A Night at the Sonic Symphony

A Blue Blur of Musical Majesty!

16 January 2024
by jmaldonado 2
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Back in June of 2021, the Sonic the Hedgehog YouTube Channel live-streamed a special Sonic symphony to celebrate the franchise’s 30th anniversary. The event was an incredible showcase of orchestral and lyrical tracks from all across the series’ varied history, and everyone, including myself, hoped SEGA would find a way to bring the show on tour.

Two years later on Friday, December 15th, 2023, I am pleased to say I had the privilege of attending the Sonic Symphony World Tour performance at the Majestic Theater in San Antonio, Texas.

While I was pretty confident that the concert would go on tour in some way, I never would have guessed it would show itself in my neck of the woods. Usually when performances of this size come to Texas, they tend to go for Austin, Houston or Dallas, with San Antonio usually being left out. Needless to say, I was ecstatic and quickly acted to secure tickets for myself as well as some Sonic-loving friends of mine.

Sonic and Me

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As a child of the 2000’s with access to nothing but Nintendo consoles, my first foray into the Sonic series was Sonic Adventure 2 Battle on the GameCube. If you asked any 2000’s kid who was both a Nintendo fan and Sonic fan, there’s a 90% chance this title would kick off their Sonic fandom origins.

While so much of Sonic’s identity is tied to the console war of the 90’s, I never really saw him from that perspective. To me, the hedgehog was as at home on Nintendo consoles as Mario or Pokémon, so it was quite the culture shock when I first ventured online and discovered the true beginnings of the series.

I would eventually go try out Sonic’s classics through the Sonic Mega Collection, and while I was never good enough to get far in those titles, it did give me a greater appreciation for the history of the character and gaming as a whole. I would keep up with the series pretty consistently from this point, but by sheer luck, I also missed out on the franchise’s most infamous titles.

While I was pretty interested in 2005’s Shadow the Hedgehog due to my appreciation for the character, I knew the game’s edgy tone wouldn’t fly with my parents, so I never even bothered asking for it. As for the even more infamous Sonic ‘06, my family didn’t really have the funds to give me more than one console at a time, so I stayed with Nintendo systems and was completely unaware of the game until my introduction to the internet.

This all amounted to someone who has had a pretty positive experience with Sonic, although I certainly recognize the struggles the franchise suffered over the years.

My Guests

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One of the friends I invited to the Sonic Symphony is the same that introduced me to Adventure 2 back in the day, and thus started me down the path of Sonic fandom. (I am secretly planning their demise to this very day) While this friend hasn’t kept up with Sonic as much as I have in recent years, they still look back fondly on the franchise memories we forged together in our childhood.

My friend also brought along their partner; someone who isn’t in-tune with all the ins and outs of the franchise, but is casually aware thanks to Let’s Plays and meme culture.

The Venue

Image Credit: Nathan Martin
Image Credit: Nathan Martin

We had a pretty easy time getting to the Majestic Theatre all things considered. I, like many locals, don’t really enjoy driving in downtown SA, but luckily we didn’t have to look too hard for a parking garage near the venue.

As we made our way towards the venue, we started to notice a steady uptick in Sonic shirts and hats, which signified that we were headed the right direction. We eventually arrived at the end of the line at the theater, and I was quite concerned that all in attendance wouldn’t be able to get inside before the show started. Thankfully, more entrance lines opened as showtime neared, which kept things flowing well. This got us to the seating area as the countdown clock on the big screen was ticking down its final 60 seconds. We unfortunately spent the opening part of the Sonic 1 medley looking for our seats, but right after that we were all set for a night of Sonic music.

The Majestic Theatre is, just as the name says, quite majestic! The theater staff even decorated for the show, as you can see in the images above.

We were seated up in the balcony, which gave us quite the lovely view, but a not-so-comfy viewing experience. I’m a pretty tall individual, so my legs were crammed up against the chair in front of me. Luckily, my seat was on the aisle and I also wasn’t sitting behind anyone, so I let a leg hang out to the side to alleviate some stress.

