Murs Magic Makes Hearts Skip A Beat
April 2012 Issue 152
In the lead-up to the revelation that Olly Murs would be supporting boyband One Direction on their upcoming North American shows, the BRIT-nominated singer had been busy entertaining fans in the UK and Ireland with his all-singing, all-dancing production. TPi Editors traveled to Dublin’s o2 arena to enjoy the star’s first ever sold out arena tour.
Since his rise to fame, Essex born prince of pop, Olly Murs, has rarely left the charts thanks to his collection of catchy releases. To fit in with the star’s increasing popularity, his current arena tour was on a grander scale than the previous succession of performances, which saw him visit predominantly smaller venues and theatres. Production Manager for the upbeat and funfilled tour, Sarah Hollis, elaborated: “We have the same nine piece band as the last tour but with the addition of a percussionist for the arenas. We also increased the staging with the addition of a 20ft long by 8ft wide by 5ft high catwalk running out into the audience which Olly specifically requested. An Ibex controlled flown walkway joins the catwalk together with the B Stage (a hydraulic eight by eight-inch scissor lift) which is located at the mix position so Olly can get right out into the audience for his acoustic section while still keeping it intimate.
“The show has something for everyone as Olly appeals to such a wide spectrum- my niece who’s six and my dad who’s 76 have both loved it! The tour has sold out everywhere including two shows at London’s O2 and also a third date in London at Wembley Arena which is a great achievement. Olly has had a lot of hit singles off his last album and because he’s been presenting The Xtra Factor too, his profile is high and his popularity keeps growing, so we’re looking to do an even bigger tour next year.”
Hollis made the move from working on the management team of boyband East 17 into production in 1997, when Steve Levitt, from touring production company Production North, asked her to work on Boyzone’s live shows. “Steve was in the early stages of forming a production company after being in the touring industry for 30 years as a FOH engineer. I’d always wanted to work on live shows, but had never had the opportunity to make the leap until then.”
On tour with Boyzone, Hollis started as Production Assistant alongside Stage Manager, Iain Whitehead, who now heads up Leeds-based Production North with Levitt. Hollis continued: “I’ve been working with the company ever since Iain and Steve got together as partners. It’s been great because I started out as a production assistant but with their encouragement, for the last 12 years I’ve been putting the tours together and going out as a PM. They initially put me on lots of theatre tours, where I ended up stage managing and building sets, which was a great learning curve.
“Being chucked in at the deep end like that was invaluable. It was just me, Iain and Steve at the time and it was how I learnt my trade. I think you can really pick up skills working in different size venues on a daily basis as they are more challenging in some ways because the gear you’re touring doesn’t always fit and you have to find a way to adapt and use your brain and make it work in a short space of time, while of course keeping the artist happy.
MAXIMUM INPUT FROM MURS
Pop acts have become somewhat of a speciality for Hollis, who has been heavily involved in live productions such as X Factor’s arena tour (from its inception in 2005), Capital Radio’s Summertime Ball at Wembley Stadium and acts as devise as The Human League and dance act Diversity, where she can currently be found on their ground breaking arena tour. After working with Olly on the X Factor live tour it was a natural progression to Production Manage Murs’ live shows. Soon after joining the team, Hollis learnt that keeping the same core crew and musicians that featured on the string of theatre shows and summer performances last year was of great importance to the pop singer, who views the tour as a collective rather than simply him with backing musicians.
“Olly had a lot of input into creating the production - from the stage layout through to the video footage. He was keen to have interaction with the audience, so the walkway and B stage were added. A lot of the concepts behind the show came from him and we also had Show Producer, Beth Honan, on board, who has been involved in a lot of Production North tours with artists such as Girls Aloud and JLS,“ explained Hollis.
Ramps leading to the brass section and area where the backing vocalists performed were factored into the show design because Murs wanted a stage set that would allow him to easily interact with the band. Discussions early on in the planning stages between Honan and Murs also revealed his heavy influence from reggae and ska musical genres, which he was keen to reflect in the performance. Continued Hollis: “He knows how he wants to come across. People might package him as a pop act because he’s come out of X Factor, but he’s not like that at all. He’s been influenced by the acts his mum and dad were into like Madness and The Specials and you can see this come across in the show.”
