If you were to list today’s biggest acts in music—the ones who regularly tour the globe and attract scores of rabid fans eager to pay a small fortune to see them perform live—you’d likely come up with the usual suspects: Beyoncé; Bruce Springsteen; Taylor Swift; Lady Gaga; Justin Bieber; Adele. You might even mention some rock legends who dust off their old guitars every now and then to perform for packed stadiums: The Rolling Stones; ACDC; Metallica; the remaining Beatles.
You probably wouldn’t list any composers of epic film music, but it’s about time that you do.
Hans Zimmer, the man behind the music of The Dark Knight Trilogy, Gladiator, Inception, The Lion King, and countless other film classics, will take his celebrated themes on a 50-show, 20-country tour this summer. The magnitude of Zimmer’s upcoming tour rivals that of any major pop star, and is even bigger than Beyoncé’s latest campaign, The Formation World Tour. On the back of a wildly popular discography, Zimmer has become a bona fide rock god.
Zimmer announced in January that he would play at this year’s Coachella music festival, a platform usually reserved for Billboard Hot 100 regulars and niche indie bands–not film composers and their orchestras. He followed that up with an appearance on Stephen Colbert’s The Late Show, another place where it’s unusual to see someone of Zimmer’s ilk (though Colbert has displayed a penchant for inviting on untraditional musical acts).
His music generally defies categorization, but most of his most popular scores are arresting, grandiloquent compositions, often using instruments atypical of blockbuster movie scores (electric guitars in The Dark Knight, or a church organ in Interstellar, for instance). In recent years, he’s grown even more versatile, scoring multiple animated films as well as collaborating on Hidden Figures with hip-hop star Pharrell Williams.
Touring isn’t new for the German composer—he trekked across Europe last year—but this summer’s concert series is by far his largest undertaking, and it’s the first time he’ll tour the United States. Zimmer, who takes over 20 musicians with him on the road, and plays several instruments himself, told Billboard that he wants to change how Hollywood composers are perceived:
I wanted to break the image of the film composer, the guy with the large black grand piano and the orchestra and the conductor, so I figured out a different way of doing it. I wanted to take away all the barriers between the audience and musicians and what I really wanted to do was celebrate the musicians, all those guys that are amazing and a lot of people have heard them, but not a lot of people have seen them.
Indeed, like any top 40 song you hear on the radio, Zimmer’s work is ubiquitous. He’s written themes for Batman; Superman; Simba; Maximus; Captain Jack Sparrow; Sherlock Holmes; and Spider-Man, among other beloved movie heroes of the last three decades. He has written the score for six of blockbuster director Christopher Nolan’s last seven films. And he has mentored a throng of younger composers who have gone onto score films including Mad Max: Fury Road, X-Men, and the upcoming Wonder Woman movie.
Zimmer has helped turn what was once merely a component of the film industry into an industry all its own. It might seem sacrilege to say (apologies in advance to the “BeyHive“), but Zimmer’s mark on the world of film music borders on Beyoncé-ian.
Now he has the massive, worldwide concert tour to prove it.