Jurassic Park in Concert: A Weekend Excursion

In which I recount how I teared up over a skeleton, and the incredible experience that was #JurassicParkLive.

REMEMBERING THE SOUNDS THEY MADE


UPDATE — November 23, 2016

I didn’t like Jurassic World.

I’ve made that clear, ad nauseam, both on The JHN Files, and elsewhere — but despite my feelings about the film, I constantly felt a weird urge to watch it every now and then in the year following its release, to take the Blu-ray off the shelf and revisit Colin Trevorrow’s flawed vision of Isla Nublar, even though doing so invariably left me sad and disappointed all over again.

No longer.

I can’t pinpoint exactly what it was, but there was something about sitting in the Royal Albert Hall, watching Jurassic Park play out on that huge screen before me, realising how much I love it for the millionth time, that got me over Jurassic World. It’s not quite acceptance — because I still wish with all my heart that the film had been better — it’s absence, relief.

Absence of that urge to take the Blu-ray off the shelf, and relief that it’s gone — relief that my brain seems, finally, to have realised that nothing is going to be changed by watching the film for the tenth, eleventh, twelfth time.

I wouldn’t call it a nice feeling, this — in fact, it’s not really a feeling at all. It’s… nothing. Peace.

I can live with peace.


February 11, 2016.

In what will come as a surprise to absolutely no one, the morning of that Tuesday found me, as is often the case, scouring the Internet for any developments in the Jurassic world.

As most — if not all — Jurassic fans of a certain level of obsession dedication will be aware, said developments are painfully few and far between, and February, if memory serves, was particularly quiet. Other than some toy-related stuff, I think I’m right in saying that nothing much was going on — until, of course, that Tuesday.

A few days prior, news had broken that the film that started it all would be screened in London’s Royal Albert Hall in November, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra playing the soundtrack, live, alongside it. On that Tuesday, tickets went on sale — tickets I’d thought, when I first heard of the show, were definitively out of reach.

Until they weren’t.

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On the morning of November 4, I touched down in London.

Having arrived a day prior to the main attraction, I made my way — via train ride or two, and the first of a few very long walks — to my hotel, where I tried (and failed) to get some sleep before heading off to find the reason I’d flown in a day early: dinosaurs.

Two protracted treks and a stint on a bus later, I arrived at the Natural History Museum, and found myself standing in front of the remains of a Stegosaurus.

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I teared up a little. I don’t quite know why. Maybe it was because, at that point, I’d been awake for over thirty hours straight, or because I was barely a metre away from a collection of ‘bones’ that, 150 million years ago, had belonged to an actual, living dinosaur, but, either way, tear up I did.

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Over the next hour or so, I made my way around the various other dinosaur exhibits the museum had to offer, snapping photos as I went, but really just trying to take it all in, to appreciate the things before my eyes.*

When I reached the room housing a near-life-sized, robotic Tyrannosaurus, I dropped my bags, sat down against the wall, and watched. Just watched. By that point, those thirty-something hours were really starting to catch-up with me, and everything had taken on a hazy, dreamlike quality. With the constantly shifting lighting, the surprisingly smooth movements of the ‘animal’ before me, and the accompanying sound effects, it wasn’t too difficult to imagine what it would be like to be staring at a living, breathing dinosaur. Exhausted though my adult-self was, the kid inside me — who had once opened a version of Jurassic Park in his back garden, and who had spent years imagining that everywhere he went was part of Isla Nublar — was having the time of his life.

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Eventually, though, not even the enthusiasm of my inner child was enough to stave off my exhaustion, and so — after a pitstop at the museum’s restaurant — I made my way back to my hotel.

Trek, bus, trek, and then — finally — sleep.

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It had been my intention to return to the museum to get some photos of my above-pictured rubber friend with his various relatives the following morning, but, owing to my having underestimated how long it would take to get breakfast and make my way back to the place, I ran out of time.

So, when I got off yet another bus, I headed not for the museum, but for the venue of the main event: the Royal Albert Hall.

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As I walked towards the place, my not having made it back to the museum was revealed to have been something of a blessing in disguise. If I had gone back, I would’ve missed-out on what was parked at the side of the road just beside the Hall.

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Jurassic Brighton’s** jeep was an unexpected highlight of the trip.

That jeep didn’t just look the part, but played it, too. Inside, there was — amongst other things, because I definitely missed something — a replica of Nedry’s raincoat (with accompanying Barbasol can), a copy of Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, a radio loaded with Richard Kiley’s tour narration (spared no expense), a pillow featuring everyone’s favourite bare-chested chaotician, and — best of all — an actual brochure from the fictional (sadly) park itself, which I spent about a minute thumbing through with a huge smile on my face.

