Over its nine years at the forefront of the world's social consciousness, everyone paid attention to Game of Thrones at some point. How could you not? There were the pop-culture references, the toys, actor endorsements and LOTS of awards. Now, months after the series ending, another array of Emmys, including Best Drama Series, and announcements of upcoming spinoffs on HBO, it's obvious the phenomenon Just. Won't. Die.
In fact, it's growing, exploding, really, off the page and screen and into full-fledged and immersive live concert experiences. Perhaps it's because GoT creator George RR Martin calls Santa Fe home, but there was something particularly triumphant about the Santa Fe performance of a new show, a bit of everything for everyone, from the newest converts to the most seasoned fans.
A boatload of just such concert-goers congregated at the Santa Fe Opera on Monday night for the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience, and disappointingly, not one cosplayer was among them. Unlike the sights you'll regularly see at the Jean Cocteau when the theater screens episodes, not one Dany T or Jonny Snow could be seen in the crowd. Still, spirits were high, and it was nearly impossible to explore without encountering the ephemera, such as a GoT banner for photo ops, a heavily populated merch stand and Martin's pre-recorded voice echoing from a table and out into the night.
Composer Ramin Djawadi (who also scored the first Iron Man movie) seemed to be riding high. Fresh after winning an Emmy for the score to the episode "The Long Night," his energy was palpable while conducting Santa Fe musicians through his music. A self-proclaimed "non-lyricist," Djawadi's pieces transported the audience to signature moments throughout the show's run, beginning from season one in 2011 (it really has been that long, hasn't it?!), to this year's final season, chronicling the epic scope as a massive ultra-HD screen above the stage projected new animations made just for the performance and clips from the show for reference points. But it was much more than that—the set seemed to come alive differently with every single song.
"'The Rains of Castamere' is incredibly special to me," the composer said to the audience. "[Show creators] Dan [Weiss] and Dave [Benioff] were filming season two and they said to me, 'We want you to make this theme, George already wrote the lyrics in the book.' Well, little did I know, this theme would be a central point of the show and 'The Red Wedding.'"
Immediately after, the screen played the harrowing scene: the final moments of Robb and Catelyn Stark at the hands of the nefarious Walder Frey.
"It's a little difficult to play," Djawadi jested. "I knew we'd be battling the elements, but it's also hard to carry through some of these incredibly sad songs—but not all of them are sad."
Djawadi then moved to the side of the stage, performing Arya's theme, "Needle," on the hammered dulcimer. It wasn't the only instrument he played, either—he also led the orchestra with a Les Paul guitar.
Season seven and eight's songs were by far the most haunting. Whether an effect of the body in the late-hour elements, or by their morose tone, the tension-building "Battle of Winterfell" stirred goosebumps, while snippets of "The Bells" proved similarly disturbing as the bass echoed through the roaring winds and the screen showed the decimation of King's Landing at the hands of a grief-stricken and possibly mad Daenerys. Perhaps if the disappointing last season had relied on orchestral work alone, it would have been significantly more enjoyable, but one need not be a fan to appreciate what Djawadi and the Santa Fe Opera accomplished on Monday night.