With Murs being what Hollis refers to as a “well-rehearsed performer”, only four days of full production rehearsals at Wakefield-based LS-Live facilities were necessary. “We’d done a lot of shows already and the band had a pretty good rehearsal period at John Henrys down in London, so when they came up north they were ready to go. The main focus then was to get the video element right as it played an important role in the show. We had a load-in day and then three rehearsal days before we were straight into the first show. It’s probably the smoothest arena tour I’ve worked on,” said Hollis.
THE DIGITAL DREAM
Jonathan ‘Diggers’ Digby [Damien Rice, Human League, Swell Season] was thrilled to be asked to join Murs’ team as FOH Engineer on the back of his work on last year’s theatre tour and a collection of other Production North shows. Almost 20 years spent on a diverse selection of live performances enabled Diggers to get hands-on with consoles from many manufacturers, making choosing a desk to take on the road to mix almost 70 inputs an easy task.
Diggers elaborated: “Last time it was a DiGiCo SD8 and this time I was very fortunate to be able to use a DiGiCo SD7, which was supplied - along with all sound equipment - by the excellent Wigwam Acoustics. They are both my consoles of choice so I knew what they were going to be like to work with. They sound fantastic and I like the way they’re laid out.”
During the performance, Diggers occasionally made use of scenes to change effects and presets and to move pre-programmed content. “Generally, it’s a live band and a live mix though,” he continued. “It’s great fun to mix this show and I couldn’t be happier with the equipment, band and crew. I’ve done this job for a long time, so when I started I didn’t use digital consoles at all, it was all about having hands on faders, and that’s what I do here. With a desk like the SD7 you can configure the control surface as you want, it’s a great size, very easy to multitrack record, I love it.
“We multi-track recorded last night’s show at Belfast Odyssey and it was so easy - just connect a couple of cables together and press a couple of buttons. I used a JoeCo BlackBox recorder, which takes the audio coming in straight off of the pre-amps and squirts it into a hard drive.”
Murs did not have any specific requirement in terms of his vocal mix and overall Diggers made very little use of special effects. Vocal mics were Shure UHF-R Beta 58 handhelds with a variety of other Shure models used on stage - the SM57 bongo and timbale, Beta 98A for congas, Beta 56 and Beta 98 for snares and B52 bass mic positioned outside the kick drum.
Sennheiser’s G3 wireless system with e908 mic’s was chosen to pick up the sound of the saxophones, trumpet and trombone. It was the first time that Diggers had used these particular mics, with FOH, monitors and musicians very impressed by their quality.
Sennheiser’s e 904 mic was used for toms, along with a Sennheiser e 901 placed inside both the kick drum and by the cajon. For overhead percussion and electric guitar mics, Audio-Technica’s AT4050 multi-pattern condenser mics were selected. Elsewhere on stage, beyerdynamic’s M 201, DPA’s 4011’s, AKG’s C414’s and the Electro-Voice RE20 dynamic cardioid mic could also be found.
VERSATILITY AND PRECISION
As the upbeat pop production made its way around the UK, measuring each room to re-configure the system to suit and closely monitoring the ‘for sale’ line to determine the PA configuration was high on the list of priorities for Wigwam Acoustics Systems Technician, Sid Rogerson [Coldplay, Peter Kay]. He explained: “I keep my eye on where that for sale line finishes at each venue we visit because if a couple of extra rows of seats are added, I need to reposition my whole hang to cover it.”
To suit the arena-sized tour, Rogerson used the trusty d&b audiotechnik J series. A total of 56 J8’s were chosen for the main hang, 20 J12’s for the side hangs and 16 B2’s arranged in pairs for the sub array in front of stage. Four of the B2’s were positioned symetrically across the front, to provide even coverage and fit around the position of the cameras. The frontfill comprised four Q7’s, with the sidefills made up of four C6’s for most venues.
Rogerson discussed the reasoning behind the PA system configuration at the O2: “We’ve generally worked with a large main hang and smaller side hangs on this tour. At this venue in Dublin we’ve again chosen to go with the J8 on the mains and the J12 on the sides because they’ve sold quite far up the stage and there are usually a lot of seats at the side. We’ve kept the J12’s off the main because Olly has the thrust that he walks out onto from the stage and we don’t want him to walk into a hotspot. The Q7’s and C6’s are on stands to fill the parts at the front of the stage, but it’s not been necessary to position the C6’s at the side here because there’s no side stage like at some venues.”
