One of the most successful film music composers in Hollywood must be Hans Zimmer. Luckily for his fans, he also makes time to go on tour with his music. Before founding Soundtrack World, I have seen Zimmer perform in Gent in Belgium, in the Polish city of Krakow, and I watched his first Hans Zimmer Live show in Hamburg back in 2016. After a delay of a year, because of covid, I was finally able to see Zimmer perform again in Amsterdam with the new Hans Zimmer Live show.
I had no idea what this new show would be like: If it would be the same as the one I saw in 2016 with some new material, or if it would be completely different? Within the first seconds, I knew that my evening would be completely different from five years ago. The show started with gorgeous chanting by Loire Cotler and the music from Dune. This tranquil moment transitioned into the massive sounding “House of Atreides” from the same movie, informing the audience that this Zimmer concert has a strong focus on his big sounds, performed by himself on guitars and keys, a band of talented musicians he has been working with, and a small orchestral ensemble. To confirm this boldness, the piece transitioned into “Mombasa” from Inception in which two women behind drum kits were allowed to shine, together with another pair of percussionists.
Before we could listen to the next piece, Zimmer took the microphone to have a small word about the war in Ukraine, since the orchestra was from the Ukrainian city of Odessa. Zimmer was even dressed for the occasion with a blue jacket and yellow pants. The musicians from the city, who were able to come, received a standing ovation from the audience. This was, of course, only a small gesture, but it was honest and heartfelt. During the next piece, which was Wonder Woman 1984, we could see some Ukrainian images on the screen as a salute to those who are fighting and suffering.
One of the musicians on this tour is electric cellist Tina Guo, and for me, she is the definition of the music for Wonder Woman, since she is the original performer on this superheroine’s powerful theme. To my disappointment, she only teased the theme at the start before the band started to play the more orchestral music from Wonder Woman 1984. This was, of course, still marvelous to listen to. After a while, I saw Guo dragging her electric cello to the center of the stage again, and to my delight, it was her turn to shine in the finale together with the percussion and one of the vocalists.
The suite from Man of Steel was quite a contrast after all the magnificent loudness, with Zimmer starting alone on the piano to play the main theme. The suite had a wonderful buildup in which guitarist Guthrie Govan had the lead with excellent solos on his guitar. The suite was a good example of how each suite for this concert is treated: In each of them, some of the band members are allowed to show off their skills. For the next suite, with music from Gladiator, the honor was given to Pedro Eustache on ethnic woodwinds, and for Loire Cotler who took this part over from Lisa Gerrard, who had to leave the tour early. I know Eustache’s performances very well, and they are always brilliant, but I was quite surprised by Cutler’s voice. Even though she usually focuses on rhythmic sounds and screams, her voice was as soothing as Gerrard’s in this cue.
If there is one piece of music that needs to be played at a Zimmer concert, it must be music from Pirates of the Caribbean. While five years ago many melodies were performed on guitars, most of these melodies were played by Guo and the three violinists in the band this time, and it gives the piece a more organic feel that suits pirate music very well.
The second half started a bit more light-hearted, with joyful and delightful music from Rango and Sherlock, in which you can hear the band members working very well with the orchestra. The cue from The Last Samurai was also gorgeous, in which Eustache, Guo and the violinists played the emotional lines wonderfully. In the final part of this cue, I was enchanted by the lovely voice of one of the vocalists.
After these musical moments of joy and tranquility, it was time for more massive and louder soundscapes again, starting with the music from The Dark Knight. I especially love the part, where bass player Snow Owl gave it all with rhythmic bass lines. The heavy sounds continued with music from Dark Phoenix, which was the only piece on the program I did not recognize. This is because I never returned to that music after writing my review. I was quite baffled by what Loire Cutler was able to do with her voice in that piece. I definitely have to listen to Zimmer’s Experiments from Dark Phoenix album, because the music in this concert piece was quite impressive.
The concert started with music from Dune, but since the initial piece was shorter than the other music on the program, we could enjoy another piece from that movie, again with a strong focus on Loire Cutler and this time with her terrific and terrifying screams. The intimate start of the next suite from Interstellar was quite a contrast. The full band and orchestra joined in after a while to give the music more body, and to my delight with many organ sounds.
Since I already knew that Lebo M would be present, I was not surprised that the last cue on the program was music from Lion King. What was surprising though was that Lebo M sang “He Lives in You” instead of “Circle of Life.” Having heard “Circle of Life” many times, I was quite happy with the change. “King of Pride Rock” was, however, played in both Hans Zimmer Live concerts. I did not mind though, since it is a gorgeous piece.
After more than two hours of music, we could still enjoy two encores. The first was music from No Time To Die, in which, while the band had two guitarists, the honor of playing the main theme was given to Snow Owl on bass. In the “Cuba Chase” part, the whole band went all out on their instruments with the Latin melodies. The last encore of the night was the same as in the previous The World of Hans Zimmer concerts: “Time” from Inception. The track is a perfect encore for such a concert. Not only does it start and end with Hans Zimmer on the piano, but the ending is also ideal, since there is no defined end to the track, because at the last split second it suggests to the listener that there is more to be heard, informing me that it will probably not be the last Zimmer concert that I will be attending.
What I love about the music of Hans Zimmer is that he is able to create magnificent soundscapes suited for movies. One of his other strengths is recognizing musical talent, building well-established relationships with the musicians and using their full musical potential in his scores. What you see on stage is the result of these collaborations, making the show a fantastic unique experience with brilliantly performed music. I was quite amazed by Hans Zimmer Live in 2016, and I loved The World of Hans Zimmer concerts, which is a different format of his music, but this new show raised the bar even higher. The music choice was perfect, the visuals and choreography excellent, and the performances masterful and entertaining. The only pet peeve I have with Zimmer’s concerts is that earplugs should be mandatory. The loudness was luckily not as bad as five years ago, but I do think that ear damage was possible during the Amsterdam show. But with that said, I do think that Hans Zimmer is one of the best out there creating film music and he knows how to deliver a show. His music is truly Oscar-worthy. After Lion King he also received his second Oscar for Dune on that same night – in his bathrobe in the hotel lobby.
Where: Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam, the Netherlands
When: March 27, 2022
Band members: Hans Zimmer, Lebohang ‘Lebo M’ Morake, Tina Guo, Nick Glennie-Smith, Juan ‘Snow Owl’ Garcia-Herreros, Rusanda Panfili, Pedro Eustache, Guthrie Govan, Aleksandra Šuklar, Loire Cotler, Nile Marr, Andy Pask, Leah Zeger, Holly Madge, Aicha DjidJelli, Refilwe ‘Refi Sings’ Morake, Andrew John Kawczynski, Molly Rogers and Steven Peter Doar
Orchestra: Odessa Opera Orchestra
- “House Atreides” from Dune
- “Mombasa” from Inception
- Suite from Wonder Woman 1984
- Suite from Man of Steel
- Suite from Gladiator
- Suite from Pirates of the Caribbean
- Suite from Rango
- “Discombobulate” from Sherlock
- “A Way of Life” from The Last Samurai
- Suite from The Dark Knight
- “X-DMP” from Experiments from Dark Phoenix
- Including “Supermarine” from Dunkirk.
- “Paul’s Dream” from The Dune Sketchbook
- Suite from Interstellar
- Suite from The Lion King
- Including “He Lives in You”
- Suite from No Time To Die (encore)
- “Time” from Inception (encore)