Words by Olly MacNamee / Pics by Michelle Martin
If anyone was still wondering how we can break boundaries and encourage people from all walks of life to embrace classical music, then Hans Zimmer’s concert at The Barclaycard Arena provided the answer. Hoodies and Hooray Henries, and all stratum of society in-between, were in attendance.
All were there to lap up the soundtrack of our lives, the original scores and complex compositions of Zimmer and his impressively large entourage of musicians. Musical numbers that date back through three thrilling decades of orchestral originality evoked some fond memories over an immense two and a half hours.
Starting promptly at 8pm on the dot, Zimmer introduced each track with humorous anecdotes – as we were transported through an autobiographical autobahn of his back catalogue.
The last time he’d played Birmingham, over thirty years ago, Hans Zimmer travelled in a Ford Transit van and played to a crowd of three in a pub. Humble beginnings indeed, but as I watched him command the stage, his love for music, for what he does, became apparent. It struck me that here is a man who, even if he were busking at New Street Station, would be equally as happy.
Surrounding yourself with friends and long-term collaborators helps too, especially if you’re on the road as much as he is over the coming months. The energy on stage was palatable and infectious. We were won over almost instantaneously as we witnessed the man behind the majestic, soaring music he has penned.
The first half was dominated by past achievements, the score to Crimson Tide kicking off the set before segueing into the original score for the film Angels and Demons – reminding the audience that sometimes, Zimmer’s music is the most memorable part of a film.
Playing through scores from Gladiator (both haunting and bombastic in equal amounts) there was also room for the much more elegant, subtle sound of The Da Vinci Code. Music from The Lion King was thrown into the mix, and proved to be an instant crowd-pleaser, immediately recognisable from the opening bars alone.
With many tracks lasting epic lengths of time, the first hour was over in the blink of an eye. We had been enthralled and entertained. A man who showed he could be both a musical maestro as well as a humorous raconteur. And, just like the Man City match on the same night, this was a show of two halves, with a second half that had a superhero and sci-fi theme.
Focusing on his more recent work with Christopher Nolan and the like, Zimmer – swapping instruments as he went along – brought the electricity to the Electro Suite from The Amazing Spider-man 2 and the darkness to The Dark Knight. His heavier, gothic music grabbed you around the throat, hanging you threateningly over the edge of a precipice. Just like Batman himself would.
He informed us that after hearing of Heath Ledger’s tragic death, he was tempted to change the score, but rightly decided that it should stand as a tribute to the chaos and anarchy Ledger brought to his Oscar winning (albeit, posthumously) performance.
For me, this tight, brutal Dark Knight medley was the highlight of the evening, accompanied as it was by stark lights and visuals, blinking black and white, black and white in ever quicker succession and drowning the stage with appropriate Expressionist aesthetics not too far removed from the director Franz Lang (Metropolis); a fellow German émigré.
With an encore focused firmly on his music for Inception, Zimmer played out the night, as one by one, each musician and the spotlight receded to leave him on stage, bathed in light. Zimmer is a composer and performer who has made a career out of what he loves and it showed, through every minute. Truly an enjoyable, exuberant evening for all in attendance.
Just don’t leave it another 30 years to return, hey Hans.
For more on Hans Zimmer, visit http://www.hans-zimmer.com/
For more from the Barclaycard Arena, visit http://www.barclaycardarena.co.uk/