Amplifier of choice for the show was d&b’s D12’s, using the remote control programme R1 for delays and EQ. Added Rogerson: “All of the 48 amplifiers receive the ASES signal straight from the DiGiCo stage rack because we’re using nothing external for processing and control on this show. The beauty of the d&b J system is it can work for small or large shows and it’s very light, which is great for places such as the Brighton Centre that have weight restrictions.”
A GREAT FIRST IMPRESSION
Murs arena expedition was the first experience Monitor Engineer, John ‘LJ’ Evans had of using DiGiCo’s SD8 console and from speaking to him in Dublin, it was clear it had been a positive one. In fact, it went down so well with the engineer that he decided to take it out on the road with him on JLS’s current tour. The freelance audio engineer, who has mixed monitors for the likes of Travis, John Barrowman and Shayne Ward, became a part of the production after he completed a stint of summer shows with JLS last year, which Murs was supporting.
As the decision was made to use stereo in-ear mixes for all musicians, LJ needed a desk that offered more outputs. He explained: “We had a percussion set-up too, meaning we needed more inputs too, so we went with the SD8, which allowed us to work with 96 channels and 36 outputs. In the end, we used around 28 outputs and 62 inputs. The light weight of the console was also a major advantage on the road.
“When I’ve worked with John Barrowman, I’ve handled 20 odd mixes because he performs with a full live band so I’m used to managing that many. With digital desks such as the SD8, you can have a stereo mix on one fader, so for 24 mixes you are still only running 12 stereo faders, which is much more user-friendly.”
The on-stage mix was vocal heavy throughout and then when Murs walked out on the walkway or B stage, LJ boosted the drums for the singer to use for timing and the keyboard for pitching. As well as liking his vocal mix to be fairly loud, he also has a preference for plenty of reverb. “When you’re on in-ears it can be quite a dry sound, but with the added reverb, the sound becomes more live for the singer,” explained LJ.
The show’s previous arrangement incorporated a more even mixture of IEMs and ambient monitor wedges. However, this was adjusted to allow for better views of the stage for cameras and audience members, explained LJ: “We now only had a couple of C4 subs on stage - one for the keyboard player and one for the drummer. Everything else is done with IEMs. For the summer shows I had some sidefills and wedges, but the way this arena show was done, they wanted a clear stage because there were cameras in the pit and the cameras were trying to fire over the wedges but missing part of the performance. The show producer asked us to lose the wedges so there was a completely flat stage and better view for the audience.”
The Sennheiser G2 packs featuring heavily in Murs performance had been used by LJ before when he was on tour with JLS. He enthused: “Because they’re quite a small compact pack, you can hide them quite well and isn’t too cumbersome to carry around. Most of the bands that I work with now use in-ears and with Olly’s show - because he was going out front to the B stage - that was the only way of doing it. If he’d gone out front using wedges there would have been a small delay between the PA and what he was hearing. He could have been singing to the PA and would be behind the band. In-ears is the only way to go in that situation, when a singer is out in front of the main PA. You’d need wedges everywhere to suit the amount of dancing pop acts have in their shows now!”
WORKING WIRELESS WONDERS
The role of RF Technician, Nick Mooney, was at the centre of the smooth running of Murs’ show, which was heavily reliant on wireless equipment performing to the highest standard. After flying the stage right side of the PA, Mooney set up an RF Spectrum Analyser to start scanning the frequency bands that would be used during the show. This was left to run for two hours and carried out with all transmitters switched off, using the trace function to pick up any unexpected peaks.
Said Mooney: “Once happy that the RF was clean, I would walk the stage with an IEM pack, listening to Olly and the band’s frequencies to check that there were no drop-outs. As we were not utilising any wedges or sidefills on this tour, it was imperative that the IEM’s worked flawlessly. Due to the use of the walkway and B stage and Olly performing some of the show walking through the audience, I would then walk the room with Olly’s pack and mic to check for drop-outs and coverage.”
