Composer Hans Zimmer played his movie music in Rotterdam, NL yesterday, in front of thousands. He was happy to wear an orange belt for the occasion. Zimmer gave a passionate and personal performance and chose a nice selection of highlights that left everyone deeply satisfied. Going to his live performance is definitely very different from listening at home.
Hans Zimmer is one of the most popular composers of film music today. And with film music I don’t mean those song compilations but the symphonic accompaniment. It is such an underrated part of film, because it really sets the tone of the films. When it is done well, it can make a film. When it is done exceptionally well, it enters the popular consciousness. This is not to say that popularity is everything, but it is glorious to be able to share the love for movie music in a grand show like this.
Hans Zimmer made a name for himself in the 80s and 90s, impressing people with his music for The Lion King and Gladiator. In the last decade, he achieved popular success with the recognizable themes of Pirates of the Caribbean and Nolan’s Batman films, and The Da Vinci Code, Madagascar, Inception and countless others. Of course, it is these more popular works that you get to hear at a live concert like this.
He played a nice selection of both older and newer work and I was very happy about this. Considering his recent success with music for Christopher Nolan’s movies, I feared that that would be the main program. However, some old classics were dusted off again, like Crimson Tide, Rain Man and Driving Miss Daisy. Especially Crimson Tide is a grand piece that has not lost its power. Two highlights of the show were definitely Gladiator and The Lion King, who both rely so heavily on song and Zimmer had invited the best vocalists for these arrangements.
It is actually confusing what is Zimmer’s music and what isn’t. You see, Hans Zimmer set up a company (Remote Control Productions) in which he teamed up with young new composers and mentored them. Many of these composers, such as Harry Gregson-Williams, Steve Jablonsky and Klaus Badelt, went on to make music that sounds very similar to Zimmer. The first Pirates of the Caribbean is officially scored by Klaus Badelt but it was more a team effort by the company, and Zimmer was the one behind the well-known theme. In fact, that Pirates theme can be heard in Gladiator too, so Zimmer just copied his own earlier work. For the second and third Pirates films, Zimmer stopped the pretension and put his own name forward.
For stories such as these, Hans Zimmer is a bit of a controversial figure in the movie music scene. He popularized the “power anthem” approach of dramatic buildups of rhythms, electronics and widely applicable power themes. Music enthusiasts lamented that every movie now sounds the same. The same music style is heard in thrillers, westerns, fantasy, historical fiction, you name it. While in the past, the music would be more suited to the genre. People started blaming Zimmer. But a truth is that Zimmer’s approach with the popular themes and the electronics lends itself well to a concert. I, for one, have always been a big fan of his music.
In the second half of the show, he comes to the “superhero business” and dives into The Dark Knight, Interstellar and Inception, and you hear how his style has changed over the years. These recent scores rely more on rhythm and percussion, and the melodies are understated. The mood in the hall seemed to change and I saw some older people lose interest.
Zimmer said that he wanted to make this concert about the musicians that he toured with. So, he introduces them and puts them in the spotlight with solo performances. The songs are therefore not exactly the same as you may know them. Zimmer added some extra rock influences too to spice things up. Above all, he wanted to make this show personal. Zimmer does not seem a natural showman, but his passion and good natured humility is endearing. In between tracks, he told stories about his conversations with directors, and how his cooperation with Lebo M for example involved him in South Africa’s struggles. Personal touches like this make the show come alive.
People tend to discover movie music on their own or through word of mouth, because composers don’t advertise themselves to the general public. It is therefore wonderful to be among thousands of people who made the same discoveries. That makes live movie music full of positive energy and appreciation and just really fulfilling.