sakuraba's resume speaks for itself: as the composer of soundtracks in the Star Ocean, Shining, Golden Sun, and Tales Of series, as well as the acclaimed Valkyrie Profile, it's safe to say that you've definitely heard Sakuraba's music, even if you've never heard his name.
Sakuraba started composing for games in the early nineties, but before that he released two progressive rock albums that were popular in both Japan and Europe. Sakuraba's roots being in progressive rock, it came as no surprise to his devoted fans that the Star Ocean / Valkyrie Profile live concert, held on July 19, 2003 in Zepp Tokyo would be a prog rock concert - Sakuraba's first live show in eight years, and his first in twelve years to feature a three-man band with synthesizers, drum, and bass.
Sakuraba sat stage left, on a raised platform surrounded by exactly ten full-sized synthesizers, gliding effortlessly between them throughout the two-hour concert. Bass player Atsushi Hasegawa stood center stage, backing up Sakuraba's melodies with powerful guitar. At stage right was drummer Toshihiko Nakamura, who was playing his very first progressive rock concert - not that you would know it from his impeccable and energetic style.
It was easy to see the excitement written on the faces of Hasegawa and Nakamura, but it was impossible to see anything below Sakuraba's forehead over his giant fortress of synthesizers. So a large boom camera swept a wide arc around and above Sakuraba the entire time, feeding directly to the giant projection screen upstage. Sometimes this screen would display the band, sometimes battle footage from the games. At times the band would take a rest while an FMV from Star Ocean 3 would play and set up the next piece.
The tunes were all of epic length and there was hardly any break for applause before the band launched into another sweeping arrangement. Sakuraba played his melodies with a palpable sense of pride, but after an hour of solid playing, he was probably relieved when Hasegawa and Nakamura started their respective solos after the band finished "Theme of RENA." Nakamura's crowd-pleasing solo was capped off when he banged the giant gong that had been sitting ominously behind him, unused during the entire concert save for that one crashing note.
(That's prog rock for you, I suppose.)
If you're feeling particularly jealous right now, don't worry - for all of Sakuraba's fans who were unable to attend the concert, a CD and DVD of the event will be released this year. We can't speak on the details just yet because some things are still up in the air, but suffice it to say that if things go as planned, you'll want both the CD and the DVD sets to get the complete experience. This night was an amazing experience, and you'll soon get the chance to see what all the excitement was about for yourself.