Mooney picked 14 Sennheiser EW300 G2 IEM systems, alongside Sennheiser Active Antenna combiners and Sennheiser circularly polarised antennas for its tried and tested reliability. Another eight Shure UR2 handheld units and receivers were used for Olly and the backing vocalists and six Sennheiser G3 IEM systems for the brass section, running through Shure and Sennheiser combiners to Sennheiser Passive directional antennas, all of which was networked to a laptop with their relevant software packages for monitoring and control. Added Mooney: “By splitting Murs’ IEM and hand held mics into separate systems from the band’s and giving them their own distribution and antennas, it was possible - with some creative antenna positioning - to cover all the arena floor and stage without any RF drop-out.”
THE VIDEO VISION
Production North’s Video Director for this, the biggest Olly Murs tour to date, has worked in live production for 15 years, yet aged just 31, Luke Levitt got his initial introduction and consequently big break somewhat accidentally. When Levitt was 15, he went on a Boyzone tour to do work experience, making tea, answering phones and earning pocket money during the summer holidays. What happened next was unexpected, even if he is the son of Steve Levitt [Production North Partner].
“It was a one in a million chance really, someone left the tour due to family circumstances and they needed someone to operate a camera for a couple of days until they found a replacement. The Director on that tour, Chris Hillson, decided I should learn the ropes and what started out a two day stint turned into a career, they thought I had the eye for it and I’ve been doing it ever since - 16 years!”
During his work on the visual side, Levitt has worked with the likes of U2, 50 Cent, Kylie Minogue, Paul McCartney, JLS and One Direction. Said Levitt: “Visually on this, there is a huge audience and just Olly and his musicians on stage, there’s no dancers so it’s a solo artist and backing band scenario. The video makes the difference. I think the screens offer something extra, rather than just a two dimensional show.”
Murs has toured in theatres before and the demand grew. “He’s fully sold out his arena tour, and probably could have done it twice over,” added Levitt. “The Show Producer, Beth Honan, produced the whole show with Olly on board. She came up with the idea of the LED screens. The look of the show is has five LED screens which move up and down tracks throughout the show, all with pre-produced footage, nice visuals and graphics.”
The video content was created by freelance graphic artist, Tom Bairstow, who designed it specifically for the tour apart from six songs when live camera feeds were displayed. Levitt added: “There’s certainly a retro feel to this tour, at one point Olly does a James Brown medley at which point we are live to the LED screens and we decided to use just a black and white effect to get that feel, and it certainly lent itself to the feel of that medley. Then we go back into colour.
“The theme certainly plays on Olly’s character. If you’ve ever seen him in action, you’ll know that he’s sometimes portrayed as the cheeky southern chappy, and they’ve brought that to the floor. His character is paramount to the whole show. Both the visuals and his set list reflects that, so the video is integral to portraying exactly what he wants, and that’s very playful,” he said.
There was also playback from a computer based systems running Figure 53 Qlab where by the footage from the camera shot is played back by a computer to play back the audio and video totally in sync so as not to lose synchronisation.
Levitt and his younger brother, Video Engineer Tom Levitt, debuted the Newtek TriCaster 850 Extreme desk on its first touring job with Murs. Tom Levitt also got into the visual touring world via the established family interest. He said of the Newtek TriCaster: “It’s the best thing on the tour; it’s brand new, easy to use and it’s the first time it’s been used in the rock n roll environment. Audio Tech tends to supply pop shows and Olly’s tour was chosen to try this out on. It’s usually used for American corporate events or TV studio work but I think it works really well on tour.”
Luke Levitt added, “Des Ward from Audiotech Services Ltd put the package together and it’s a really compact, easy to tour PPU. It’s fully high-def; the projectors portray what the cameras are shooting in HD. I think this was chosen because shooting in standard definition is becoming a thing of the past. Shooting in high-def gives the show that extra clarity we get in real life. That’s what people want to see these days.“
This is indeed the first time the console has been properly used on a full tour. The product is usually found in corporate work but VD Luke Levitt is enjoying the benefits on tour. “It packs down really easily, it’s solid as you would need and there’s been no problems with it.”
In total, Audiotech supplied full high definition PPU, the NewTek TriCaster 850 Extreme main frame and control surface, four JVC GYHM 790 cameras (two of which are used in the pit, one at FOH and one hand held on stage.) There is also three canon J14 lenses, a Fujinon 76 box lenses, four GoPro HD Hero 2 cameras (two on the drums, one on keyboards and one in the brass section). For playback, Audiotech also provided Resolume Arena 4 running video playback and Qlab 2 running the audio playback. Projection for the IMAG required two Sanyo PLD-HF1500l projectors.
