Hans Zimmer reveals powerhouse musicians, heartfelt emotion through iconic film scores at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium

Julian Kilchling/Staff

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Hans Zimmer’s global tour is dubbed “Hans Zimmer Revealed,” which begs an obvious question: What about the prolific film composer could be revealed to his legions of fans? His show Wednesday at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium spanned his entire career — everything from “Crimson Tide” to “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” — which opened up myriad possibilities to glean something new about the famed composer. The show offered no easy answers, but the talent of his band and the emotions they elicited reminded us why Zimmer is today’s greatest composer.

After opening with a casual jam session, Zimmer transitioned seamlessly into the theme for “Sherlock Holmes,” and he slung a banjo over his shoulders to rock out to the song’s quirky, off-kilter riff. Although Zimmer was the star of the show, the audience quickly realized it wasn’t him that was being revealed, but his fellow musicians. Zimmer was quick to direct attention toward the string and brass sections, percussionists, guitarists, bassists and vocalists that comprised his diverse band. “I want to show off them. They know I’m the weak link of this operation,” he joked after the night’s first rousing piece.

Despite Zimmer’s self-deprecation, there wasn’t a weak link throughout the night. During a performance of Wonder Woman’s theme, cellist Tina Guo became Wonder Woman herself, wielding her bow like a Themysciran sword through a biting electric cello riff that was made more incisive by the guitar effects pedals attached to it. Likewise, drummer Satnam Ramgotra, who could have passed as an indie rocker too cool for us plebeians to know, shined in multiple pulse-pounding drum solos. The most iconic featured musician of the show, however, was Lebo M., the original voice behind the opening chant from “The Lion King,” who came to the stage to belt “Circle of Life.”

Aside from showcasing incredible musicians, Zimmer took time to reveal moments of introspection, which punctuated high-energy performances such as the “Pirates of the Caribbean” medley. After the elegant but epic performance of “The Dark Knight Trilogy” scores, Zimmer recalled the tragedies that struck the film trilogy — Heath Ledger’s passing and the mass shooting at “The Dark Knight Rises” midnight premiere in Aurora, Colorado. “We’re from all nationalities, all continents. We’re here to put our arms around you,” he said, before performing “Aurora,” a somber but hopeful choral piece that was originally released to benefit Aurora’s shooting victims.

The running themes of epic bombast and quiet introspection throughout the show coalesced powerfully in the final piece, the “Interstellar” medley. A crescendoed organ blast heralded this final song as Zimmer played the tune’s heartfelt piano melody. As the emotions elevated, mounting strings, nimble organ chimes and the yearning blip of electronic sounds layered to create an ascending and surreal soundscape. The sheer complexity of the piece belied the simple pathos behind it. The score was inspired by Zimmer’s relationship with his son, and that sense of emotion driving the music allowed it to become touchingly profound.  

Zimmer and his band are rockstars, and as such, they returned for an encore. A resounding blast from the brass section signaled that it was time for “Inception,” and Zimmer donned his electric guitar to provide a blanket of power chords, while the brass churned out the iconic BWAAAHs. To close the night, Zimmer returned to his piano for the quiet, melancholy “Time.” The show ended as the film did: with a mysterious, fleeting chime.

Ultimately “Hans Zimmer Revealed” might be a misleading title, since it was his musicians that truly brought the show to life. But in doing so, they reminded us why Zimmer’s music is so affecting. His music reaches out to us as much as, if not more than, the films we watch. “Aurora” meets us at our lowest points, while the themes from “Interstellar” lift us from them. His superhero scores assure us that we can stop the bad guys, cape or no cape. Behind the bombast and beneath the introspection of his music lies a heart that understands our own.

Harrison Tunggal covers film. Contact him at [email protected].