Pokemon’s virtual Post Malone concert leaves fans wanting more

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Post Malone’s Pokemon Day virtual concert, like many virtual concerts before, wasn’t as exciting as it could’ve been. That doesn’t mean virtual concerts can’t be great, but rather that creators aren’t utilizing their unique attributes.

Pokemon began its 25th anniversary with a week of events, including announcements of the highly anticipated Sinnoh remakes, “Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl,” and a new action-RPG, “Pokemon Legends: Arceus.” The anniversary includes an album releasing in autumn titled “P25 Music,” featuring 14 songs by 11 artists from Universal Music Group (UMG). Opening festivities concluded on Feb. 27, the franchise’s birthday, with an animated concert livestream starring Post Malone.

Although virtual concerts aren’t a new concept, the pandemic has made them more common. Musicians are turning to livestreams and video calls for the time being.hile fans eagerly await the day they can hear these performances in person, some audiences find advantages in virtual concerts that physical events can’t provide. For example, the lack of a physical venue makes them more accessible.

Online environments allow artists to accommodate disabled fans who can’t attend physical events. Not every venue is physically accessible, but virtual concerts can provide a welcome environment from anywhere. Those with noise sensitivities, including neurodivergent people like myself, can safely attend without experiencing sensory overload. Even those without disabilities benefit from virtual concerts by avoiding exorbitant prices for tickets and travel, which otherwise exclude fans who can’t afford it.

These benefits make attendance accessible to more audiences, but the format isn’t always enjoyable. For people who attend Zoom calls daily for work meetings, online classes and keeping in touch with friends, another video call can feel draining. Livestream performances aren’t much better, as there’s functionally no difference from watching recordings or music videos. Post Malone’s virtual concert falls under the latter category and exemplifies many of its weakest aspects.

The performance itself was fine, animated with lush background environments in place of an audience. From an underwater school of Lanturn to a bioluminescent forest filled with Torterra and Shiinotic, the backgrounds complemented a solid performance by Post Malone. That said, it was comically bizarre hearing him perform “Circles,” with lyrics “you thought that it was special, but it was just the sex though” as Lugia casually flew overhead.

Despite the performance and visuals, the concert didn’t take advantage of animation. Mimicking a traditional concert, Post Malone’s choreography was grounded and simple, limited to walking around a circular platform that moved to different environments like a traveling stage from “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.” This made for a low-energy contrast with Pokemon in the background, many of whom were stationary or barely moving.

Animation benefits from suspension of disbelief, as audiences can accept complicated musical choreography that can’t be done in stage performances. This principle is why musicals are so well suited to animation, and it could’ve been used to make a stunning and memorable show. However, this is where virtual concerts tend to fail; they copy the limitations of physical venues out of tradition, leaving audiences with a lesser experience.

After three songs performed over 12 minutes, the concert concluded and left fans wondering why there wasn’t more. Even with the marketing campaign and livestream, it felt more like a music video, or perhaps the opening act to a concert for the entire “P25 Music” album. Why not showcase all the artists, or have a longer concert with music from the games’ composers, similar to the “Pokemon Symphonic Evolutions” tour?

Between the rudimentary choreography and disappointing runtime, Post Malone’s concert certainly wasn’t mediocre, but it showed many flaws that appear when virtual concerts try to recreate physical concerts online. However, that doesn’t mean virtual concerts can’t stand out, it just means they need to take advantage of the online setting and make something new. Translating physical concerts only makes audiences miss the advantages of that setting, particularly the interactive environment.

No medium does interactivity better than games, a setting in which virtual concerts are thriving. Following Marshmello’s in-game Fortnite concert on Feb. 2, 2019 – a 10-minute show that attracted 10.7 million players – game developers and artists alike have collaborated to hold concerts in online multiplayer lobbies. Minecraft has held live concerts since 2016, and even featured a COVID-19 relief concert by Anamaguchi and American Football in 2020.

While Pokemon games have online multiplayer components, they don’t have lobbies even close in scale to Fortnite or Minecraft. The latest entries, “Pokemon Sword and Shield,” can barely fit thirty Trainers into Galar’s Wild Area without lagging, glitching or accidentally making someone walk on air. However, there is a less resource-intensive option that, at the cost of a larger simultaneous audience, gives a more personal, interactive experience unique to Pokemon.

What I’m saying is that I want to challenge Post Malone to a Pokemon battle.

In “Pokemon Black 2 and White 2,” downloadable events allowed players to challenge real competitors from the 2012 Pokemon World Championships as boss battles. Trainers faced off against the likes of Masters Division champion Ray Rizzo and runner-up Wolfe Glick, complete with the teams they used that year. Why not do something similar, but featuring artists collaborating with P25 Music, complete with their collaboration tracks as battle music?

A hypothetical concert battle wouldn’t be out of place for “Sword and Shield,” as the Galar region’s Pokemon League is already designed around massive soccer stadiums that would make amazing concert settings. The audience’s cheers help the game’s dynamic soundtrack enhance even the easiest of Gym Leader battles. In fact, the Dark-type Gym Leader from Spikemuth, Piers, is a rock star whose battle takes place during one of his concerts.

Admittedly, these suggestions are highly implausible, given the potential licensing struggles with UMG, development time and ridiculous concept. However, the point isn’t whether a fanfiction boss battle in which Post Malone sweeps my team with a Dracovish can (or should) ever happen. It’s one hypothetical scenario to explore endless possibilities of virtual settings. The concert was passable, but by creatively using its medium and ignoring physical limitations, it could’ve excelled.

Virtual concerts have infinite potential that has gone largely untapped, and it’s a shame such a unique and accessible setting is this underutilized. If mediums like games and animation are fully embraced beyond just replicating in-person events, they can evolve into something new. Just because a concert is virtual doesn’t mean it can’t be an event.

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Sean Mullins
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