Hans Zimmer at the O2 Arena
Despite being one of Hollywood’s most successful producers, for many years Hans Zimmer didn’t enjoy the same popularity of the likes of Danny Elfman, James Horner and John Williams. He wrote iconic scores that earned him an Oscar – The Lion King – and the appreciation of true film buffs – The Thin Red Line. Gladiator’s music was so popular that even those who had not watched Ridley Scott’s epic knew the main themes. But live, he performed seldom, if ever. Was the stage not his field, or was there no appetite for his works?
In the second half of the 00s the German composer began to work with Chris Nolan on the Dark Knight trilogy, and from that point, everything changed. He found the perfect platform to deliver edgy, powerful works to huge audiences. And the tours began.
For someone who enjoys the magnitude and soundscape of a blockbuster movie, Zimmer writes and delivers with finesse. He became known for making potent, sombre French horns a trademark (detractors say he isn’t the one who invented that trick, but neither did McDonald’s with burgers).
The show begins with a little taste of Dune, the composer’s latest major work. Then, from the sandy horizon of planet Arrakis, the orchestra travels to Mombasa, for another glimpse of what will come later: Inception. The Man of Steel suite brings to the O2 all the energy Zimmer is known for, culminating with Flight. Basically, the Superman theme. The intensity continues with the Gladiator section, before ending with the ethereal notes of Now We Are Free. The first half of the show comes to a conclusion as the carefree world of Jack Sparrow and his pirate adventures invades the Greenwich arena.
After a little break, the band is back on-stage, now with a gypsy attitude as they play the Rango suite. “It’s always better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission. So now we ask you for your forgiveness. Sometimes we just have to be stupid and silly,” says Zimmer. The lighthearted moment goes on with Discombobulate from Sherlock Holmes, before the anxiety-inducing The Dark Knight medley and Supermarine, from Dunkirk, reset the mood of the O2.
The German composer praises his orchestra, revealing that they are the same musicians who worked on the Dune soundtrack, from which the beautiful and powerful Paul’s Dream is performed next. “[I play] one for you and one for me – this one is for me,” he says to introduce Interstellar’s Dust. “I wrote the violin part to be unplayable, and then she nailed it […] There are notes that are forbidden and some that are against nature – and it’s all you, naughty!”. From the same score, he continues with Coward, Stay and Detach, this medley the clear highlight of the show.
Lebo M gives the audience goosebumps as he sings the iconic Zulu chant of The Lion King’s Circle of Life. It’s a beautiful, joyful moment, which reaches its climax with This Land.
There’s time – as always – for an encore. Bond’s Gun Barrel sequence, which the composer tweaked for No Time to Die, is fun, and so is Cuba Chase, but it’s very disappointing that Final Ascent (Zimmer’s most personal, sorrowful work in years) doesn’t get played.
Time has become the perfect song to close each show on the tour and, before it’s played, an Instagram video from Ukraine where a young man plays it on a piano in the middle of a destroyed city is projected on the screen. It’s sad but life-affirming. Then Zimmer takes to his own piano and the magic of Inception’s finale brings the night to a memorable end.
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
Photos: Virginie Viche
For further information and future events visit Hans Zimmer’s website here.
Watch a trailer for Hans Zimmer’s Europe 2022 tour here: