Are you an avid movie fan? Do you remember any of these movies: The Lion king? The Gladiator? Pirates of the Caribbean? Mission Impossible? Pearl harbour? If you do, then chances are that you remember their fantastic soundtracks. They all have one thing in common: the same guy makes them. I am sure many of you have heard of the name Hans Zimmer
About a year ago or so I was chatting with a friend of mine who told me her husband wanted to watch Hans Zimmer in Concert. She sent me one of the youtube videos going around about his concerts and I was amazed about how amazing the show sounded.
I always loved music – I started playing an instrument at age 3. The start of my relationship with music is a funny one. I used to sit in our kitchen window every day waiting for my dad to come home. My dad worked overseas. One of our neighbours was a music teacher, and I would tell my mum how much I liked the sound. So my mum asked her neighbour if I could sit and listen to her students play. She suggested That I should start learning music and not just listen to it since I liked it so much. I remember her giving me my first blank manuscript and teaching me how to draw the treble clef. Little did I know what a big part of my life it would turn out to be for the majority of my adolescence.
When I moved to Paris and then the Netherlands my music took a back seat to my travelling as I could not take my instrument with me but living in bigger European Countries I had the privilege of being able to attend live concerts more easily than it would be living in Malta. I watched Coldplay, U2 (twice), Bon Jovi, Kings of Leon, Lacuna Coil (twice) … and in 2019 I travelled to Lisbon with my friends to watch Hans Zimmers world of music. I won two VIP tickets on a competition on Instagram, and my brother and another friend decided to buy tickets and join us. Unfortunately the tickets they purchased from Viagogo where fraudulent. As they were 55 euro tickets which they paid 120 euro for so, I strongly recommend you avoid using this website for concert tickets.
Hans was born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1957 (he is the same age as my mum). And he is one of the musical geniuses of our times. If you have heard any of the soundtracks as mentioned earlier, you know already that he is an incredibly versatile as a composer. He can go from children’s music to electro-techno and then religious harmony in the blink of an eye. He is also a polystrumentist, and live on stage he plays the piano, guitar and a banjo (that’s what I managed to see from my seat but it is possible he can play more instruments).
If you look up the list of his soundtracks on IMDB, you will see the list is never-ending. His career took off in 1988 when he composed the score for The Rain Man – which won the Best Movie Oscar for that year. Since, then, it’s been one fantastic hit after another. The circle of life from the Lion King has got to be my favourite soundtrack of all time. Every time I listen to it I get emotional so you can Imagine how I felt listening to it live. I loved this song so much that my cats (who are a massive part of my life) are called Nala and Sarabi.
Zimmer is touring Europe with around 60 dates in a very intensive tour – he is even visiting specific locations twice in a year.
We quickly settled into the 5th row our VIP seats were so close we could see the sweat on the cellist’s eyebrow. One glance at the stage was enough to make us both aware that this concert would be unforgettable. My friend Steph and I have both been to several shows both in Malta and abroad so we can spot these details. The stage was divided into small sections for the orchestra and in the middle a place for Zimmer’s musicians, playing the piano, guitar, bass guitar, a mandolin, exotic flutes, a cello and a violin. Also, in the back there were vertical screens, hanging at different heights, which eventually added to the visuals of the concert.
The conductor of the orchestra was Gavin Greenaway. He is a long time friend of Hans Zimmer, and he immediately got the band into full swing with the first piece. The lighting and the visuals from The Dark Knight were strong and powerful. During this performance the small stages lit up, giving a visual boost to the performance. For the next piece, the flute player Pedro Eustache came to the front of the stage and started playing. I recognised King Arthur. This movie has an enormous significance for me personally as I saw this movie with Marija Maric one of my close friends who passed away over six years ago from breast cancer at age 27. The majestic rendition was a tribute to her as she had loved the soundtrack and I remember her downloading it when we watched the movie and playing it when completing her thesis. She managed to graduate as a pharmacist but never got to practice, unfortunately. During this piece, two of the vertical screens started to shift: revealing a 16-member choir, stacked in three rows, singing the chants. After this magnificent piece, Hans Zimmer himself appeared on the screen.
