The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival - or just Coachella, to everyone except its management - was held this past weekend, playing host to countless well-paid musicians and well-baked spectators. The headliners might have been Radiohead, Lady Gaga, and Kendrick Lamar, but one of the most unique acts was surely legendary film composer Hans Zimmer and his band and orchestra.
Zimmer has been touring a live show for some time now, playing music from recent films - Batman V Superman; Pirates of the Caribbean; Interstellar - back to older titles like The Thin Red Line, Gladiator, and even Rain Man. All reports suggest they’re great performances, and if the German maestro’s appearance at Coachella is anything to go by, I believe them.
Opening and closing with excerpts from Inception, Zimmer’s set included crowd-pleasing favourites from Pirates and The Dark Knight, a trio of songs from the Lion King stage musical, a set from Gladiator, and a performance of “Freedom” featuring Pharrell Williams. Backed by guitarists, percussionists, and full string and brass sections, not to mention an enormous video backdrop (of which, as a motion graphics designer for live shows, I can attest to the quality), the show was a blast even on the livestream. By turns thunderous and subtle, it was a real testament to the depth of Zimmer’s back catalogue. Best of all, Zimmer wasn’t simply conducting - he was up on stage playing along on bass, guitar, and piano, doing between-song stage banter like a champ.
And look, if you’ve got a minute, the pieces from Inception remind me of something that’s been bugging me for some time now. People give Hans Zimmer a hard time, whether it be for his use of digital instruments, his creation of a stable of composers working in a similar fashion, or his scores sounding like every other action movie today. But people forget that Zimmer is a damn good composer, an expert at wringing emotion or excitement out of cinema, and a true sonic innovator. If he sounds like every other movie out there, it’s because he created that sound, and because that sound works well enough that every studio uses it as temp music. His scores for Inception and the Dark Knight films, in particular, cop a lot of flak, but they’re rich tapestries of music, carrying both intricacies of plot and subtleties of character. Batman V Superman’s Wonder Woman theme might be ridiculous, but it’s also ridiculously badass. And, folks, listen to the score between in The Lion King. Shit’s fucking haunting.
Watch the video above; watch the other various clips from the tour. Hell, go see the live show, if you’re that way inclined. I mean, dude played Coachella. He’s the real thing.