I completely understand that this may seem strange. "Why is he reviewing a concert that he was never at?" (mimicking a logical reader). This would be very true in most cases that weren't a professional shot DVD and the footage is most certainly not a professional DVD. In fact, the attendee to the concert gave a great amount of detail about the event and recording including equipment. It was stated that it was filmed on a GoPro Hero3+ Silver. Now, being a web developer and geek, I'm still amazed that a GoPro can produce 1080p resolution, but very happy that it can. This individual was able to otherwise record the entire 3 hour concert. Nobody's arm will last three hours, nor should it. Though I'm behind in the times on audio equipment, I'd like to note that they also used a Sony ECM-DS70P, which from the link below, looks a lot like a GoPro caliber hands free microphone. I assure you, even if I had a sliver of realistic chance of attending a Hans Zimmer concert at all, much less in a beautiful ancient French theater, I would have much rather attended versus sitting in my office chair watching YouTube. However, as I'll point out, the combination of his stories, the beautiful music, and the stunning backdrop of an ancient theater kinda makes me forget I'm sitting in an office chair watching YouTube. Much like a movie, it's likely one of those types of concerts that you should let yourself drift into and if you end up pretending it's reality, you're doing it right. To start, the full list of pieces that were performed is below. This would really be a long, novel of a review if I were to attempt to tackle all of the amazing three full hours of continuous entertainment. Most are not going to read a 5 page equivalent review. It is certainly something different to have each segment introduced with a story or quirky and less common information and personal stories. As Hans Zimmer thrives on them to fuel his mission in life, I wasn't surprised but it was a pleasant ingredient that reminded me of going to many classical music concerts with my father while he was alive. The event starts in mid to late evening which gives a wonderful realistic view of the theater backdrop, stone and all. From the very beginning, the audience is very enthusiastic as they jump into the theme from Driving Miss Daisy**, bits of Sherlock Holmes** and Madagascar 2 to open the night. While there are participants you'd expect to see, such as the orchestra and the band. However, this isn't your average classical or symphonic concert. In front of the many talented musicians of more traditional instruments are some various and some continuous amazing musician playing less traditional instruments and soloists. Included are electric guitar, electric cello, violin soloist, accordions, keyboards/synthesizers, etc. On electric guitar, it is hard to tell if it is the former Smiths' guitarist Johnny Marr who played and recorded with Zimmer for Inception as well as portions of The Dark Knight Rises and Interstellar, to the best of my knowledge. After a humorous and informative introduction to the concerts, where among other things, Hans Zimmer states that he deliberately changed things up for this concert as it was the last concert of a 38-date tour and he felt the musicians had gotten too comfortable as the music became tight, naturally from all of the practice. He then transitioning into the start of making Gladiator and how the score came to be. I often enjoy the little seemingly useless facts behind events in life (in general), so this was another element in his concert that I adored. After speaking of his profound friendship with Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance, who was brought in for vocals to give Gladiator** a slight feminine element. Serena Russel sang the vocals on this tour and sang it beautifully to likely even make Gerrard smile with glee. As the concert continued on, the sun began to set. 55 minutes into the concert, Hans introduces "Chevaliers de Sangreal" (from The Da Vinci Code) telling a story of its conception and how it was inspired by the "classical architecture of Paris". However, at this concert, he elected to play the piece as a love theme in honor of director Ron Howard's 42nd wedding anniversary that day. I thought it was very sweet as the soothing climatic piece was quieted down even more and, in my opinion, Ron Howard has made some amazing movies and is honorably gutsy in his career. That said, it retains it's full-length crescendo that made me love it so much in the first place. Following the piece, the French theater is only barely visible as the sun lowers and lowers. In the darkness now,...calling Jack Sparrow? Introducing to the audience, the very beautiful celloist Tina Guo (playing an electric cello) and speaking of the lifelong journey of becoming amazing musicians. He noted how Tina began playing at age 3 and stated quite bluntly, "you're going to play the shit out of this thing, aren't you?". That she did. That she completely owned the theme for the famous character, Jack Sparrow, "savvy"? Can a celloist stand with an electric cello and completely "rockstar" it (complete with headbanging)? Absolutely! She nailed it and all musicians aced various pieces from the first four Pirates of the Caribbean movies (Curse of the Black Pearl, Dead Man's Chest, At World's End, On Stranger Tides). They closed out the first half of the concert with this, which was followed by a twenty minute intermission.
