Classical Music

Even Without the Movies, the Music of Hans Zimmer Thrills

Hans Zimmer (center) rocking out on banjo
Hans Zimmer (center) rocking out on banjo Photo by Jason McElweenie
Hans Zimmer
Smart Financial Centre
July 14, 2017

There’s a joke about how all rappers want to be basketball players and all basketball players want to be rappers. I don’t know if it’s true that all rockers want to be composers and all composers want to be rockers, but history is full of interesting people who have made those jumps. Danny Elfman (Oingo Boingo), Clint Mansell (Pop Will Eat Itself) and Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) have all successfully made the jump into the world of film composing, and John Carpenter almost stole the show at Day For Night.

You get the impression from how full of joy he is onstage that Hans Zimmer would have loved being a rock star. Sure, Academy Awards, Golden Globes and Grammys are nice and look good on the mantle, but who among us doesn’t want a standing ovation now and then after we’ve played something particularly lovely on the piano?

To his credit, Zimmer pulls off the rock-star experience well. The visuals of the tour were created by lighting designer Marc Brickman, who has worked with Pink Floyd and Nine Inch Nails, and the result is a performance that’s much more engaging and entertaining than the standard “play video clips from the movies we're playing songs from” format. With the songs taken out of their original context, the audience is allowed to experience and process them on a purely musical level. It also means you don’t have to know every movie Zimmer has scored to appreciate his strengths as a composer.

Photo by Jason McElweenie
The show hit the highlights of his career, from Driving Miss Daisy to Crimson Tide to his many superhero scores and work for Christopher Nolan. The highlight of the first part of the show was the music of The Lion King, featuring original “Circle of Life” singer Lebo M. on vocals. I’m sure what they’re doing over at the Hobby Center is cool, but getting to hear Lebo knock it out of the park was a real treat.

Zimmer's entire band was on fire all night, and although the vocal mix was a bit rough from time to time, overall, hearing the songs was enjoyable the same way that hearing songs in a pop show is: Music is so much heavier when it’s not been processed to hell and back. There were moments in the show, especially during the songs he’s done for the DC film universe, that felt heavier than anything I’ve seen from a rock band this year. That doom and gloom was balanced nicely with his piano-centric pieces, which it feels like Zimmer has a particular fondness for.

It was a night that made me hope that this could become a trend for film composers who would like a few more ovations in their life. Best of luck to anyone who wants to try: Hans Zimmer has set the bar pretty high.

Photo by Jason McElweenie
Personal Bias: Friday was such a loaded night for live music. Say Girl Say at White Oak, MIEARS at Continental Club and Third Eye Blind playing one of my favorite records up in The Woodlands were just the tip of the iceberg. In the end, I went with this show because I have no idea whether Hans Zimmer is going to tour again, and I couldn’t pass up hearing the Gladiator and The Dark Knight scores live. That I live in Westchase and the show is in Sugar Land made for an added bonus.

The Crowd: More laid-back than the average Smart Financial crowd, which meant that while many still talked through the show, they at least weren’t screaming like they normally do.

Overheard In the Crowd: “What was the Wi-Fi password?” a voice in the dark asked between the second and third songs. So early in the show and they were already over it.

Random Notebook Dump: As I mentioned in my review, Asia rocked out to “Video Killed the Radio Star” on Wednesday night thanks to Geoff Downes's having been a member of The Buggles. If you watch the video, the first ever to be played on MTV (you have to mention that when you mention the video, it’s the law), there’s a guy in black playing the keyboards. That’s Hans Zimmer. Small world.
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Cory Garcia is a Contributing Editor for the Houston Press. He once won an award for his writing, but he doesn't like to brag about it. If you're reading this sentence, odds are good it's because he wrote a concert review you don't like or he wanted to talk pro wrestling.
Contact: Cory Garcia