Film composer Hans Zimmer isn’t the first person you think of when you picture the Coachella Music Festival, that annual gathering of young, rich and beautiful people who enjoy dressing up and Instagramming nearly as much as music. Some folks scoffed when Zimmer was added to this year’s Coachella line-up, but that scoffing stopped the second Zimmer’s huge orchestra hit the stage, backed up by a light show that would make even Pink Floyd stop and take notice.
Turns out Zimmer’s innovative and memorable film scores, with their pounding rhythms and varied instrumentation, are perfect for the Coachella setting. Crowds reportedly went wild for the charismatic Zimmer as he conducted his way through a selection of his most memorable pieces composed for film.
In this clip (via Coachella), Zimmer and his musicians wend their way through a 13-minute medley of music from The Dark Knight trilogy (starring Zimmer’s favorite Batman), and it’s no sedate orchestral performance. Zimmer makes the experience visual not just with the light show, but by placing string players, guitarists, and percussionists out in front. Zimmer himself moves around the stage playing various instruments, including a guitar (making him officially a guitar hero), and at one point gets behind a mic to lead a chanted section of the piece. The result is something much more energetic and prog-rock than you might expect from a performance of a movie score.
Of course, Zimmer’s presentation benefits greatly from the familiarity of the music and the images that are conjured up by the various themes. Hearing that rising, hysterical brassy section at the beginning immediately puts you inside the world of Christopher Nolan’s Batman. The driving guitar parts send you reeling back into the bank robbery scene at the beginning of The Dark Knight and the weird Germanic chanting conjures images of Bane menacing Gotham City. Watching the music performed this way allows you to appreciate how central the score really is to the Dark Knight trilogy and makes you hope that Zimmer doesn’t follow through on his decision to retire from scoring superhero films.
In addition to the Dark Knight score, Zimmer also wowed Coachella with selections from his other Christopher Nolan collaborations Inception and Interstellar. Zimmer showed off the diversity of his talent by mixing in some slightly-less-dark music from Pirates of the Caribbean and The Lion King.
Suffice it to say, there aren’t a lot of modern-day movie composers who could pull off the kind of performance Zimmer unleashed at Coachella. First off, most movie music these days isn’t nearly as dynamic and memorable as Zimmer’s. And Zimmer himself actually possesses a lot of rock-star stage presence. Zimmer will perform at Coachella again on April 23rd before taking his show on the road to Australia.