Hans Zimmer – Live @ Spark Arena, Auckland 2017
How do you translate over 150 film soundtracks and nearly 40 years of the most recognisable anthems into a 2-hour rock opera? Interstellar, The Dark Knight, Pirates of the Caribbean and the Academy Award winning The Lion King – if you’re not immediately familiar with his name, you most certainly will have heard plenty of his music.
WORDS AND PHOTOS BY JACKO ANDREWS
German born composer come Hollywood superstar composer Hans Zimmer hit the stage for the first time in New Zealand last night to a rapturous crowd. After a fashionable 15 minute delay and loads of ominous scraping razor blades on loop in the background to raise the tension, broken somewhat by a fun game of cell-phone ping pong between the audience and the waiting orchestra on stage, the house lights finally dropped and the crowd cheered. Sporting glammed up black tails, Hans started the rollercoaster with a simple groove on the piano from the Driving Miss Daisy soundtrack, ramping up slowly as one by one each member of the core band made their way on stage to take their position. Eventually dropping the piano in favour of a five string banjo, as it turns out Hans is a born rock star. Sided by two gorgeous violinists in black miniskirts, pulling rock-god stances with the banjo raised to the sky he managed to upstage even the girls, something you would not normally attribute to a middle aged orchestral composer. The music – for the only time tonight, was outdone by the energy of the players, mostly Mr Zimmer up front and center.
This was going to be a fun night.
The opening ambled along well, with big cinematic offerings from The Davinci Code, Crimson Tide and Angels and Demons. The audience contained a handful of true Zimmer zealots who whooped and hollered at the hint of a chord from a favorite ditty, though like most it took me longer to work out what tune was being played. Hans make pauses often to talk of his wonderful band, frequently praising individual members and long time friends included in the stellar lineup. He has a quirky and humbling nature that is very endearing, with funny and insightful stories of the movie business and his exploits. The brief interludes are a chance for both the musicians and the audience to breath before the next onslaught, the music being too intense to listen straight through without breaks.
Australian vocalist Lisa Gerrard, dressed in flamboyant golden attire, was the first soloist of the night, providing her mesmerising vocal line for The Gladiator montage, beautifully capturing the ethereal quality of the haunting soundtrack with ease.
A show stopping entrance from Refi and her father Lebo M, who was the original vocalist on The Lion King‘s Circle of Life, blasting out the signature ‘Nants ingonyama bagithi baba….’, then on through a medley of ‘This Land’, ‘King of Pride Rock’ and finishing on a upbeat ‘Circle of Life’ reprise. Both Lebo and his daughter where in spectacular voice while playfully engaging the audience and fellow bandmates. Hans finished the bracket off with a touching background story of their meeting and Lebo’s Soweto roots.
Speaking of the band, a simply superb lineup, though somewhat upstaged by the beautiful trio of whom Han’s labeled his ‘Wonder Women’ – duel violinists and special guest electric cellist Tina Guo.
The girls offering plenty of hair tossing, back bending and rock god poses to keep the crowd happy. Oddly more sedate, but delivering equal full force was guitarist Guthrie Govan with plenty of tasty solo work throughout the night. Though a Hans Zimmer performance is always going to be big on percussion, centering the band and driving the groove was Satnam Ramgotra on drums, and my god did he play for his dinner tonight. Simply planet smashing at times, beautifully subtle others, perfectly in his element all of the time and brilliant to watch. The band is too full of world-class performers to individually name, each having numerous moments in the spotlight to shine.
A highlight was Tina Guo’s spirited cello concerto leading us into The Pirates of the Caribbean medley, capping off the first half of the show with foot stomping rivalry, and changing any pre-conceived notions cello is in any way a boring instrument.
A quick intermission then straight into True Romance, Rain Man and Thelma and Louise soundtracks without even an entr’acte. The tunes eased us back in from the break and somewhat prepared us for crazy about to happen.
‘We had better do some superhero stuff, right?’
The impact of Man Steel ‘What Are You Going To Do’ was breathtaking and so loud I started going numb, with ‘Journey to the Line’ from Thin Red Line mesmerizing and fortunately bringing the volume levels back down to a safe level. Hans introduced ‘The Electro Suite’ from Spider-Man 2 as ‘something a little weird’, and it was, though nothing compared to what was about to follow.
A total stage blackout and Hans whispers…..’Now it’s time to get darker….’
Rumbling drums like giant footsteps, high strings rising, rising, rising till the signature ostinato Dark Knight rock groove breaks the tension, and like in any decent nightmare, the feeling of being chased by an ever gaining, unseen monster was there. ‘Why So Serious’ played live can only be described as terrifying, only overshadowed by the even more ominous ‘Bane’s Theme’ to bring the house down. I can only wonder the dark places a mind needs to go to write such music.
From the madness into light, Hans delivered a sobering and heartfelt monologue to the tragedies befallen the movie, the loss of ‘Our Heath’ and the mindless theatre shootings with ‘Aurora’. The set was capped of with four tracks from Interstellar, soul lifting and beautifully delivered – a quick thank you, and the band were gone.
Of course, no one one was fooled for a second, aided by plenty of foot stamping and chants for more certainly helped rally the band to return and deliver the final Inception encore with gusto.
Starting with the totally terrifying ‘baaaaaap’ horn blasts with searchlights circling the room, hunting for people in the crowd, the final performance was immense and powerful, with Satnam on drums again earning his keep for the prestissimo ‘Mombasa’, and finally the chilling and haunting ‘Time’ perfectly capping the evening with a wonderfully simple piano to a pinspot light on a dark stage.
Of course a complete standing ovation has never been been so well deserved. The band bowed, thanked the crowd, high-fived and were off and it was done. Ears still ringing, I sat there for five minutes with a number of fellow audience members just taking in what we’d just witnessed.
So what is Hans Zimmer Revealed? It’s intimate, it’s intense, spine-chilling and a little nuts. The tension is unnerving, the raw energy intense like no movie theatre speaker sound system is capable of reproducing. Plenty of so called symphonic metal bands draw inspiration from Zimmer’s work, but hearing the master of the genre at full noise is next level stuff.
The sound, oh gawd was it loud. I mean really loud. The bass was just chest-hurting at time, and at one point during the Superman section I really felt close to blocking my ears. Too much? Nah, not really – just a little unexpected, I mean this Han Zimmer is a orchestra guy right, right? Nope – as it turns out he’s a megalomaniac!
I’m afraid if you missed Hans Zimmer last night, you’ve missed a once in a lifetime event. If it’s not too late – find tickets for any of the Australian leg of the tour, it’s worth the trip – I’d join you again in a heartbeat.