The average person is more familiar with Hans Zimmer’s work than they might realise. But not me. Having a tendency to research discographies, I knew exactly how familiar I was with Zimmer’s work. So when my Facebook newsfeed told me he was playing a live show in Auckland as part of his first world tour, I booked my ticket the day they were available. The evening of the show, I had two of possibly the best made cocktails I’ve had in my life -thank you Angus- and made my way down to
Vector Spark Arena with a bunch of merrymakers, ready to witness something special.
Now Zimmer isn’t exactly an unknown personality; he’s a multiple award-winning composer-producer of over a hundred film scores and soundtracks. The man doesn’t seem to have an ‘off’ switch. He has released material of some form or another at least once a year since 1979! Looking around and appreciating the variance in attendees’ ages, I knew I was in the middle of a loyal audience that night.
There was an air of silent excitement in the arena as the lights dimmed and the band poured onto the stage to a gently swelling applause. The choir and orchestra (both local!) at the back, and the string, wind, percussion and guitar groups assembled gracefully under angelic downlighting. A spectacle just beneath the semi circular screen as a backdrop.
I found myself smiling as the band broke into Driving Miss Daisy, and distracted myself from deciding which of Lion King or Interstellar it was more acceptable to cry during. I suppose it wouldn’t matter, and I wouldn’t be the only one anyway.
As the theme played on, a calm and well dressed, yet mischievous looking gentleman entered the stage and waved out to the audience with a blinding smile. I’ve never seen a performer feel more at ease with himself. Hans was in his element: his head nodding, his facial expressions subtly changing, his relaxed shoulders elegantly dropping his arms naturally, his hands working their magic on the piano.
After a medley of Sherlock Holmes and Madagascar, he reminded us how he works in a windowless room writing his music, and nothing had changed now that he’s performing it. The warm, gentle approach was akin to being entertained by a dinner host on a cold evening. Hans would frequently stand up and give the audience a personal insight or history lesson on the piece to be performed. This combined with his gradual, interspersed introduction of band members reinforced the evening guest theme. I loved his humility: despite his numerous achievements, he never stopped thanking his ensemble enough: “Without them, I am nothing. Without them, there is silence!”
A lot of Hans’ work has been etched onto the souls of moviegoers through the years. And when you witness Lisa Gerrard in the flesh -flown in from Melbourne especially for this show- performing the Gladiator theme, goosebumps are a normal reaction… Or when you are serenaded by that familiar voice that defined your childhood, with Lebohang ‘Lebo M’ Morake crying out ‘AHHH ZABENYA’ as his daughter Refiloe joins him in performing The Circle of Life from The Lion King, you might find yourself choking up in a mixture of nostalgia and overwhelming joy.
Introducing the Pirates of the Caribbean theme was an especially energetic cellist by the name of Tina Guo. My, the control this woman exhibited! Her entire body moved in accordance with the dynamics of her playing: slow graceful movement when notes blended into one another, sudden jerking movements during ascending arpeggios. She and her futuristic electric cello inseparable, firmly governed the emotions of the arena. Eventually the rest of the string section complimented the crescendo up towards an epic climax!
Then there was something for fans of the superhero genre to remind them of the times they imagined flying through metropolitan cities, beating up bad guys, saving the world, and enjoying romantic success with their conflicted significant others… all while earthshaking scores played in the background.
Zimmer finished the show with the theme from Interstellar, which is when the waterworks started. I distinctly remember giving up fighting the tear ducts during the movie, all the five times I’ve seen it. There’s a reason it happens consistently during specific scenes too. Christopher Nolan asked Hans to write a highly personal score, not music for a science fiction movie: “So, Hans, if I wrote one page of something, didn’t tell you what it was about, just give you one page, would you give me one day of work?”. The full story is worth a read.
As Hans exited the stage, the band stayed on – yes of course there’s going to be an encore, they hadn’t done Inception yet! Inception’s distinctive foghorns have since “become part of the zeitgeist” in movie scenes conveying grandeur. And I never thought I’d witness this grandeur live on stage in an arena where I saw Iron Maiden perform exactly a year ago.
That reminds me… given my background in metal and guitar focused musical acts, I can’t refrain from making a special mention about a specific band member. I’d go so far as saying no one understands the guitar as well as Guthrie Govan. This man highlights the broad range of emotions and styles the instrument is capable of in the right hands – or hand. Witnessing his effortless guitar solos and accompaniment made me a better human being. A fine addition to an already star-studded show.
For the level of dramatism Zimmer’s compositions typically encompass, the concert was a profoundly relaxing experience. Zimmer’s humour and humility made him that much more human, as he ‘Revealed’ his life’s work through his warm persona. For our international readers in locations he is yet to perform: please, do your limited time on earth a service, and attend this concert.
Driving Miss Daisy / Sherlock Holmes / Madagascar
Crimson Tide / Angels and Demons
The Da Vinci Code
The Lion King
Pirates of the Caribbean
Rain Main / Thelma and Louise
Man of Steel
The Thin Red Line
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
The Dark Knight