Michael Giacchino At 50 - Live in London

By Leo Mayr

December 5, 2017

“I have seen Michael Giacchino live.” The thought still hasn’t quite settled.

Whenever I explain to someone why Giacchino is my favourite composer and artist currently alive, I always end up with “His scores always sound like they belong in a concert hall.” On October 20th I was finally able to confirm this.

To celebrate Michael’s 50th birthday, the Royal Albert Hall in London hosted a one-time career retrospective featuring highlights from the composer’s impressive career. Michael was joined by several of his long time collaborators and friends, including the likes of JJ Abrams, Matt Reeves and Colin Trevorrow, each sharing stories about their collaborations. Brad Bird was also set to appear but suffered troubles with his flight. The musical side of the event was handled by the Cinematic Sinfonia and English Chamber Choir under conductor Ludwig Wicki.

The nearly 3 hour event managed to include music from almost every major score Giacchino has composed, ranging from his early work for Medal Of Honor and The Incredibles to his more recent scores for Rogue One and War For The Planet Of The Apes. The official programme that was available at the event lists 16 lengthy suites (some arranged just for this occasion), not counting the three (!) separate encores. The event was hosted by Adam Savage who seemed to take great pleasure in dressing up for as many of the movies as he could – his costumes ranging from an inflatable T-Rex to Director Krennic (Rogue One) including an armed Stormtrooper escort.

The bits in between the music were what made the evening so special, from David Silverman playing “Happy Birthday” on the sousaphone to a daring stunt by the great Gonzo (performed by Dave Goelz) which somehow led to the two singing “I’m Going To Go Back There Someday” (from The Muppet Movie). While there were a lot of silly moments, there were even more heartwarming personal stories and even a video montage of young Michael, narrated by his parents. With so many well known directors praising and joking with Michael Giacchino, it’d be an impossible task to write about it all.

As much as the evening was filled with silly moments and personal stories, the music was the heart of the event. While a lot of the music was played on its own, there were a handful of live-to-projection performances, most notably Giacchino’s score for the Pixar short film One Man Band and “Parting Words” from Lost. While Michael’s music can be fun and exciting, it was impossible to get through the evening with dry eyes. For me, the tears came during Rogue One and John Carter, the latter of which is still my favourite Giacchino score.

While a lot of the music remained close to the versions released on the score albums, for “Married Life” (from UP), the orchestra was joined by the Bond Quartet and “Roar!” (from Cloverfield) was rearranged to include large choir, giving even people familiar with Giacchino’s music something new to enjoy. Giacchino kept his appearances to a minimum, only conducting one piece before the interval, but when he took over a second time, he stayed.

The entire event was simply a blast from start to finish, with even a few minor technical difficulties seeming insignificant next to the almost overwhelming amount of fantastic music performed.

In a surprising turn, Michael’s suite from Super 8 was played over a montage of his old homemade movies. After hearing him talk about them in countless interviews, actually seeing the films he made in his youth was a fantastic experience.

Only Mission: Impossible was absent (perhaps due to the score focusing heavily on a theme not composed by Michael) but that was quickly redeemed with an exciting preview Giacchino’s upcoming Coco and a fun piece from Alias.

Seeing Michael Giacchino (and, perhaps more importantly hearing his music) live is already one of my fondest memories. From the first time I listened to his music, I wanted to hear it played live, and this event was certainly the best possible way for just that. As entertaining as the evening was, it also serves as a strong reminder of how important orchestral film scores can (and should) be.

Listening to his greatest accomplishments, I can’t imagine what else he’ll compose until the next career retrospective, but I certainly am excited for the next 50 years.

From the official programme:

The Incredibles

Medal Of Honor

“Arranged Marriage” Jupiter Ascending

Jurassic World

Marvel Suite (including the Marvel fanfare and main themes from Doctor Strange and Spiderman Homecoming)

Rogue One

“Parting Words” Lost


“Married Life” Up

One Man Band

John Carter



“Roar!” Cloverfield

War For The Planet Of The Apes

Star Trek

Super 8

Speed Racer