Tues Aug 1st, 2017
Air Canada Centre (ACC)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Your first thought might be "Why would a film composer perform in a hockey arena?" The answer is, there is no better venue suited for this type of show. Lets start with the sound. When I have attended film scores performed live in the past, the performances have been incredible but they dont sound like they do in a movie theatre. Loud. The Hans Zimmer show was loud, and then some! I felt like I was inside an Imax movie! The incredible sub-bass (and I can't imagine what massive sub-bass would do to a concert hall) hit you right in the heart and stayed there for some time. I heard gasps from the audience at one point where I swore the subs hit the "brown note". This was rock-concert sub! From my seat (6th row centre) the sound mix was perfect. At times I could have sworn I was listening to a recording but the active 50-piece orchestra convinced me otherwise. While a portion must have been samples and/or loops (I could see the monitor with punches and streamers, and video elements were in sync) the performing musicians stole the show.
On stage were some of the worlds best musicians, along with some very special guests. A highlight was definitely an appearance from the original Lion King choral arranger / vocalist Lebo M. "The original Lion King.", said Hans. Hans told the story about Lebo's daughter's birth at the time of the Lion King recording sessions and what could be considered a "Circle of Life" moment, she joined them on stage with her powerful vocals during a Lion King medley that could have easily closed the show. But this was just the first half.
Throughout the show you could here elements of Georgio Morodor, Harold Faltermeyer and Danny Elfman...but this was somehow all Hans. While you don't get the rousing, catchy melodies you experience in a John Wiliams score, you get a slow, layered, build with dense harmonies weaving in and out of keys, and heart pounding percussions with occasional sound effects created by the musicians themselves, playing their instruments in atypical ways like the distorted electric Cello with a bouncing bow performed by superstar Cellist Tina Guo (she could easily do a concert on her own), or the pounding on the body of a bass guitar (Hans with a Rickenbacker).
This wasn't your usually sheet-music focused orchestra, and not that there is anything wrong with that, as we were treated to drum solos during Crimson Tide, a guitar quintet during Gladiator, loads of incredible guitar solos and an almost complete frontline, musical attack, of female musicians during the Superman vs. Batman Wonder Woman piece. Some of these musicians know the music intimately having played on the actual soundtrack recordings. Most of the musicians in front didn't use sheet music as they wandered the stage like rock stars and never missed a single cue. Not sure they could have seen the music if they wanted to as strobes, spotlights and smoke added to the spectacle with a simple but effective lighting grid and semi-circle video screen behind the orchestra.
"No musician left behind" could have been the motto of the night. From the 16 part choir in the back to the superstar players and guests. Hans credited them all with much gratitude (and self-deprecation) with some great stories to boot! My favourite was a funny anecdote about a long-time band mate encouraging him to leave one window-less job (composing in a studio) only to show up in another (The Air Canada Centre).
There were a few touching moments where he dedicated pieces to the peoples current struggles in Venezuela, the victims of the Colorado shooting during the Batman premiere, and Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker, all with the underlying message that music unites. And unite they did!
Some pieces were introduced and others needed no introduction. The brass blasts of Inception were paired with spotlight-stabs scanning the audience which felt like we were part of an alien abduction, Pirates of the Caribbean medley needed no introduction but incase you didn't know, the accordion player had a toy parrot on his shoulder the whole time. Hans & Co. took us on a musical journey through some of Hollywood's biggest films including Driving Miss Daisy, Sherlock Holmes, Crimson Tide, Gladiator, The Lion King, Madagascar 2, Da Vinci Code, True Romance, Thema and Louise, Rain Man, Man of Steel, Batman vs. Superman, Thin Red Line, Amazing Spiderman 2, The Dark Knight, Interstellar and Inception. (Thank you Setlist.fm)
Not as progressive as a Goblin show and not as 80s rock as a Trans Siberian Orchestra show, Hans Zimmer Live has its own brand of bringing instrumental music to the live masses. From slow building art-house pieces to the heavy driving riffs worthy of a Marilyn Manson intro, this was a rare opportunity to see film score music presented the way I think it should be presented. Big and loud!
I recently took the Hans Zimmer online Master Class. Once you pay the fee, you get access to watch about 23 pre-recorded videos where Hans sits inside his studio and gives you his take on music and musical choices. I do love listening to his approach and philosophies. (Take the class and you will know why Batman can only have two notes!). Soon after I finished all the videos I heard about the tour. Knowing this really would be a rare treat , I bought myself a 6th row floor seat, grabbed a bag of popcorn and a Coke (just like the movies), and picked up more merch than I did at an Iron Maiden concert, which ended the exact same way...a loud speaker recording of "Always look on the briiiight side of life."
Nathan Fleet is a film composer, filmmaker, guitarist and runs the Hamilton Film Festival.
The theme of the 2017, 12th Annual Hamilton Film Festival is music.