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CONCERT: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (Antwerp, September 2022)


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Gents! I’ve committed a crime sinister in nature. Aye, I’ve watched POTC1 live in concert, so you best start believing in ghost stories. You’re in one.

This will be short and sweet as I’ve been working on something else that I will post at a later date. The evening seems to call for a more concise review anyway.

This was a late birthday present from my brother and I was thrilled that the concert took place at the Queen Elisabeth Hall again. I do believe there was some amplification because the dynamic range of the orchestra was sometimes a bit unstable, but overall the sound was as fantastic as ever. Not all the dialogue was equally clear, but that’s a price I’m more than happy to pay (well, not in this case) if it means the orchestra sounds as good as it does there. The Antwerp Symphony Orchestra was, as usual, in top form too. I’m not too familiar with the ins and outs of this score, but as far as I could hear, they played impeccably throughout the whole thing. And they were being conducted by Ben Palmer! That was such an exciting surprise for me as I really loved his contribution to Maurizio’s podcast. If only he had spoken to the audience. But there were no speeches at all. Not sure if I like that now. Oh, and there was also a male choir that definitely didn’t take it very seriously at the beginning and I’m pretty sure they don’t sing ‘hey, hey, hey’ in the film at that point.

Surprisingly, the audience contained a lot of people from the Netherlands, so I briefly wondered whether Stefancos could possibly be there too. I miss his posts. Everyone was mostly very well-behaved, clapping before and after both halves started and never ever while the film was playing, not even when the credits started rolling. There was, of course, some laughter at all the good jokes. Also, as Barbossa was saying how they had spent all the gold on food, drink and pleasure, some guy on my left started coughing in the most guttural way you could imagine.

I obviously enjoyed the tuning, which ended with a brass instrument making a sound like a fart. Don’t know whether that was intentional or not, but it made us laugh all the same. Also, before the tuning, everybody’s always playing random notes. Is that last-minute rehearsing or just whiling away the time?

Now, I’ve already said how brilliantly everybody played, but I do want to say this: they really need different horns. I’m not familiar with the technical side of the instrument, but it was the same problem that plagued LOTR1 when ARwen was talking to the river. They’re not loud and sharp enough. The musicians are fantastic, there’s absolutely no doubt about that, but especially with a Zimmer score, the horns need to be much more abrasive. Thanks to that, though, the music had so much time to breathe because the original recording is just one huge, loud and unstructured mess and because the brass played everything rather staccato, which I really liked a lot. For example, I suddenly heard clarinets in the final kiss cue, piccolos during some fights, a piano in a tender moment between Jack and Liz on the island and even a harpsichord during the stories related to the medallion. They might have re-orchestrated some parts, though, but more about that later.

The best surprise was that they played all the source music. Such a treat. The march and the Handel piece during Norrington’s ceremony (the latter even in a historically informed approach) and, my personal favourite, the music in the bar where Jack and Will are looking for a crew! I just love it when they do that. Makes you wonder why they couldn’t just play all the I Salonisti pieces in Titanic too.

But then the end credits came and they made a mistake that was fatal, as far as I’m concerned. They had the choir oohing and aahing throughout the main theme. Yes, I know, use them while you’ve got them, but I disagree with that on principle and, more importantly, it just did not work. I don’t know how I would have felt if they had re-distributed their parts across the orchestra throughout the entire score because the choir is important for the supernatural aspect, but I would probably have preferred that. They could have used synths for those cues. Also, the suite felt too long. It’s just not interesting enough to sustain my attention after two hours. I was going to say that was also the case because I didn’t have audio description during the battles this time, but some people definitely got a bit restless during the final minutes of the suite too. And unlike some other LTP concerts, they didn’t leave with a bang. The music just quietly died out as the post-credit scene started. I just checked the moment of the intermission in the film itself (time to go, poppet) and they also played that without any modifications. Of course, that did work brilliantly. I remember complaining about adding music around the HP intermissions to add an extra feeling of ‘this is important’, but here I feel they really should have done it: just play the theme as heard in the film and switch to the post-credit scene, or abridge the suite.

That’s it. I do hope we’ve all arrived at a special place. Spiritually, grammatically… And if some wretch has any questions, I reserve the right to ignore your pleas of parlay. You will speak when spoken to. Also, why is the rum gone?!

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