Review: ‘Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back’ in Concert

18 December 2018

The only people in the universe who haven’t seen Star Wars are the characters in Star Wars – and that’s because they’ve lived them, Ted. They’ve lived the Star Wars.

A long time ago (last Friday) in a galaxy far, far away (Melbourne), I attended the opening night of ‘Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back In Concert’, performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. It was, as you could imagine, amazing.

The Empire Strikes Back (directed by Irvin Kirshner, 1980) is obviously my favourite Star Wars film, because I am not a fool. I don’t actually know how many times I’ve seen it – not a ridiculous amount of times, but enough for me to remember what happens in each scene and what’s going to happen next. This, somehow, does not take away from my enjoyment.

One aspect that I’ve focused less on is the score by John Williams. I had never realised how much music is actually in the original Star Wars films, because I was probably too caught up in the action and dialogue. Seeing Empire’s score performed live created a different, and exceptional, viewing experience. Being able to watch the orchestra perform heightened the overall impact of the film’s pace and emotion – in a fast-paced fight scene, my eyes were glued to the violinists’ bows, and the speed of the music paralleled the speed on screen. This of course happens without me having to witness the music being performed in front of me, but it allowed for a new understanding and appreciation of how music and screen cooperate. There are actually only a few short scenes in the film where there is no music or background sound, only dialogue. One instance is the classic “I am your father” scene, the huge dramatic plot twist at the film’s climax, and the absence of all other sound draws you in completely to the agony of Luke Skywalker. The silences are short and selective, however, so the MSO perform almost non-stop with a twenty minute intermission.

This was my first orchestra experience, if you exclude watching my friends play in our high school’s band (I’m not even sure if you can count that?), and I was grateful that something like the orchestra, which seems so high-brow, could be accessible to such a wide audience. That’s the great thing about MSO performing the soundtracks of popular films, it invites a new audience who necessarily wouldn’t attend an orchestra performance.  

Whether you’ve seen Empire Strikes Back a thousand times or none at all, you should go see it performed live. If you’ve never watched a Star Wars film (please refer to the How I Met Your Mother reference above), then this is the perfect opportunity to become a huge fan. If you were raised watching them and can recite every single line, then I can see no reason why you wouldn’t want to see The Imperial March performed right in front of you (chills, literal chills).

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