Hans Zimmer: Echo Arena, Liverpool

Hans Zimmer

Hans Zimmer

Legendary composer Hans Zimmer arrives in Liverpool, Getintothis’ Martin Waters heads over to the Echo Arena to sample a bit of Batman and Interstellar soundtrack action.

I’m Batman’ more than one person repeated huskily for the umpteenth time as we waited to enter the Arena.  That wore thin quickly.  It did get me wondering how much of Hans Zimmer’s extensive back catalogue these fans were actually aware of, and would they be disappointed if the Dark Knight himself didn’t put in an appearance.

Despite over 100 film scores and a whole host of awards, an Oscar, two Golden Globes, four Grammys, three Classical Brits to name a few, Zimmer is best known for his collaboration with director Christopher Nolan, having scored the Dark Knight Trilogy, Interstellar and of course Inception, and he doesn’t disappoint covering tracks from all three films with an especially impressive medley from the Dark Knight – Why So Serious? and The Fire Rises being stand out pieces.  But Zimmer teases and leaves these beauties till much later on in the show.

Zimmer is to Nolan what John Williams is to Spielberg and Lucas but without the singalong anthems.  Admit it, we’ve all sung along to the theme from Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark or the der dums of Jaws, but few of us belt along with the theme to True Romance or the Da Vinci Code.

From The Buggles to Batman – Hans Zimmer and the Christopher Nolan years

Zimmer appears alone, at an electric piano, kicking off an 8 minute medley of tunes as he is slowly joined by a few members of his band, before the big reveal of his 15 piece studio band as well an orchestra and choir, and at a conservative estimate, from a random headcount, there are roughly around 60-odd musicians adding to the spectacle.

From here on in the ante is well and truly upped with tracks from Sherlock Holmes and Madagascar and a four number punch from Gladiator lifting the spirits and from this point in there is no let up in the energy and raw power of Zimmer’s compositions.

Zimmer has been described as more of a rock star than a composer and he clearly revels in the performance, the show building and building to what everyone rightly assumes will be the full on Inception climax.  If you expected him to sit idly by while the assembled musicians belted out his compositions you’d be wrong and from the opening medley where he plays an enthusiastic banjo, the scene is set for full Zimmer participation.

Surprisingly, Zimmer doesn’t go down the route of projecting scenes from the films behind the stage, perhaps he thinks this distracts from the score, but having witnessed John Carpenter in all his glory late last year I know just how much the clips of those classic films can add to the event.  Who wouldn’t want to see Gladiator Russell Crowe wander through his field of wheat all Theresa May-like while those stirring strings and ethereal voices combine?

Apart from the die-hard Zimmer fans, the use of film footage would give that added sense of recognition to some of the tunes as more than a few people around me were asking ‘what’s this from’. While Rainman, Thelma and Louise and Crimson Tide offer big bombastic scores, no one would argue that they have immediate audience recognition.

That’s not to say the show disappoints, far from it, and you are captivated by the goings on in front of you as musicians fairly attack their instruments with passion.

So the scores are impressive, the performances outstanding but well it’s no John Williams is it.  And that, is the point, Williams may be more recognisable but that is part of the problem, they’re all a bit big brass samey.  Zimmer, on the other hand, takes his punk and new wave background (he did after all work with The Damned and the Buggles) to offer a variety, subtlety and tension in every score that maybe you can actually only really appreciate once it is removed from the visuals of the movies themselves.  

The only thing missing from a spectacular three-hour romp is a performance of the man’s legendary Going for Gold theme tune.

Pictures by Getintothis’ Martin Waters