Review: Back to the Future The Concert at Radio City

(By Brian Davidson)

30 years.  Whole generations of audiences were born and have yet to know of the beauty of the phrase “this is heavy,” or “where we’re going, we don’t need no roads,” or why October 21, 2015 is an important day for all time-travelers.

Yet for two nights at Radio City Music Hall, fans both new and returning, were treated to a time of the golden age of character-driven movies of the 80s with a live orchestra performing the original Alan Silvestri score from Back to the Future.

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Though I have seen an earlier date of the tour at Hollywood Bowl, the two dates at Radio City marked a more significant meaning to the film’s core audience.  For one, the two dates at Radio City were closer to October 21 and the film’s true 30th anniversary release date, but also for the simple fact that many of the film’s core players made special surprise appearances on BOTH nights at Radio City.

Amongst those in attendance included a special introduction from producer/director Robert Zemeckis, actor James Tolkan, the film’s composer Alan Silvestri, and Doc himself Christopher Lloyd.  Only missing from this incredible ensemble was Michael J. Fox, who indeed was rumored to be making an appearance down to the final second before showtime but cancelled due to schedule conflicts.

Much of the atmosphere not only due to the fandom within Radio City Music Hall but because of the hall itself.  There is a special sense of nostalgia that can’t be touched with seeing a film, let alone one 30 years old, at the Showplace of the Nation.

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Overall the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra was on top of their game with their performance – literally to the point that that the synchronization and audio levels of the ensemble were almost undetectable while watching the movie.

Indeed the idea of orchestra performing film scores are not new (John Williams’ annual Hollywood Bowl performances or the music from Danny Elfman at Lincoln Center) but what occurred at Radio City for Back to the Future was unique.  It brought the “drive-in” feel to a large indoor venue.

The added atmosphere provided by the orchestra only reinvigorated the punchlines and sentimental tones from the film – one that over 6000 in the theatre already memorized by heart.

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Also as a sidenote, 20 additional minutes of new music was created by Alan Silvestri specifically for the two Radio City performances.  Where exactly that extra music came into play is somewhat hard to spot but remarkable nonetheless that such a lengthy addition was able to be integrated so well into the film’s “live-screening.”

The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra will return to Radio City for one more night (tonight) for perhaps the final Back to the Future concert.  Highly suggested, and if you miss this chance…well let’s just say don’t count on a time-traveling delorean.

(All photos taken by Brian Davidson)

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