Photography: Ed Robinson

Hans Zimmer

Echo Arena 17/6/17

HANS ZIMMER is, without doubt, the most prolific film composer of our time, working closely with some of the biggest directors in the business. Knowledge of Zimmer’s multiple Oscar nominations and a win with The Lion King, plus his unrivalled work on the three Christopher Nolan-directed Batman movies, does not even nearly prepare you for the spectacle we are seeing tonight at the Echo Arena.

Within seconds of taking the stage, Zimmer shows us he is a man who not only knows how to play a cinema audience but who is adept at playing a live audience just as easily. Alone on stage, he glides across the keys on the quirky refrain from Driving Miss Daisy as his band enter the space one by one, adding their parts. Throughout this opening medley, which also takes in scored music for Sherlock Holmes and Madagascar, the stage fills and curtains lift to reveal more and more musicians, around 50 at the final count. The lights, the projections, the sheer mass of talent and the surprisingly comedic character of Zimmer himself promise a night of high entertainment and unashamed awe.

Zimmer likes to explain the stories behind the scores and continually praises the talents of his collaborators, providing back stories of how they met, giving a sense that there is a lot of mutual respect in the touring company. The master composer explains how his score for The Da Vinci Code reflects the architecture of The Louvre, where some of the film was set, and includes modern and traditional arrangements to match the architecture of the gallery. In addition to being entertained, we’re also getting a thrilling insight into Zimmer’s life on-set and the processes of film scoring.

With an emphasis on the choir, Crimson Tide provides the first example of a truly bombastic score tonight and is as absorbing as it is breathtaking, closely followed by the elegiac wheat fields conjured up by Zimmer’s famous Gladiator score. Czarina Russell, who Zimmer met when she was a three-year-old bridesmaid at a friend’s wedding, provides angelic vocals over the Gladiator suite and it is impossible not to be completely swept away.

“I guess I’ll have to do some superhero stuff now,” he sighs, before launching into Man Of Steel.

The second act seems almost like an extension of the Comic-con event that was held next door a couple of months back. Zimmer is more than aware of how much of his audience is pure geek squad as he sighs, “I guess I’ll have to do some superhero stuff now,” before launching into Man Of Steel / Batman V Superman. Starting off almost as pedestrian as the Man of Steel itself, it soon takes flight as all the orchestra’s principal female members –  Zimmer’s “Wonder Women” – line the front of the stage and go wild in a flurry of strings and strobe lights.

The bombast of the blockbuster material is given relief from more sedate moments like the unusually sweet theme from Tony Scott’s True Romance, a mesmerising guitar solo from Nile Marr, son of Johnny, and a metronomic performance of the theme from The Thin Red Line.

The show draws to a close with an emphasis on spectacle: a lengthy piece from Interstellar blows each and every one of us away, and Aurora proves to be the focal point of the night: a drawn-out, beautiful piece that stands as a tribute to Heath Ledger and to the people killed in the Aurora cinema shootings. Zimmer takes time to spread the love by extending the tribute to the victims of the recent terrorist attacks in England.

An encore of the themes from Inception raises the bar with upbeat psychedelic rhythms and hypnotic visuals and no one is left in any doubt of this man’s pure genius. Even the most dyed-in-the-wool film buffs will not leave the Arena tonight without feeling at least a little more akin to the world of filmmaking and scoring.

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