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Review: Michael Giacchino At 50, Live At The Royal Albert Hall

by Dan Bullock

Michael Giacchino is a film composer who’s still on the up and if you’ve watched the likes of LOST, Rogue One, Jurassic World, a whole host of Pixar or any of the recent Star Trek films then his music has definitely entered your life, and that’s just a small selection. Giacchino has built an impressive body of work over the past 18 years and I was more than excited to see him perform live, and so on the occasion of his 50th birthday celebrations at the Royal Albert Hall, it was quite exceptional.

Following the likes of Ennio Morricone, Howard Shore, Henry Mancini, Danny Elfman, Hans Zimmer and the mighty John Williams, Giacchino has played the Albert Hall before when he lead an orchestra for a live version of Star Trek into Darkness in 2014 but this Friday night was something particularly special, as it was to celebrate his 50th Birthday. It was clear that Michael was deeply honoured he had this opportunity to share it with all of us and, in his own words, had this to say as host Adam Savage and a legion of Stormtroopers left the stage:

“Let me just say one thing here, I know this is ridiculous, I understand and I’m trying to make it even more ridiculous. I felt so uncomfortable being here for just my birthday party, so I thought let’s make this as silly as possible.”

It was a silly evening, but it was also deeply warm, funny, sad, nostalgic and positive and – in fact – everything that Giacchino makes you feel when you hear his compositions. In endless moments, his music perfectly matches a scene and, for me, the power of music can never be underestimated and especially the importance of a film composition cannot be undersold. His score for Super 8 resonates an entire lifeline with me every time I hear it, his Married Life composition enveloped and evolved the moving scene from UP so strongly that it made the happiest and saddest opening to an animation… ever. He took on Jurassic World and helped create the next huge blockbuster and also brought deep, honest belief to the War for the Planet of the Apes. He even took us all back to another generation of classic film with his score to John Carter of Mars, even if the film didn’t do well, the score is beautiful. And, that’s not all; he’s the only composer to have taken on the mantel of John Williams by scoring Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and did it stunningly.

The birthday celebrations also had an extra added bonus, not even disregarding the glorious setting of the Royal Albert Hall, as world-class directors were in attendance who individually offered their moment of how Michael either came on board and added something spectacular or completely changed a scene into something different. A great example of this was Carlton Cuse and JJ Abrams (YES, the great JJ was there!) talking about LOST and how he transformed the raft scene into something iconic, and made it even bigger than they ever anticipated.

It’s also not often you get the finest new generation of directors in one place but it happened as we saw the likes of JJ, Colin Trevorrow, Andrew Stanton, Gareth Edwards, Matt Reeves, and Pete Docter, plus the excellent Benedict Wong introducing the Marvel suite, a cameo from Raffey Cassidy from Tomorrowland, who was supposed to be with Brad Bird but we were told that very disappointedly his plane let him down. Despite all these stars, the biggest surprise of the night was the appearance of Muppet’s legend Dave Goelz with Gonzo the Great. Michael and Gonzo sang “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday” from The Muppet Movie, and it was beautifully poignant and unexpected.

Giacchino knew it wasn’t all about him though, and you never got that sense through the evening as he also added:

“I would not be able to sit up on this stage and do this here, if it weren’t for the people I’ve worked with and… they’re all my friends, all the directors, all these people you’re seeing here tonight I’ve been so lucky to work with, I’m only here because of them, so let’s not forget that, the work they do allowed me to be creative and do something that I love to do, so I wanted to say thanks to you guys [the directors] for doing something we love.”

For a birthday celebration, it was very unique and it was all helped by the talented Ludwig Wicki conducting the excellent Cinematic Sinfonia, the UK’s leading professional orchestra who specialise in film, alongside the English Chamber Choir bringing it all to life.

Giacchino, pronounced Juh-Key-No if you were still wondering, gave us all an evening of absolute delight, honesty and immense soaring symphonies full of emotion. I’m sure, like many others, we can’t wait to hear what else he has to offer and what’s even more incredible is that it feels like he’s only just getting started.

Review by Dan Bullock, October 2017

Review of Michael Giacchino at 50, live at the Royal Albert Hall, Friday 20 October 2017

Here’s a little teaser of his own Super 8 films with the Super 8 Suite:

We're ready to go!
One of Michael's early drawings
Sneak preview of Pixar's Coco score

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