Zimmer introduced the next piece on the screen, which was MI:2. The guitarist Amir John Haddad started playing “Seville”. The performance he gave was so brilliant and chilling that I had goosebumps all through this song. We then moved on to Pearl harbour which I had not heard for a long while but recognised immediately and felt the same emotions I felt when I had watched the movie just by listening to the music. The cello in this piece was divine, and the beautiful and talented Marie Spaemann is a woman of many virtues. This piece transitioned perfectly into “Injection” which is one of my favourite Zimmer pieces of all time. I had not heard it for a long while. And then it hit – I had forgotten that the magnificent Lisa Gerrard was a part of this tour and when she entered the stage the concert took another dimension. This woman is a force of nature – I cannot recommend seeing her live enough.
The next Ron Howard movie on the program was The Da Vinci Code. The suite was Zimmer’s “sketchbook” of the movie which was mainly focused on the choir pieces from that score and ending with “Chevaliers De Sangreal” I was not that fond of this version though, and I think it is my least favourite piece of all the ones played in this concert: this section felt almost misplaced in this concert.
We had a twenty-minute intermission – a well-deserved one for the orchestra as giving such an emotional performance must be physically and emotionally draining. The first piece after the intermission was the joyful music from Madagascar with the animated animals from that movie dancing on the screens. When they appeared I could hear exclamations of happiness throughout the audience. I am ashamed to admit that I did not recognise the movie the next song came from. It was from the animated movie Spirit – Stallion of The Cimarron that I have never seen and I will watch one of the coming weekends who wants to join me? I have heard the soundtrack before but hearing it coupled with the scenes of the horse galloping on the scenes had a different almost majestic feel to it. I even did not mind the heavy drumming in some parts of that piece.
After a beautiful and light-hearted performance of The Holiday, with a small introduction by Zimmer and the director Nancy Meyers, we could enjoy a stunning cello piece written for Hannibal. I have a love-hate relationship with this piece – even though it is incredibly intense and was elegantly and emotionally played by the soloist and became even more gorgeous when the choir and the orchestra joined in. The story is one which had a profound effect on me personally and even though Hans Zimmer claims it is a love story to me it feels like it is romanticising misogynism and violence.
Finally the song I was waiting for from the beginning and I gasped with pleasure when Lebo M. appeared on the screen and started to sing his trademark part from “Circle of Life.” The suite from Lion King that came after the introduction, was a pleasure to listen to. It contained a lot of instrumental pieces from the movie instead of the more popular songs, which for me, was a pleasant change to what I had heard from that movie in the past.
Since Lisa Gerrard was present, it came as no surprise that Gladiator was the final piece of the program. Her performance of “The Wheat” and “Now We Are Free” was stunning to hear and magnificent to witness with all the visuals, the music and the real fires that were lit on the stage. I was so mesmerised by her presence and her voice. There is no denying the woman is a force of nature; a true wonder woman and diva and I am in awe of her raw talent and stage presence. The performance was stunning. Her voice was wonderful in combination with the guitar, the bass guitar and the choir. The music is starting with a cello solo and transitioning into the orchestra taking over the melody. After Zimmer thanked the audience, he started the first encore “Time” from Inception on the piano in his studio, which the orchestra picked up on and continued. We could, of course, not leave the venue without hearing Pirates of the Caribbean, where all his musicians came to the front of the stage for one last time
Every aspect of the event was incredible as it packed more than enough entertainment value to live up to its ambition. Out of all the concerts I have attended, Mrfreshly gives us Hans Zimmer Zimmer and his incredible ensemble have given me one of the greatest concert experiences I have ever witnessed. I have participated at some other film concerts in Malta, which were nice but in comparison to this their memory fades away into the distance. It is the most excellent film concert I have ever witnessed. It was pure film nirvana. The show was a masterful one, one that will appeal to both movie lovers and new fans alike. It’s obvious, but the concert gives us Hans Zimmer in a fresh way. The show reinvigorates an unappreciated genre with an extraordinary touch. I particularly enjoyed seeing my instrument played on stage even though I have abandoned it a bit over the past years it is still a part of my heart.
I really hope someone manages to bring this tour to our Island as it would be a treat for all the people who love the culture and theatre life. We do not get enough such performances on our shores even though the scene has improved significantly over the past few years.
PS some of the videos where taken by me and some by my brother who was seated in the balcony.