Monday 18 April 2016

Hans Zimmer Live On Tour

Hans That Does Wishes
Can Be Soft As Your Bass

Hans Zimmer Live On Tour
6th April - Wembley Arena, London

You know, I’m rarely moved enough by a live concert to give one a review and the last time that happened, I was moved by anger more than anything else (see my review of the Star Trek concert here). However, the recent Hans Zimmer concert, which I saw on the first night of the European tour at the Wembley Arena, was something very special so, on this occasion, I thought I’d give it a little bit of wordage.

Most of my regular readers will know of my passion for film scores, often surpassing my interest in the original movie for which they were written. My stance when it comes to Hans Zimmer is possibly a little unusual in that, when he first started out, I never really rated him that much and I think the only album I owned with him on it at the time, and it was on vinyl, was the brilliant score to Nicholas Roeg’s Insignificance, which had three pretty great cuts by him on it and which, frankly, deserves some kind of CD release. After a while I was also aware of the backlash in some circles to Zimmer establishing a specific style of scoring action movies which became so popular and influential that every composer seemed to be imitateing it for a while (Morricone had the same effect when he started scoring Spaghetti Westerns, of course). Often, though, a backlash against something usually means that the thing being reacted to is pretty unique and special... hence the strong expression of negativity.

Cut to the chase, though.

My ears first pricked up when I heard his score to Ridley Scott’s Gladiator. I was interested in his playing around with those good ol' Holstian Bringers of War embodied by Mars (it certainly fit in with the Roman lifestyle) and loved the stuff which Zimmer, and of course Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance, had done with this one. Over the years since then, I’ve begun to notice a lot of his scores in certain films and think he’s really contributed significantly and powerfully to the modern motion picture scene... often leaving behind a work which is far more interesting than the actual movie it was composed for. I now have an increasingly sizeable library of his compositions on shiny discs and dip into them fairly frequently. So it would be fair to say I’ve began to harbour an increasing amount of respect for the man over the last 15 years.

However, when my friend last year asked me if I wanted to go to the first night of his European tour I replied that, no... I really didn’t. The two big problems for me were the venue (Wembley is not an easy place to get home from when a concert finishes and you’re struggling to get to the last train of the day) and also, the ticket price on this one was fairly high. However, my friend is celebrating his 50th Birthday this year and so he told me he’d bought me a ticket anyway... as he needed someone to go with. So, yeah, I ended up going to this thing through no fault of my own and... I’m so glad I did. Thanks very much for the ticket Doctor Rob!

Now I’ve seen some of the film composing giants of our time in numerous concerts over the years. And I do mean giants... I’ve seen John Barry, Elmer Bernstein, Philip Glass, Jerry Goldsmith, Ennio Morricone, Michael Nyman and John Williams conduct their work, to name just a few of those I've seen, and they’ve all been marvellous. However, I can honestly say that, in spite of having seen and enjoyed these absolute legends in concert, often more than once, the Hans Zimmer Live On Tour concert was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen in my life. And I say this having seen the full line up of The Monkees play at the same venue years before (and The Kids From Fame as it happens but... yeah, we won’t go into that one).

Hans Zimmer is nothing if not a talented showman and as he and various members of his band walked on, including some very sexy, mini-skirted violinists and a hot electric cello player, and strutting around the stage in time to the music like mini rock Gods and Godessess , giving their strings a work out, the light show started to pick out various musicians and isolate them in time to their rhythm. When I’d been chatting to my friend earlier in the day I mentioned that my biggest wish for the show would be if Hans and co were to do Discombobulate from Sherlock Holmes and 160 BPM from Angels and Demons. And here they were straight away seguing from Driving Miss Daisy into the aforementioned Discombobulate, with the lighting highlighting the wandering string players in red whenever they did the bits in the piece where they are sawing away frenetically at the strings with their bows. It was awesome. Hans was there playing keyboards and guitar (and even drums at one point) and chatting to the audience, regaling us with anecdotes about his time working on various projects (much like Clint Mansell had done when I saw him in concert a couple of weeks earlier).

After the first couple of tracks, another curtain opened behind all the players in Zimmer’s super group and we saw that they had just been augmented by another bank of strings section and the Crouch End Choir. And it wasn’t long before the second of my wishes got taken care of, when the Crouch End Choir joined in on a pretty unusual version of 160 BPM from Angels And Demons. In the middle of the piece, where the drums come into the foreground of the composition for a number of seconds, two drummers spaced fairly apart on the stage on what seemed like raised plinths, and bathed in white spotlights, started an extremely extended and very loud duelling drums routine... which was terrific... before going back into the main stream of the piece. A truly riveting and somewhat deafening time.

And that set the pace for the evening. An evening packed with performances of well known Zimmer  works including the opening battle from Gladiator (with a nice guitar duet in the middle and with the Lisa Gerrard vocals covered by an amazing singer named Czarina Russell), Pirates Of The Caribbean, Man Of Steel, The Amazing Spiderman 2, The Dark Knight (and although not listed in the programme, The Dark Knight Rises and also Zimmer’s memorial piece on that awful shooting, Aurora), Interstellar and a fair few others. One of the pieces Zimmer and his ‘group’ did was from a movie by Terence Malick called The Thin Red Line and, although neither my friend or I were familiar with the film or the score, we were both blown away by this (so yeah, both the score and the film are on order... looking forward to receiving those sometime soon). And unlike the Star Trek concert I went to last year, the back projected, somewhat abstract but relevant visuals were not a distraction to the music being played... instead, complementing and enhancing the musical performance as it played out. 

For an encore, Zimmer did some music from a film and score I’m really not all that fond of, to be honest... Inception. But heck, they even did a great and memorable version of this so... yeah, I may find myself revisiting that score at some point soon.

All on all, a great time was had by all and, even though my friend and I found the last trains home had been cancelled and got into a tension filled negotiation with various other people who were haggling over the price of a shared taxi ride, the concert was well worth even this aggravation. I came away with a cool pin badge of a Zimmer logo formed as part of a keyboard and speakers and a pricey but pretty attractive programme (with some nice spot varnishing on the front). Five of the programmes had been signed by Zimmer himself and randomly distributed to various vendors throughout the venue but, alas, I wasn’t lucky enough to get a signed version. I did, however, get a free download card with the programme entitling me to the first track of the new live album which was apparently recorded at the venue the night I was there. I just hope that the album isn’t a download only deal and that a proper, shiny CD of this gets released before long, too.

And that’s that. Zimmer is touring live with this show in a number of countries at the moment and all I will say is, although the tickets were somewhat expensive, the concert was worth every penny and if you like the man’s scores and get the opportunity to go to one of the concert dates, definitely take that opportunity. I was absolutely amazed by what a positive response I had to this concert and my only regret is that I didn’t have the time or money to go back and watch him do it again on the second night. My respect for Hans Zimmer, the composer and the showman, has gone up considerably and it was pretty high already. Don’t miss this one... it’s phenomenal.

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