The Show

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Even though I had seating complaints, the show itself more than made up for my aches. It wasn’t an exact repeat of the live-streamed version, but instead featured new tracks in both the orchestral and vocal halves of the show.

I won’t detail every song that was covered (because we’d be here all day), but you can look forward to a new medley of music from Sonic Frontiers, the opening from Sonic Superstars, and “What I’m Made Of…” from Sonic Heroes.

Unfortunately, this means that some tracks were lost in the translation from the live show (Sega Saturn Medley, my beloved…) but you’ll still be treated to a wide variety of tracks from the hedgehog’s history.

The Editing

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With each musical piece, accompanying gameplay footage and clips were displayed on a large screen, and I feel the need to praise the editing for this video feature. The Sonic social media team has made it clear they’re very well aware of the fandom’s culture, and you can definitely tell from this presentation. To get a good idea of what I mean. take a look at this video from 2:50 - 3:20.

The waiting in Marble Zone and the brutal difficulty in Labyrinth Zone are some of the more meme-related portions of Sonic 1, and the audience’s reaction to the editing in these moments speaks to how well the team knows the fans.

Here’s one example in particular. During the Chao Garden Medley, the team made sure to use Dr. Eggman to care for the little darlings (11:40), and during the Sonic Colors Medley they highlighted the beloved line “No copyright law in the universe if going to stop me!” (at 18:42 you can even hear the audience say the quote with Sonic!)

The Energy

Speaking of the audience, it was unbelievably electric. Right from the get-go, the audience was given express permission to cheer and clap at any time in the show. While that might sound distracting to some, all it did was amplify the experience. Even with the Sonic community constantly arguing about which installments are good/bad, none of that mattered in terms of crowd response. Sonic 1-3, CD, & Knuckles, Adventure 1+2, Heroes, Shadow, 06, Unleashed, Colors, Generations, Forces, Mania, Frontiers, it didn’t matter, every game got a rousing cheer. In particular, the memory of the crowd going wild for an animation of Shadow the Hedgehog loading his gun will stick with me forever.

Fans came decked out in merch, with plushies, and even in cosplay, and you could tell everyone was just happy to be there. It was a night where all could just forget about the series’ history and our hot takes to just enjoy the franchise in its purest form.

Conclusion

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After the show, my friends and I sat in the car and talked while we waited for the traffic to die down. The entire time we simply couldn’t stop gushing about the show. Best of all, my friend’s partner said the symphony made them interested in playing some of the Sonic games featured, and that was the most magical thing about the whole experience for me.

To say Sonic fans have a reputation online would be the understatement of the century, and worst of all, as a long time fan, I think we deserve it. We’re constantly fighting over things as big as the franchise’s direction down to minute arguments over the length of Sonic’s quills. While all the discourse can be very overbearing, this show truly helped me realize that it all comes from a place of love. Every stupid argument over the proper way to pronounce the water level in Sonic 3 comes from people who are deeply passionate about the series, yet it mostly seems to manifest as online anger and vitriol. I’m so happy that a show like this exists, as it lets Sonic fans bond over what they love, and outsiders get to see why we care so damn much.

No matter if you’re a longtime, estranged, fair-weather, or brand-new fan, I really feel the Sonic Symphony has something for you.

About jmaldonado

jmaldonado

A recently graduated creative writer hoping to work his way into the greater gaming sphere.

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Comments (2)

radicaldefect

1M ago

That was a fun read, and I’m glad you & your pals enjoyed yourselves as immensely as I did roughly two weeks later in Atlanta. I said as much on the GN Patreon already, but:

Like your friend’s partner, my spouse had a passing/casual interest in Sonic at best. Because of the Sonic Symphony, though, they’ve bought Sonic Origins & beaten Sonic 1, 2, and are roughly halfway through Sonic 3 & Knuckles.

To be clear, they’ve played maybe five games that aren’t Pokémon or Animal Crossing in our entire 18 year relationship, haha. It will never not be mystifying (and wholesome!) to me that the Sonic community and that concert had THAT much power. :)


jmaldonado

1M ago

@radicaldefect

Thank you and I'm happy you enjoyed yourselves as well!