Review – Hans Zimmer live in Toronto

Hans Zimmer

Air Canada Centre

August 1, 2017

It’s a funny thing, trying to put into words the importance of Hans Zimmer’s Toronto show. Here’s a man that’s so good at working around the written, playing such a crucial role in pulling elements of a film together (be it the delivered lines, action sequences, or anything else happening on-screen) – that it seems silly to tell you he’s good at making his audience F-E-E-L something. Yeah. Thanks, captain obvious.

But words need to be written and things need to be explained, so let’s start off with the fact that seeing Zimmer on a rare live tour is an exceptional, beautiful thing. Not only did it bring his award-winning soundtracks to life, it also gave the crowd a glimpse behind the scenes. It humanized larger-than-life movies and allowed those in attendance a moment to gawk at – and appreciate – his ensemble’s sheer talent.

Taking to the stage at the Air Canada Centre, Zimmer brought with him a 17-piece backing band. Then, of course, the curtain dropped behind them and an audible giggle of disbelief rang through the arena as 32 more members of his orchestra were revealed. 

It was an indication that this wasn’t to be a night of subtlety – it was a night of power, force, and exhibition. Zimmer wasn’t one to hog the spotlight, however, with memorable moments coming from cellist Tina Guo’s Pirates of the Caribbean medley; Guthrie Govan’s numerous guitar solos throughout the night (including on Crimson Tide’s “Roll Tide”); and Canada’s own Satnam Ramgotra making the country proud thanks to his abilities behind the drum set – Zimmer joking we shouldn’t get attached because he’d be taking Ramgotra back down south to the “cultural wasteland.”

For the tour, the 59-year-old composer stepped into the shoes of rock star – telling the crowd about the inspiration for some of the music and certainly name dropping where applicable. It’s hard to blame him for the latter – if I knew Ridley Scott and Christopher Nolan, I’d be telling rooms full of people about my conversations with them too.

“Should I tell you this story?” Zimmer posed to the crowd early in the set. “Why not? What could f***ing go wrong? When Ridley Scott called me at 9 am in the morning, I knew he wanted something. He goes: ‘Do you want to do a gladiator movie?”

Thankfully he obliged, and we received a four-song section from the Gladiator soundtrack – as well as a three-song section on one of Disney’s most famous films: The Lion King. It was this opening refrain on “Circle of Life” that received the first instantaneous applause of the night, vocalist Lebo M. actually there for the performance and sharing the stage and vocal parts with his daughter. Refi. 

Post-intermission, Zimmer took a turn to the darker and, after leading us through favourites from Rain Man and Thelma & Louise, upped the intensity with the more recent Wonder Woman theme. It was there that things got even bolder (with the lighting rig complementing the shift) in a heart-pounding, “If this is how I’m going to die, I’m going to be okay with it” kind of way.

The Thin Red Line shared its time with a pair of superheroes, fitting well with the guitar-led electro-punk onslaught of “The Electro Suite” from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and the Nine Inch Nails-esque Dark Knight Suite – eventually coming to a serene conclusion, care of Zimmer’s touching tribute to the victims of the Aurora, Colorado shootings.

No stranger to theatrics, Zimmer had his audience draw him and his ensemble back for an encore with a standing ovation. Ending it all with the absolutely flawless “Time”, the focus returned squarely to the German composer and his delicate and perfectly placed piano notes. 

Whatever you hoped for from a Hans Zimmer live performance, it was there in droves. He’s prolific for a reason – and he’s surrounded himself with talented musicians that can execute his vision and take everyone around them along for the ride. He’s soundtracked some of the best movies you’ll probably ever watch. He also puts on one of the best live shows you’ll undoubtedly ever see.


Elizabeth Isles