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10th April 2022

Live Review: Hans Zimmer at AO arena

Just a few days before winning an Oscar for his work on Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, Hans Zimmer played a three-hour sold-out show at the AO Arena
Live Review: Hans Zimmer at AO arena
Photo: Michal Wasilewski @ The Mancunion

Amid the home stretch of the film awards season resulting in his second Oscar win in his prolific career, Hans Zimmer and his orchestra played a sold-out three hour long concert at the Manchester Arena.

As one of the most renowned composers of our era, Hans Zimmer recognises the impact he can make on the public. Upon entering the arena, the audience is met with a massive electronic screen portraying the Ukrainian flag, paying tribute to the resistance of the war-torn nation. He didn’t stop with these gestures, emphasising throughout the concert that most members of his orchestra come from Ukraine, and verbally addressed the courage of their compatriots in fighting off the Russian invasion.

Apart from acknowledging the struggles of the Ukrainian nation, Zimmer raises other social issues. He praises the importance of women in creating art and in the history of humanity as a whole, introducing the female members of his orchestra one by one. These portentous praises towards femininity might not have felt particularly genuine in the words of a male superstar; but maybe it’s only a feeling I got, as every word spoken by Hans Zimmer was met with passionate cheering from the AO Arena audience.

Zimmer is a man of many talents, and meeting the crowd with an electric guitar he looks more like an experienced rock man than a film composer, his appearance not resembling the kind of music he’s identified with. Throughout the show, he plays a variety of instruments. And even more, in one song he emerges as a singer.

Hans Zimmer
Photo: Michal Wasilewski @ The Mancunion

The show consisted of a showcase of Zimmer’s greatest work, ranging from the beginnings of his career to his latest successes. Playing a variety of themes from films like Gladiator, The Last Samurai, The Dark Knight, Interstellar, and No Time to Die, amongst others, this extensive show covered the major pieces from Zimmer’s discography.

However, with the concert taking place just a few days before Zimmer’s Oscar win for his score for Dune, the audience was clearly waiting for as many pieces from the epic film as possible.

It is a difficult task to pick only one song from Hans Zimmer’s impressive repertoire, but I would argue that the performance of Dune’s ‘Paul’s Dream’ was the most powerful and memorable of the night. Transcending the boundaries of music and gaining a feel of intense theatrical performance, the power of Dune’s soundtrack is undeniable, as much on stage as in the film. 

While the majority of pieces were kept in dark undertones, full of haunting instrumentals and intense audio-visual experiences, there was one sequence of the concert that seemed as if taken from a different world, not fitting into the carefully crafted show; I’m talking about The Lion King. 

The inclusion of The Lion King’s hits was an obvious and understandable choice. After all, this is the score that brought Hans Zimmer his first Oscar in 1995, featuring some of the most iconic Disney songs ever. Arguably, some members of the audience came to the concert primarily for the well-known hits such as ‘Circle of Life’ and ‘King of Pride Rock’. Yet, putting such a distinct sequence packed with positive energy felt out of place when stacked between the elevated works from Interstellar and the hypnotising ‘Time’ from Inception, which closed the show.

Nevertheless, the 3-hour show put on by Hans Zimmer and his orchestra, accompanied by phenomenal work from the team working on the audiovisuals, was a real treat. Zimmer’s scores have a strongly immersive nature, and watching them performed live leaves no doubt that he truly is one of the world’s leading composers.

Michal Wasilewski

Michal Wasilewski

Managing Editor of Culture for The Mancunion.

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