Review: Earthbound Papas Live in KL — A fun rock out of Final Fantasy boss fight themes

earthbound papas kl malaysia

The legend Nobuo Uematsu autographed my FFVII OST even though it was supposedly not allowed

Organised in conjunction with Comic Fiesta 2017 at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre on December 16th, Earthbound Papas was right here in Malaysia to perform live for the first time ever. The band was founded by the legendary composer and the father of Final Fantasy (FF) music — Nobuo Uematsu and they play mostly their own arrangements and rock interpretations of FF soundtracks. The five-piece band consists of Michio Okamiya (lead guitars), Yoshitaka Hirota (bass), Tsutomu Narita (guitar/keyboard), Chihiro Fujioka (drums), Uematsu himself (keyboard) and features vocalist Akiko Kawano.

Unlike Distant Worlds that performs classical FF songs with an orchestra and choir, Earthbound Papas is a loud, rock/metal concert with mostly boss fight tracks from the games and like three ballads. It was extremely fun, casual and a little nostalgic as well even though I was at Distant Worlds a few months ago when they came. Five of the songs were completely instrumental and I think every track they played had long, kick-ass guitar solos. I was headbanging to every song albeit some of them were difficult to recognise because of how different their renditions were. Some of the arrangements did feel a little odd, I have to say. For example, the rocked up version of Eyes on Me (FFVIII theme song original sung by Faye Wong) lost a little bit of its emotions. But I sang along to it anyway.

It was great to hear them play tracks like Those Who Fight Further (FFVII boss fight), Melodies of Life (FFIX theme song originally sung by Emiko Shiratori) and hardcore encore Otherworld – Jecht Battle (FFX, originally sung by Bill Muir). I was really impressed by Okamiya’s sick guitar-shredding solos and the sweet vocals by Kawano who sang all three of the ballads on the setlist (refer below). The metal track Otherworld was sung by both Kawano and Hirato.

Setlist

1. Grand Cross (FFIX)
2. Those Who Fight Further (FFVII)
3. Battle at the Big Bridge (FFV)
4. Neo-Exdeath (FFV)
5. Melodies of Life (FFIX)
6. Highsky (Terra Battle)
7. Eyes on Me (FFVIII)
8. Maybe I’m a Lion (FFVIII)
-encore-
9. Otherworld — Jecht Battle (FFX)

There were parts where certain notes sounded a bit off, most notably, I think, from Hirota’s bass. But considering how casual the tone of the concert is, it was easy to look past that. Uematsu himself came out to test his keyboard during soundcheck. He’s just awesome and the way the band tried to speak a bit of Malay to the crowd was simply adorable. It’s just sad that I couldn’t understand most of what they were saying when they spoke in the Japanese while the crowd laughed and cheered.

After playing only eight songs in an hour, the band went off stage and we were already calling for encore. I know their shows elsewhere were just as short as well, nine to ten tracks in about 65 minutes. But I have to say it’s a little too short. It felt like the two local opening acts who played anime covers performed longer than they did. If Papas could extend the length of the concerts in the next time, I would love to hear them play Those Who Fight (FFVII battle theme), Suteki da ne (FFX theme song) and FFVI’s Battle Theme.

Also, if they do come again in the future, I hope it would be organised by a better company. Comic Fiesta was very disorganised, lacked customer service, confused, gave out contradicting details, did not update any of their online channels apart from about the ticket sales, and one of their lead crew member was very rude. Also, during the meet-and-greet session for the Master ticket holders, the organisers did not allow people to take photos with the band or get anything autographed apart from the provided poster. The reason the organisers gave was that the band was “very tired and this was what we agreed with them”, which was a poor excuse. Did the band come here to perform for free? Why didn’t they make a clear agreement with the band beforehand? I mean come on, it’s a meet-and-greet, FFS.

nobuo uematsu earthbound papas meet and greet fans kl malaysia comic fiesta 2017

Thankfully, Nobuo Uematsu-san was an extremely nice person. After he autographed the poster, I passed him the front cover of the FFVII Original Soundtrack album (which I actually just bought a week ago solely for this meet-and-greet), put my hands together and asked him politely if he minds signing this as well. I only asked once followed by the magic word “please”. I didn’t bug him or anything. While the crew member (who stood beside him like a police) was busy telling me, “No, cannot, only the provided poster can be signed,” Uematsu-san sneakily autographed it like he didn’t want to get caught doing so. I was so over the moon, I couldn’t stop bowing and thanking him. Uematsu-san, you’re a fucking legend! My girlfriend managed to help me snap some photos from outside of the queue.

The rest of the band were very friendly too. Instead of just signing the poster, they tried to talk to us as well. When Hirota asked me if I enjoyed the show, I told him, “Yes, but it’s a little too short. Next time, make it two hours!” He simply laughed, shook my hand and said thank you. Ah, Earthbound Papas, you guys are awesome people!

nobuo uematsu autograph final fantasy vii ost ffvii soundtrack

More photos and bits of them performing Melodies of Life:

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