Here’s an unpopular opinion: One Winged Angel is easily the low point of any Final Fantasy music concert.
Not because it is a bad piece of music.
For the past ten years (it’s actually been ten years, wow!) I’ve gone to a large-ish number of videogame concerts (most recently some Distant Worlds concerts) and have heard a lot of common and less common songs performed live, in various arrangements, some more and some less amazing, with special guests or soloists – some of which I am immensely happy and proud to have experienced live.
One Winged Angel is part of almost every Final Fantasy concert. A super common song. And it’s always the same arrangement. This would not be so bad, of course. However, as soon as the song starts and people in the audience recognize it, they start cheering and applauding. As often as I’ve heard One Winged Angel live, I cannot remember the last time when I could simply enjoy it for its musical qualities, without portions getting drowned out by overly excited Final Fantasy VII fanboys. (“I CAN DIE HAPPY NOW!” OK, thanks for telling me.)
One Winged Angel is not treated as a good piece of music by its fans, but as an excuse to loudly declare to the world that they like Final Fantasy VII and find Sephiroth awesome. Final Fantasy VII is overrated, Sephiroth is overrated – and One Winged Angel is overrated in a way that makes it actually feel devalued.
Other popular, iconic Final Fantasy tracks are allowed to evolve. New arrangements are tried and constantly improved. Over the past ten years, I’ve witnessed Dancing Mad and the Opera Song from Final Fantasy VI (to name just two examples) develop from first, simple orchestrations into creative, unique pieces with soloists, lyrics, new compositions etc. And the audience usually pays attention to the sound and doesn’t scream over the melodies.
Whenever One Winged Angel is performed, I get the feeling that I would not be missing anything if I just listened to a CD at home. In fact, I might get more out of it because no one would be screaming in my ear about Sephiroth. And it’s always the same arrangement. It stagnates. And it’s less and less about the actual song, for all involved.
I know that these loud fan reactions are expected and in many ways encouraged by the Distant Worlds organizers. One Winged Angel is clearly framed as a highlight, a special treat. It just does not work for me at all – in part because of my abnormal lack of enthusiasm about all things Final Fantasy VII, in part because of the unusually high number of videogame concerts I’ve experienced … And also because I actually go to these concerts for the music.
(And yes, I’m a total snob.)