Review: Back to the Future Live in Concert

BTTFRoyal Albert Hall, July 4, 2015

Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale’s brilliant time travel movie – on the big screen with a live orchestra… and extra Silvestri goodness…

And if that description on its own isn’t enough to make you jealous, well, it should. I would hope that I don’t need to extol the virtues of Back to the Future to anyone who reads this site: its blend of comedy, drama, tension and manure has rightly made it one of the most popular SF films of the last three decades, and I can’t think of much I’d rather do to celebrate American Independence Day than sit in the glorious surroundings of the Royal Albert Hall and watch it in such a way.

I was lucky enough some years back to find a CD of the score to Back to the Future in a second-hand shop in Los Angeles – not the one that was released commercially, but the one that (presumably) was prepared for award consideration. That particular store has gone, but it was a treasure trove for those albums – some other highly unusual discs form part of my collection from my purchases there. I love Silvestri’s score, and his use of the fanfare in it rivals John Williams’ use of the Raiders March, or David Arnold’s of the James Bond Theme for nailing the tone of a scene. (I must track down the Intrada release with the original version of Silvestri’s score that was lightened up and rerecorded.)

The 21st Century Orchestra under Ludwig Wicki did the score justice, and Silvestri provided some extra cues for moments that were unscored originally (and I’m sure I’m not the only member of the audience who has gone back to check one or two moments to see if they were right that these were new). There was an overture as well as a playout for the first half; then a prelude to the second half – which bizarrely focused on the Western theme from Back to the Future Part III – as well as closing credits music. Notices were displayed around the RAH suggesting that the concert was being recorded: if it becomes available, then I want those extra bits of music!

There were a few issues with audibility of dialogue in the first half of the matinee we were at – the screening of Star Trek Into Darkness had subtitles on screen, which really helped in portions where the orchestra, quite rightly, let loose – but these were addressed during the interval, and the audience reacted considerably louder to the jokes and the drama in the second part (and also didn’t chat as much!). As has been noted, there’s nothing quite as rousing as hearing x hundred people at the Albert Hall cheering when George McFly knocks out Biff Tannen!

The programme’s inside back cover promised “To Be Continued”, and I can’t wait to see Parts II and III… but let’s not wait for their 30th anniversaries though, please?

Verdict: A classic movie given a terrific treatment. 9/10

Paul Simpson



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