When the headline acts for this year’s 18th annual Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival were announced in January, the inclusion of Malibu film composer Hans Zimmer and a 70-piece orchestra left some scratching their heads. The festival, known mainly for rock, indie, hip hop and electronic dance music acts, and attended mainly by Snapchatting and Instagramming Millennials, has not been known to feature instrumental performances led by a 59-year-old. The main headliners at Coachella this year were Kendrick Lamar, Radiohead and Lady Gaga. And yet here was Zimmer on the list — with a prime evening time slot on the main stage two Sundays in a row.
Zimmer’s shows were a smashing success, featuring 34 “hits” from his film compositions, including “Interstellar,” “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Inception,” “The Thin Red Line,” “Gladiator,” “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “The Lion King.” His light show was noted as being among the best. Zimmer himself played electric guitar in front of the orchestra, and other musicians were also out front on electric guitar, strings and percussion.
Singer/songwriter Pharrell Williams made a guest appearance, playing his song, “Freedom.” He and Zimmer were co-composers on the film “Hidden Figures.”
Zimmer’s 13-minute-long version of “The Dark Knight Rises” was posted as a video by Coachella on YouTube, along with his nine-minute version of “Inception.”
Comicbook.com described Zimmer’s set as a “high octane performance,” saying, “Throughout the set, not only does Zimmer conduct the orchestra, he moves about the stage playing several different instruments, even shredding a gnarly guitar riff at one point.”
“He completely destroyed the outdoor stage, and everyone locked in on his performance, making it one of the most talked-about sets of the weekend,” Your EDM said. “Zimmer’s set was epic in every way it could be.”
About 10 minutes into his set, Zimmer said to the audience of about 100,000, “It takes a special kind of crazy person to bring an orchestra out into the desert… But it had to be done, didn’t it?”
The LA Times chose Zimmer’s act as one of the 10 best at Coachella this year, out of nearly 160 acts performed.
“It was a stroke of mad genius to put him out in the field at prime time, and the literal squeals of delight coming from teenage ravers when they recognized his film themes rivaled any reaction to anything else all weekend,” the newspaper’s review stated.
Social media blew up after Zimmer’s unlikely set.
“So I guess the big Coachella discovery this year was…umm…Hans Zimmer,” Eric Leijon tweeted. Andrea Domanick noted that it wasn’t easy to dance to the orchestral music: “Watching people try to figure out how to dance to Hans Zimmer is incredible.”
Zimmer had actually been touring with the orchestra, and is on a Live World Tour 2017 called “Hans Zimmer Revealed” with over 45 upcoming concerts scheduled in the U.S., Europe and Canada from May 16 until August 12, including a date at LA’s Shrine Auditorium on August 11.
“Performing a concert series like this is something that I’ve always wanted to do,” Zimmer said in an official statement when the tour was announced. “I’m very excited to get some of my very talented friends together and give our audiences an experience unlike any concert they have ever been to before.”
In a recent interview with the Evening Standard, he explained how Pharrell helped get him over his stage fright.
“I’m terrified,” he admitted. “I’m usually in my little windowless room writing music — that’s my life; the thing about recording film music is you get to fix things, but this is different.”
When he and Pharrell played together at the Grammy Awards last year, he said, “Pharrell is like my little brother; he goes, ‘Come on, Hans, play the guitar at the Grammys’. He knows I get a bit antsy being on the stage. So he was just turning around the whole time, keeping eye contact with me, making sure I was all right. And you know, it was the best night, one of the highlights of my life.”
Zimmer has received nine Academy Award nominations and one win (“The Lion King”), 13 Golden Globe nominations with two wins, and 10 Grammy nominations with three wins. He co-owns Remote Control Productions in Santa Monica, where he’s mentored a number of young film composers. He also teaches master classes in film scoring online, and has owned a home in Malibu since 1995.