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Needless to say, the Rex thoroughly enjoyed the Jeep, too.

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After that, it was into the auditorium —

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— and onto the show.

And what can I say about that show?

Performed so well by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra that it was shockingly easy to forget that the score was actually being played live, Jurassic Park in Concert stands as my favourite entertainment event ever. Full stop. I am, of course, hugely biased, but there’s no denying that hearing John Williams’s incredible soundtrack performed by an orchestra mere metres away was, in every sense of the word, magical.

Instruments that took a back seat in the film’s audio mix were heard loud and clear, imbuing the score with something of a new texture, a freshness, and rendering the film’s final moments, piano-heavy in the standard film, lullaby-like here. For most of the performance, I was so engrossed that I didn’t get anywhere near as choked up as I thought I might have, but — just as I had whilst standing in front of a Stegosaurus around twenty-four hours before — I teared up a little at the end, as the music crescendoed and the audience applauded, cheered, and whistled their satisfaction.

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For my part, that satisfaction didn’t come solely from hearing Jurassic’s iconic themes performed, but from the film’s less iconic (but no less excellent) music, too — a particular highlight being the whole sequence in which Ellie races to the maintenance shed, restores the power, and has her moment of success intruded upon by a Velociraptor.

And then there were the unexpected surprises — like how great it was to watch Jurassic with a massive audience, the subtleties heard experiencing the film itself (beyond the orchestra) stripped of its soundtrack, and the realisation of just how sparingly the score is used throughout it, great stretches of musical silence highlighting just how effective the soundtrack is when it turns up.

The best surprise, by far, however, was the music leading into, and out of, the intermission. Heading to a performance of Jurassic Park, the last thing I was expecting to hear was music from the sequel, The Lost World. Said intermission music, however, was exactly that — specifically, it was the section of the track Visitor In San Diego that plays as Malcolm and Sarah race towards the towering gates of Jurassic Park San Diego.

Whilst The Lost World’s soundtrack, as a whole, is incredible, that particular moment is one of my favourites, and so hearing it performed on top of everything else was a real treat.

On the slightly disappointing side, though, the sole criticism I have of the show is the fact there was no choir. Whilst this is completely understandable — a choir would have a only minute or two of work to do in the two-hour performance — I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed by its omission. The choral elements of the score heard as Hammond welcomes us to Jurassic Park, and as Grant learns that they do indeed move in herds, ‘make’ the theme for me in many ways. Though no less impressive without them, I found that their absence rendered said theme a little less impactful, a little less — to use the word again — magical.

Like I said, though, the lack of a choir is very understandable, and was more than made up for by the sheer excellence of the rest of the show.

After so much build-up, I couldn’t quite believe it when the credits started to roll. The fact that the long journey that had started all the way back in February was over, actually over, wouldn’t quite sink in.

Alas, however, over it was, and after the last of those long walks, followed by a train-ride spent imagining a future in which The Lost World, Jurassic Park III, Jurassic World (and maybe even Jurassic World 2), are given the concert treatment, I boarded a plane and headed for home — though, truthfully, this wasn’t really going home; sitting in the Royal Albert Hall, with my favourite film of all time playing on a huge screen before me, my ears filled with the soundtrack that defined my childhood, I was already there.


*
The Natural History Museum’s dinosaurs made up the most extensive collection of the animals I’ve ever had the pleasure of laying eyes upon. However — and this is a little picky, but crossed my mind all the same — I wasn’t really a fan of the fact that many of the exhibits were suspended pretty high in the air. Space saving? Definitely. But, personally, I prefer it when the ‘bones’ are displayed at ground level, allowing for both a closer look at, a greater appreciation of the size of, the dinosaurs.

**

As of the time of this post’s publication, if you visit Jurassic Brighton’s Facebook page, you might just see something familiar in the cover photo.

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THOUGHTS ON THIS POST? FEEL FREE TO LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW, OR TO SHARE IT WITH YOUR FRIENDS, FOLLOWERS, SUBSCRIBERS… WHATEVER THE CASE MAY BE.


FOR THE ATTENTION OF VIDEO GAME DEVELOPERS EVERYWHERE
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At the time of writing, it’s been around five years since there was a significant Jurassic game. Five years. The fact that one hasn’t yet sprung from the success of Jurassic World is baffling. (LEGO Jurassic World was a real treat, but not what the majority of fans are looking for.) Jurassic is a franchise that lends itself to any number of genres, and there’s certainly no shortage of ideas for possible games. It really is about time one came along. I know there are rights involved, deals to be made and permissions to be gotten, but, let’s be honest: it’s going to happen. Life will find a way, and someone will make one. Why not you?


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