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3rd July 2023

Hans Zimmer Live: An unforgettable journey across air, tide, desert, and savannah

The legendary and visionary film composer Hans Zimmer performs the works of his life at Manchester’s AO Arena.
Hans Zimmer Live: An unforgettable journey across air, tide, desert, and savannah
Photo: Frank Embacher

The award-winning film soundtrack composer and music producer Hans Zimmer graced Manchester’s AO Arena on the 16th of June, on the UK leg of his European tour. Famous for creating legendary soundtracks for films such as Inception, The Dark Knight, and Pirates of the Caribbean, his music has resonated with movie and music lovers worldwide and continues to inspire other musicians and composers.

Starting the show with a stirring solo performance of ‘House Atreides’ from Denis Villeneuve’s Dune by original vocalist Loire Cotler, she was joined by the drummer and a screen full of dazzling effects. Quickly, these effects floated away, revealing an astounding number of talented performers and musicians, and Zimmer himself playing the guitar in the centre. A swift transition and we’re now listening to ‘Mombasa’ from Inception, with the ensemble building action-packed tension with a quickening tempo and texture, eventually coming to an overwhelming crescendo.

Next up were tracks from Wonder Woman 1984where Tina Guo (lead cellist) starts with a solo before building excitement with thickening strings and the addition of accompanying singers. A gradual sense of triumph erupts before the famously impending Wonder Woman riff hits. After this, a Pre-Christian instrument became the primary focus as the exotic Romanesque sounds of Gladiator built to a warring climax.

Keeping up the pace, it was time for one of Hans Zimmer’s most famous pieces in his band’s performance of Pirates of the Caribbean, where the famous accordion, cello, and strings section created a swaying rhythm akin to the rolling tides or the stagger of the alcohol-infused Captain Jack Sparrow, before a crescendo into a whirring world of vast tides, battles, and mischief. A musical masterpiece if there ever was one. Capturing the very essence of the character, the impending nature of the sea, the lifelong bonds of fellow pirates, the chaos of war and more, this piece is utterly breath-taking to hear in person, especially with the angled lights bobbing up and down alongside the big screen’s wave imagery.

After a brief interval, showcasing just how busy the arena was, set 2 began with the ‘Top Gun: Maverick Anthem’ as floating spotlights and transcendent rising tones distilling this sense of flight, another guitar solo capturing the excitement of G-force speeds, before Zimmer acknowledges the irony of getting one of the world’s greatest percussionists to hit a bell!

The tracks from The Dark Knight were also massive highlights of the evening, with the reverberating voice of Hans Zimmer introducing the section, before ink blots and x-ray images, as well as predominantly white, green, and purple lighting to mirror Batman’s character, work together with the heavy rock musical style. Spotlights swept erratically across the audience, before some of the musicians walked amongst the audience and the four guitarists, including Zimmer himself, finished their segment together.

Anyone who thought this show would be an audio spectacle alone must have been shocked by the Interstellar suite. It moved from sullen keys and recreating the space between worlds, with narrow spotlights between performers and audience. The performance featured a female singer capable of hitting ethereal notes,  a spinning disco ball glittering like the stars, and even a ribbon dancer suspended in the air above the stage.

Almost immediately after this, we were transported erratically into the colourful world of the Savannah with African pop-art projections and light stands as ‘Circle of Life’ followed by ‘He Lives in You’ and other Lion King classics were performed by the original singer and composer Lebo M. The music recreated the feelings of war and treachery, of innocence and loss, and the excitement and thrill of The Lion King’s world, before an eruption of dancing bongo players on stage.

Hans Zimmer and his band’s other songs played also included hits from X-Men: Dark PhoenixDunkirk, No Time To Die, The Last Samurai, and finally Inception, where a father and son guitar duo played together before the concluding soft keys.

Throughout the show, he also introduced key members of the band and their contributions and abilities, as well as the Ukrainian members of the band that had a heart-warming tribute through a Ukrainian flag waved over the stage in the final song. The conclusion of the show was equally heart-warming, with Monty Python classic ‘Always Look on The Bright Side of Life’ playing as credits and illustrations of each band member were shown – an amazing way to end off a truly unique and unforgettable show.

Listen to Hans Zimmer here on Spotify.

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