My late father was a massive, devoted fan of preceding movie composers John Williams and the late John Berry among many others. I had tried to get him more interested in Hans Zimmer, though he did show some interest when I was in my teenage years. The second half of this concert opens with a very.....unconventional and nearly "improper" piece (as Zimmer himself once said). Hailing from the poetic war movie, The Thin Red Line is another Zimmer piece that uses an extremely long crescendo, building and building...."Journey To The Line". I remember that I had finally firmly sat my dad down and put this piece on, not letting anyone speak. If you're unfamiliar and/or didn't listen to the link above, the piece takes nearly five minutes to reach its near-climatic peak. As a son, it is one of my proudest moments. When the piece finished, he was in tears both from the emotion of the music and likely of joy that his son was actually listening to his advice all these years. So, it continues to be a very, very special piece and memory for me. I was elated to see that Zimmer chose to open the second half of the concert with such a moving sonic journey. Not only did the piece gain intensity both of volume and emotion as it progressed, the now pitch-black theater started with an illumination of light...appropriately a thin red line. As it progresses, the music is amplified by this thin red line widening and widening just as gradually as the crescendo it is giving a visual to. It's been awhile since I've seen such a simple yet effective tool to convey the visual impact of chaotic emotions the musical piece has the responsibility of portraying. Much like that moment with my father, Hans Zimmer does not speak before the piece at all. Percussions, as drummers would call a "trap set", was added at the end with the high pitched brass pieces played with electric guitar by Mr. Johnny Marr. For me, it's breathtaking. On a random fact, the piece was also used as the teaser trailer music for Pearl Harbor, a timpani added to emulate the bombs and explosions. There is a video interview out there where Hans Zimmer talks about why the theme for The Thin Red Line ("Journey To The Line") is so "improper", but I will leave you to that treasure hunt. However, it is quite a treasure of a story. Similarly, in concert, he talks about his idea to use a mens choir for Crimsom Tide. Director Tony Scott stood firm with him as apparently the studio thought it was a horrible idea. I can't imagine the sound of the movie without it. Many who know me, also know that I respect musicians who risk their career to do something different despite what others and even executives think. An honorable victory to the late Tony Scott, who passed away in 2012. For another random fact, yes he is the brother of Director/Producer Ridley Scott. Returning to the topic of the concert, as music rolled into films Angels & Demons and Man of Steel, lighting/screen effects joined the music. I had seen footage of other Hans Zimmer concerts that used the screen footage. However, it's one thing when it appears on a flat, white screen. It's wonderfully something else when it is cast on a tan, ancient theater backdrop. In fact, while these visuals were impressive, having the ancient theater being the "screen", it was the visuals for the Dark Knight trilogy that really took my breath away. The Dark Knight (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises) is still some of my absolute favorite Hans Zimmer material. Though there wasn't an actual piece played from Batman Begins**, it rooted many of the themes and core ingredients that was used in the later two movies. Of course, teaming up with Hans Zimmer for Batman Begins was another amazing composer, Mr. James Newton Howard. I can't recall too many times two composers tackle one movie. So, as I love collaboration, it was really cool. During the concert, Zimmer explains the reasons was that he didn't want to cloud his mind from the two sides of Bruce Wayne as they would audibly sound different. Though he wanted to both write for Bruce Wayne and "The Dark Knight" (Batman himself), James Newton Howard focused on Bruce Wayne, while Hans Zimmer took the darker parts...thus The Dark Knight. While moving into this in concert and as "Why So Serious?" transitioned into the more up-tempo "Like A Dog Chasing Cars", the energy rose. While "Why So Serious?" gave visualization in strobe "surges", even more amazing is the numerous lighting bats seemingly flapping their wings to the rhythm of "Like A Dog Chasing Cars". It is quite creepy in a very cool way. Although, if one was afraid of bats, the creepy may not have been so cool. Moving onto The Dark Knight Rises, "The Fire Rises" is just as powerful and thunderous as it's always been. The solo bat flying on the wall of the theater as the screen backgrop was very notable. Though as one would imagine, bats were very frequent during the stretch of The Dark Knight Rises. "The Fire Rises" transitioned into "Gotham's Reckoning", both astonishing. However, and this is honestly the most memorable part of this concert and why I sat and thought to myself, "I really want to write a very long, in depth review on this concert and everything surrounding it". Hans Zimmer had many humorous stories throughout the night, including his wife's joke of "Oh you boys" when he announced to her he teamed with Ridley Scott for a gladiator movie. However, at the end of the series of pieces of The Dark Knight trilogy, Zimmer himself turned dark as well and rightfully so. With soft music behind him, he started to address the audience again but this time, about tragedy. He began to speak about Heath Ledger impact on the role of the Joker and Zimmer's conception of the uncomfortable sound/theme for the Joker. I took the time to type a block of his story:
"Every day when we saw his fearlessness. He was fearless and he threw himself into this role. It was astonishing, we loved every second of it. And just before we finished it, we got the news that Heath had died. And at first I thought I should take out all the angry sounds, all the steel, rusted steel, the razer blades on the strings. And then I realized to truly pay respect to the man, and the character, and the role that he had given us was to leave this edge in, to leave the punk attitude, to leave the anger."
