Star Wars in Concert at Xcel, 7/11/10

Star Wars in Concert at Xcel, 7/11/10
Photo by Steve Cohen

Star Wars In Concert opened the way most symphony concerts start; the orchestra members wandered on stage at their leisure, tuning their instruments and rosining their bows as the audience filed into the Xcel. Most of the attendees were parents and their respective 6- to 8-year-olds, bedecked in Star Wars t-shirts. Vendors were selling small, glowing green light sabers, which were displayed by their purchasers in the only appropriate fashion: by whirling them at a dangerous pace above one's head, threatening to whack all neighboring audience members in the noggin. By the time the lights went down, there was a veritable verdant field of the things scattered across the arena.

Shortly after the lights went down, we were introduced to Anthony Daniels, the British actor who played C-3PO. As host and narrator, he hammed it up to a ridiculous degree, at various points hovering on rolled r's or the sibilant in "Sith" so long we wondered if his record had skipped. It didn't help that the pint-sized pantomimist is known to City Pages as a bit of a douche, after an incident at the Science Museum a couple of years ago.

If you could ignore Daniels effectively, though, the show was pretty entertaining. At the back of the stage was a giant screen, on which visuals from each of the six films accompanied the orchestra's tour of the score. Instead of playing sections of the music straight through, the arrangers had broken it into thematic movements that celebrated characters or relationships in the film, such as those between Padme and Anakin, or Han and Luke. The Darth Vader section of the performance handily stole the show, both because the visuals offered a welcome respite from Anakin's other incarnations (terribly acted and/or unconvincingly emo as they are), and because Darth Vader's theme, the Imperial March, is far and away John Williams' finest creation.


Star Wars in Concert at Xcel, 7/11/10
Star Wars in Concert at Xcel, 7/11/10
Photos by Steve Cohen

After an intermission, the show kicked off the laser-driven portion of its visual feast, with a plethora of green lasers scattered around the arena going wild, supposedly in time to the music. Unfortunately, the orchestra and its director had a lot of difficulty keeping beat with the visual display, and many of the high points fell flat because the music lagged behind the flashing lasers. Moreover, the light show seemed a bit of a non-sequitur, as our attention was already focused on the movie scenes on the main screen; flooding the Xcel with dancing green served to distract from both the film and the music.

If we sound unnecessarily down on the whole affair, rest assured; Star Wars In Concert was at least a 6.5 out of 10 on the scale of fun. Through the eyes of the kids in the audience, that rating probably went up to about an 8.5. But the sometimes-jarring visuals, the sub-par narration by Daniels, and the choppy musical arrangement, would've ticked us off if we'd paid $65 for tickets. It left this old fogey of a critic wondering if the whole affair wouldn't have been better sans visuals, sans narration. Just an orchestra and six of the most thrilling film scores ever written.


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