Hans Zimmer Live: A Celebration of Film Music

Jonathan Lee reflects on a night of live music from Hans Zimmer....

Jonathan Lee
31st March 2022
Credit: Twitter @HansZimmer
After performing two nights at the O2 in London, world-renowned film composer Hans Zimmer travels to the AO Arena in Manchester to wow fans with his iconic hits.

It is unarguable that Hans Zimmer is among the most notable film composers of our time. Most cinephiles and music lovers have likely grown up surrounded by the soundscapes created by Zimmer whose notable works include GladiatorPirates of the Caribbean and The Lion King. After several postponements, the German composer was finally able to tour again and being a huge fan, I was beyond elated at the prospect of watching him live at the AO Arena in Manchester (Spotify Wrapped placed me among his top 0.05% listeners for 2021, but I digress).

After an opening blast from a medley of his towering scores for Dune and Inception, followed by a selection of cues from Wonder Woman 1984, Zimmer addressed the crowd and informed us that there was a Ukrainian contingent within his orchestra. The musicians stand to show themselves and in a moving expression, the arena stands in unison to applaud them.

What followed next was a theme for yet another DC superhero, and this time it was Man of Steel. Zimmer opened with a piano rendition from the track What Are You Going To Do When You Are Not Saving the World, which proceeded to soar into epicness in Flight. Particularly memorable was a solo electric guitar riff by guitarist Guthrie Govan which was, for the lack of better adjectives, electrifying. Gladiator followed next and the night’s vocalist Loire Cotler gave a stunning performance of Now We Are Free

Before an intermission, audiences were treated to a 14-minute long medley of tracks from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, and to say the crowd was hyped would be an understatement. Seated behind me was a group of lads who excitedly "sang" along to the instantly recognisable theme music which probably went “Da! Da! Da da da na na!” In all seriousness, it was indeed a testament to the iconic music that Zimmer has created.

Credit: ColliderVideo

Other movie soundtracks that were featured throughout the night included InterstellarDunkirk and The Dark Knight, among several others. Whenever Zimmer had the mic, he exhibited candidness as a showman. After playing a track from Dark Phoenix, he said cheekily: "The music was the best thing about that movie. Let's be honest, no one in Manchester went to see that movie." The film currently sits at 22% on Rotten Tomatoes, so it was not hard to see why. 

Zimmer’s versatility was on full display throughout the night; from the ethereal chill of Interstellar to the sunny savannah of The Lion King, each performance did not fail to impress. At the centre of all this was Zimmer himself. He played the guitar and the piano, all the while waltzing around the stage to interact with different members of his ensemble. The accompanying musicians were all talented in their own right, and Zimmer often stepped aside to let them have the spotlight as he grinned proudly from a distance. 

Perhaps that is what struck me the most about the concert. It was evident that each musician on stage enjoyed every moment of it and there was an unexpected rock concert quality to the whole experience. The performances of these well-known themes from blockbusters were so intense that as the night went by, I found myself slowly dissociating the music from their movies, but instead started enjoying them as individual pieces of music. 

As the three-hour gig drew to a close, Zimmer still had one last treat for the audience. Taking his seat at the piano, the familiar opening notes of Time from Inception resonated throughout the arena, which rose into a crescendo and then drew the silent but perfect conclusion for a phenomenal night.

Hans Zimmer Live was nothing but a thrilling experience. Sure, I could bemoan that Chevaliers De Sangreal or Lost but Won were not played, or that it is time to give some recognition to his less popular scores like The Prince of Egypt, but I walked out of the concert feeling satisfied and slightly teary-eyed too.

With a career spanning almost four decades, it is no surprise that Hans Zimmer has delivered some of the most creative and stirring soundtracks to decorate our silver screens. I, for one, think he earns a place in being among the best composers of the 21st century. 

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