We all want to be the very best. It's why we go to school, work hard jobs and get to know interesting people. But for some, that phrase means something totally different. It means being part of a fandom obsessed with the creature-collecting phenomenon Pokemon, and it's just as relevant a phrase as it was in 1996.
Last night, the Dallas POPS orchestra invited thousands to Music Hall at Fair Park to take part in Pokemon Symphonic Evolutions, a three-hour orchestral concert featuring music from the Pokemon series of games. Bookended by the insane popularity of mobile game Pokemon Go and the upcoming Pokemon Sun and Moon Nintendo 3DS games, it was clear the passion hasn't faded. Presented by the Pokemon Company International, the show featured the almost 100-piece band with a backdrop of scenes from the video games.
The house was packed as patrons of all ages filled the theater, each one sporting a piece of Pokemon flair, whether it was a Pikachu T-shirt, a stuffed Eeveee doll or a fully-decked out Charizard costume. There was also no shortage of Pokemon Trainers, as kids and adults donned the costumes of Ash, Brock, Misty and plenty other icons from the series.
The first half of the show focused on the games Pokemon Red, Blue and Yellow through Pokemon Diamond, Pearl and Platinum. The show kicked off with the theme from "Pallet Town," and a whipping sense of nostalgia flowed through the air. As a kid who grew up at the peak of the Pokemon phenomenon (aside from now) I definitely teared up a bit. My 7-year-old niece watched with awe and a sense of confusion, but for me it was familiarity. That was the start of all of our journeys.
The show continued into "Team Rocket's Theme" and then montaged through the original Pokemon League, as the player character, Red, made his way through the eight gyms of the Kanto Region all the way to the Elite Four and the Kanto Champion. The music rocked the stage, and plenty of flute and cymbal work stood out in each track.
Then came Pokemon Gold, Silver and Crystal and Pokemon Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald. The former's songs were bookended by chimes and bells, with the latter mostly horns and wind instruments. We followed those subsequent player characters through their games, met legendary Pokemon and relived some Game Boy and Game Boy Advance memories.
The first half then closed with music from Diamond, Pearl and Platinum before heading off for intermission. Novelty posters and T-shirts sporting Pikachu and co. in orchestral outfits were sold outside, and costumed fans chatted it up. One kid, who was maybe nine or ten tried to sell a holographic Pokemon card. He ran down the aisles of theater chanting "Ash-Greninja EX! $250!" What a dreamer.
Post-intermission, the show went into its final stretch, delivering the bombastic tunes from Pokemon Black and White and Pokemon X and Y. These songs are bigger and more booming than earlier tracks, but far less memorable to an older player base. The encore of the show, however, delivered the perfect closer, as the full orchestra played the extended version of the original Pokemon television show theme song.
Overall, the show was well put together and just long enough. While the visuals could have been presented in a stronger fashion, they were effective enough, and the night was an interactive exploration of a worldwide phenomena. Last night proved that we all still want to be the very best.