“Look mum and dad, I did it,” calls Nathan McCree to the back of the Hammersmith Apollo, where his parents have been sat for the past two hours. McCree has a right to celebrate; his music, created over twenty years ago on a computer for a little game called Tomb Raider, has just been played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and City Choir, receiving a near ten-minute standing ovation by an enthusiastic crowd. Announced back in July 2016 for a December show, Tomb Raider: Live In Concert was to be just that. Original composer Nathan McCree was teaming up with orchestrator Adam Langston to take the first three games’ tracks and adapt them for a live orchestra. Games such as Pokémon and TES:Skyrim have had concerts before, but this was to be the premiere of the Tomb Raider score.
Just before the show started, a short Q&A took place between McCree and members of the audience, where he talked about his influences, how he came to write music for the games and what his favourite track and level were from the games he worked on (the latter question’s answer being “Venice” from TRII). After an introduction to the orchestra, choir and conductor Robert Ziegler by original Lara voice actress Shelley Blond, the lights went out.
“The suite was an excellent love letter to one of the integral parts of the series.”
In game-audio started to whisper in, the sound of the mountain caves from the very first level in Tomb Raider played out as spotlights started to circle the orchestra, setting up the atmosphere where we would hear the iconic music. From the very first note, I had a smile on my face. To hear music you love through a television or computer screen for nearly twenty years, and then for it to be played in front of you is an incredible feeling.
Ziegler and the musicians took us through some well known tracks from the start of the game; the main theme, ‘Where The Depths Unfold’ and ‘A Friend Since Gone’ with gameplay on an overhead projector to show where the tracks fitted in to the actual story, before moving onto one of the more well-known tracks. When ‘The T-Rex’ flashed up overhead, there was an audible intake of breath from the audience. The T-Rex Battle is one of the most memorable encounters from the first game and one that is still lauded as one of the best levels of the entire series. It was clearly one of the audience’s favourite tracks, evidenced by the cheering and whooping at its end.
Similar responses came from other famous tracks (McCree’s earlier choice of ‘Venice’ being a top one), but the best reactions were from entirely new pieces created for the suite. While additions had been made to existing tracks to give them a narrative progression rather than a few bars on loop, the new tracks were like finding out a new secret from one of the older games. They fitted perfectly into the rest of the suite, taking cues from the earlier pieces but standing out as their own sections.
As a fan of Tomb Raider, the suite was an excellent love letter to one of the integral parts of the series. For any interested, some tracks (including the lauded T-Rex theme) are on SoundCloud.