Freelance Projectionist and Camera Op, Danny Sheldon, worked from FOH with a handheld camera as part of the video crew. For the first time, Sheldon is working with Sanyo projectors. He said: “I’m trying out the Sanyo projectors, it’s the first time I’ve used them, and I have to say they’re very user friendly and really easy to set up.” It takes about four hours for Sheldon and crew to set the complex video design up.
The aforementioned moving LED screen designs are not only a big part of the overall look of the show design, but the screens spec’d are also a winning formula for Engineer, Tom Levitt. He commented on the Martin Professional EC-20 screens. “The LED screens are really great; they’re really easy to assemble and visually, they look fantastic. We’re using the best and newest kit on this tour, so we’re vey lucky.”
HSL has provided the 105 panels of Martin Professional EC-20 LED screen (making up five seven by three moving screens), alongside the Martin P3-100 screen processor, which is made specifically for use with the EC-20 screens.
Gordon Davis worked as a Camera Operator, as did Sandro Bruni. Projectionist and LED Techs, Tim Bolland and Stuart Picton, completed the visual team. Video Director, Luke Levitt, concluded: “From my point of view, the video crew are second to none and I think between us, we’ve made a really good show.”
A RETRO MEDLEY WITH NEW TECHNOLOGY
Lighting Board Operator, Dave ‘Bickie’ Lee, started his career in professional lighting in Liverpool nightclubs in the late ‘80s when rave culture was taking off. The freelancer often collaborates with Blackburn based HSL. He has operated for Westlife for over eight years and designed a lot of their shows; these days focusing on the new generation of TV birthed pop stars including JLS and One Direction.
For Murs’ tour, Pete Barnes was the man behind the design. “I’ve got a great relationship with Pete anyway,” said Bickie. “He doesn’t tour, so he hands the reigns over to me. He allows a lot of creativity on my part, but casts his expert eye over the final product and tweaks things here and there. Pete’s a great designer and it’s always nice to work on one of his designs.
“It was Beth’s [Honan, Show Producer] concept with the five screens, and she wanted them to be able to move up and down. It depends where the screens are as to what video content it will be playing. Pete saw this and designed around it, so we came up with five moving light trusses. If the lighting trusses are high, the video is low and vice versa. That was the foucs for the design really,” noted Bickie.
For control, Bickie used the High End Systems Wholehog 3 iPC desk, his personal equipment. He explained the choice: “I grew up using Avolites desks then moved to the Wholehog 2, and gradually made the change onto the Hog 3. I bought a second hand one from a lighting company and now I’m really familiar with it. I use it at home for pre-programming, I can program very fast on this desk, without even thinking about it and can rattle a show off in a couple of days, because I’m so comfortable with it.” The show was stacked up as a page per song, and each song ran on a cue list. “The James Brown medley is my favourite section to light,” said Bickie. “There’s so much going on, it’s manic.”
There is no LED within the lighting design, Bickie elaborated: “I’m not a fan of LED fixtures because you can’t get certain colours from them, they do serve a purpose, but on this show we need conventional moving lights.”
On the front truss, Bickie had six Martin Professional MAC 111 III spots, 14 Martin MAC 2000 Washes and 10 4Cell Moles. The mid truss had seven Robe 700 beams and nine Martin MAC 2000 Washes, the back truss was also rigged with nine Martin MAC 2000 Washes. On stage there were five three metre pre rigged trusses that sat above or below the five screens, these are run by the iBex motion control system supplied by Over The Top rigging, and hold three Robe 700 beams each. Either side of the stage are two truss ladders displaying three Clay Paky Sharpys per side.
Additional effects were again enhanced by Clay Paky Sharpys, with eight placed on the floor. The stage set itself had some extra elements for a glitzy effect with 36 Showtec Sunstrips having been built into the design. All of the fixtures were supplied by HSL. Bickie continued: “HSL are great, I needed some specifics for another tour recently and they bought them - they’re making big investments.”
“This is the first time I’ve used the Clay Paky Sharpys and I’m absolutely blown away by them. I’d seen them in your magazines, as you read through and it’s like ‘oh right, someone has a new light out’, but then Pete brought them in on this and I thought they were absolutely incredible. For the size of the unit - it’s a tiny light - its’ amazing. It’s just fantastic and it moves so fast. It takes me back to the days when I was doing raves, I used to use golden scans which were a moving mirror fixture with mirrors on them, then everyone moved onto these moving head they just don’t move as fast because they’re a lot heavier.
