Tamsin Hilliker reviews Hans Zimmer’s London show
After his acclaimed shows for Hans Zimmer: Revealed in 2014, Hans recently returned to London to set off his first European tour. I was lucky to be there for the opening night at Wembley Arena, and 3 weeks on I wish, after much reminiscing, to reflect on my experience.
In the hour preceding the show, while thousands of people gradually filled the vast arena, strange and uneasy noises rumbled across the audience. Excited and oddly unsettled, the preceding show was certainly not a disappointment, exceeding anything I could have imagined or hoped for.
Of course he played the favourites, everything from Disney classics like Lion King and Pirates of the Caribbean, to Gladiator and Inception. But these songs were not simply performed: every one was shaped into a musical and visual experience. The lighting was an incredible display in itself – the impeccable timing of every explosion of light, spotlight, laser, or strobe perfectly enhanced the music. He took us on an unexpected journey, sometimes announcing what was about to be performed, other times diving into some of his most famous pieces with absolutely no warning, much to our surprise, and seemingly to his amusement.
In the second half, the performance descended into something darker, moving away from some of the more obvious favourites. A particular highlight was a track I was not familiar with – ‘Electro’ from The Amazing Spiderman 2. It felt more like some kind of insane choral dubstep rather than a piece of music performed by an orchestra. This track is fairly terrifying and intense when played at home, but when performed in the arena with the strange whisperings flying around and with a mixture of strobing lights and crazy, colourful visuals behind the stage, it was exhilarating on an entirely new level.
There were some genuinely moving and funny moments as well. We saw more of a personal side to Hans while he gave a little background to his music, half joking about how he knocked out the composition for the main theme of Pirates of the Caribbean in one night (which I don’t doubt!), as well as speaking movingly of his admiration for the late Tony Scott and Heath Ledger. The rendition of ‘Aurora’, composed for those killed in the 2012 cinema shooting in Aurora, Colorado, was performed with heartfelt anguish and dedicated not only to those affected by this tragedy, but to those affected by the recent terror attacks. It is certain that when that last piercing note of ‘Time’ rung out across the audience, it was an audience of 12,000 people in awe.
However, it would be an injustice to only speak of Hans, as of course this tour would be impossible without his orchestra. Hans is known for working with the best, and that was certainly evident; he was joined on stage by 70 astounding musicians. The vocals were truly stunning, as presented with the flawless renditions of ‘Now We Are Free’ from Gladiator and the songs from the Lion King. As for the choir, I had honestly never heard anything quite like it; it was hard to believe that they were actually singing live and that it was not prerecorded. Among the musicians who joined him, only to name a couple, were the incredibly talented guitarist Johnny Marr, most famously a one-time member of The Smiths, and Tina Guo, whose execution of the Pirates of the Caribbean theme on her iconic electric cello was mesmerising.
Judging by the reviews and the videos seen across social media, the team is continuing to wow audiences across Europe. Although Hans has been criticised for not including movie clips as part of the experience, I feel these would have entirely detracted from the purpose of the show – to enjoy film scores as music, rather than something that only accompanies a movie. What I particularly love about Hans is his willingness to embrace, and master, various genres, which was certainly reflected in the show – it fluidly switched between classical, rock and other times electronic music. There really is something for everyone, and not only is Hans a talented composer, but he undeniably knows how to put on a show.
There are still around 20 shows to go on his 2 months tour, and he will be returning to the UK on May 28th, where they will be performing in Bournemouth, and Manchester on the 29th. So, if you can get there, I thoroughly recommend you do. It was truly an honour to see him and his team perform live.