Photo Credit: Frida Cerna Neri

Last Sunday, October 14th, Ramin Djawadi conducted the final show of the Game of Thrones (GOT) Live Concert Experience — the second of two tours Djawadi has led began in May 2018 and concluded at the Scotiabank Arena with a sold out show. While on tour this September, Djawadi won an Emmy for his score on the GOT’s season seven finale, “The Dragon and The Wolf”. Though this is his first award, he’s been nominated for several awards including the Grammys. The music is brilliant in its own right, I was curious how it would be performed so as to not merely be a dull rendition.

It struck me that this was a lot more than an orchestral performance as soon as I entered the Scotiabank Arena. The stage setup comprised of the forward facing stage with a large screen looming behind, which was accompanied by an ancillary stage that curved into the VIP section. A little after eight PM, the lights dimmed and Lena Headey’s cool voice reverberated through the arena, warning us that if our phones weren’t on silent, we’d be “boiled in our children’s blood”. The people chuckled, but obliged. After all, there’s nothing more GOT-esque than an unwarranted, gruesome threat. The stage quickly filled up with the orchestra and local Toronto choir. Djawadi appeared last and was accompanied with the loudest applause. I could tell that the audience was grateful for this concert. It was something to satiate them until the long due premiere of season eight.

Djawadi greeted Toronto with an encouragement to cheer and even to boo when they see their favourite (or least favourite) character on the screen. Wasting no more time, the image on the screen shifted from the icy blue eyes of the Night King to the opening credits of the beloved TV show. The orchestra began in unison and I was transported to the world of dragons, white walkers, and ambiguous enemies. It was not a fantasy — how could it be when there were at least thousands of people in this arena who were so invested in it?

The opening piece ended on a high note, but Djawadi’s second chosen piece was the Stark’s theme song, a melancholy harmony laden with notes of cold sorrow and struggle, but perhaps also hope. Violinist Molly Rogers performed this piece while slowly ascending above the stage, an ethereal sight especially in her white gown. The lights turned red, and weirwood petals began falling. We were suddenly reminiscent of the North, where this epic narrative had begun. As the show continued, with montage clips and pyromatics, I realized that the music played mirrors the chronology of the narrative. Beginning with the Winterfell Starks, introducing us to the Dothraki, then all the way to King’s Landing. The montage of iconic scenes continued, accompanied by the music that told the story. There was no need for dialogue with a score this illustrative. Djawadi had masterfully altered some of the pieces for the live performance as to allow for more vocalists and other soloists to inhabit the stage.

The music, montages, videos, and set created a visceral experience, allowing fans to experience the tale in a more theatrical manner. You could tell how immersed people were by the way they cheered when Jon Snow came back to life, when Daenerys Targaryen sets sail for Westeros, when Djawadi himself went up in green flames. He emerged from the smoke soon after and took the opportunity to thank Toronto and proceeded to take a video of his last GOT Live Concert show. He rushed back to the conductors place and commenced a quick, blended version of the season seven score. It left us exactly where the finale of season seven had: in the middle of ice dragons and with the dragon and wolf finally getting it on.

By the end of the performance, I was so steeped in the fantasy that my only thoughts as I felt the cold, autumnal breeze was that winter was coming.

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