He continued to speak, inevitably transitioning to how he learned of, and his reaction to, the Aurora movie theater shooting that had begun just minutes after The Dark Knight Rises had begun that particular showing, where twelve people lost their lives. Years after the tragedy, as he spoke to the concert's audience, his voice was still filled with sorrow, pain, and empathy.
"We had this amazing premiere in New York. And the next day we got on a plane and we arrived in London at the crack of dawn. Early in the morning, I got to my apartment and my phone is ringing. It's a journalist and he says can I comment on the terrible tragedy of the shooting that happened in a little town in Colorado where they were playing our movie. It was a town called Aurora. I hadn't heard of it, none of us had heard of it as we were on a plane coming to London. So, the first word that popped into my head was 'devastated'. And I realized it was just a word and I don't deal in words...so that night when I was thinking about those people. About those poor, poor people who were left alone behind, the victims. I found the choir and I said can we do a piece of music without words but just feels like we're reaching across the Atlantic. We're reaching across to Aurora..we're letting them know that we're thinking of them. That we're stretching out our arms, we're putting our arms around them." "...and you know, the world hasn't gotten much better since then. In fact, if anything, it has gotten worse....but on this stage, from all corners of the world, from all different cultures, we are playing for you tonight, my lord. From our hearts, with our hearts, without words we're here for you."
The soft, sorrowed music behind him transitioned into the piece of music that was written for the victims and families left behind. Aurora. All of the proceeds from iTunes and other sources for the track were donated to the Aurora Victims Relief Fund at ColoradoGives.org. Much to his goal and promise, though it features a choir, the piece is entirely without words but melodies of loss, respect, and empathy. Moving to the music for the sci-fi (thriller?), Interstellar was fitting as the main theme has an equally sorrowed tone to it. A concise version of the interesting story of the theme came from Christopher Nolan coming to Zimmer with a bit of a scheme. Nolan, knowing Zimmer obviously, had set his sights against a "big" score despite it being a science fiction movie. Knowing that Zimmer might take it that way, he simply told him that the movie was about a man and his son. He challenged Hans Zimmer to see what he could come up with knowing only that. I find it boldly interesting that the piece that was conceived is actually the main theme. The story is told in this short YouTube video from Nolan. It wasn't even until after its conception that the iconic piece was transferred to the church organ. In concert, it echoed and resonated through that French theater as if that was the core of humanity itself. Interstellar in concert, also as the concert's finale, was what you could call "all musicians in". This included Tina Guo, Johnny Marr, and the list would go on making it very powerful.
Following the usual short break before an encore, the lights went out again and music resumed. Inception is the score in which Zimmer first joined forces with Johnny Marr as he said that he wanted a "rock and roll edge" to the film's music. It's wonderful how these moments with musicians or any other collaborative environment (music or otherwise) can forge lifelong relationships where people can stop and think "wow, we work really well together". As stated before, Marr originated as the guitarist for the English group The Smiths who formed in 1982 and split in 1987. Following the Smiths, he joined New Order frontman/guitarist Bernard Sumner to form the duo Electronic, which also featured guests such as Neil Tennant of Pet Shop Boys. He has also played alongside Paul McCartney, The Pretenders and filled in with Modest Mouse from 2006 to 2009. The "all musicians in" ends with Hans Zimmer sitting down at the piano to begin the first notes of arguably one of his most iconic compositions, Time which appears at the tale end of Inception. Building in much of the way that "Journey To The Line" and "Chevaliers de Sangreal" do, he gives his audience a powerful ending to an astonishing concert that I only wish I even had the opportunity to stand in line all night for a ticket. I suppose that's one of the great things about technology. Still, trust me, I would have rather been there in person. Thank you for your time.