“So you lost the speed with all the new technology. LED heads can move fast, but these Sharpys are the first fixture I’ve come across that’s like the old days. We’re back to being able to move a really powerful beam of light, really quickly. I’m so impressed by them that I’ve got 36 on my next tour!” The lighting crew was completed by Lighting Crew Chief, Johnny Harper and Lighting Technicians, Jon Trincas and Steve Bliss.
For the automation element of the show, Motion Control Operator, Joe Simpson, used two Ibex systems, supplied by Over The Top rigging. One controlled the flown walkway (over the standing audience) and the other controls the moving Martin Professional EC-20 LED video screens and lighting pods on the main stage. The flown walkway, supplied by Production North, can comprise up to 10 three metre sections of custom manufactured aluminium extrusion with a perspex covering and custom made aliminium handrail. The idea being that a lightweight, ‘inconspicuous’ flying walkway is created. At either end of the walkway were two metre high by four metre wide flown access treads which enabled the horn players from Olly’s band also use the walkway during the set.
The stage set consisted of a 52-inch wide, eight deep and six-inch high walkway, with a central staircase and four by six metre ramps running downstage. The ramps and downstage was covered in hi-shine marley, with custom made vinyl Olly Murs lettering overlaid. At the top of the stairs (within the walkway) a counterbalance stage lifter (i.e. manlift) was used by Murs at the show’s start, middle and end.
From downstage centre, running out into the audience, a 20 inches long by eight wide and five high thrust / catwalk are utilised by Olly several times during the show. At the larger venues, a B stage was also implemented, and is made up of an eight by eight-inch hydraulic lift that stays in its down position until a section of the show in which the walkway starts descending. Then the lift is raised up to five-inch to meet the walkway treads. Tour rigging was handled by Mark Wade and Gary Smith.
THAT PROFESSIONAL STAGE PRESENCE
Stage Manager, Steve Reeve, has worked with Olly Murs since the X Factor finalist’s last tour. “He’s a fantastic chap and great performer,” commented Reeve. “He’s really natural, he just rocks up and does his thing really. He’s the best performer I’ve worked with in a long time for both professionalism and stage presence.”
Before his venture with Murs started, Reeve was stage managing for three years and had previously worked with perhaps Simon Cowell’s greatest TV success, Leona Lewis. Like much of the crew in Dublin, Reeve is a freelancer and this marks his forth tour with Production North. Reeve continued: “They’re like a family, they provide a great family niche and I thoroughly enjoy freelancing for them. A lot of the companies [on this tour] are very close to Production North. The caterers, the rigging crew, HSL, Wigwam, and the staff that come onto these tours seem to be very close knit.”
Having started his own journey as a Lighting Crew Chief, Reeve now deals with about eight departments; lighting, sound, set, video, catering, wardrobe, band, artist and the venues. He said: “It’s tying all of those departments together from the moment you walk through the door, making sure the trucks are in the right place and that the stage is correct. It’s having a working knowledge across all departments; it’s a broad spectrum.
“Sarah [Hollis, PM] does the prep work, and a fantastic job of getting all that into place and then my job is bringing it all together on the day, making sure that once the physical kit has arrived it’s all safe for people to get on with their jobs,” Reeve said.
To get the show on the road, Reeve was working with six Matthew Kibble trucks at each show. He said: “The most impressive part of the tour for me is Matthew Kibble Trucking, their drivers are some of the best I’ve worked with in a long time. Heath Surrey, the Lead Truck Driver, is fantastic!”
ADJUSTING THE SHOW ON THE ROAD
Even though Murs’ production was visiting larger venues on its current whirlwind tour, all elements of the show could not be included at the Dublin performance TPi attended. At most of the other venues, the singer had been using the flown walkway for hits such as Dance With Me Tonight because he wanted to interact with the crowd, but adjustments had to be made when the team came to Ireland. Explained Hollis: “This is a great venue for atmosphere and the audience here is always one of the best, the only downside has been that we can’t fit the whole production in. It’s a shame we couldn’t include the complete 100ft walkway due to the steep rake of the seating but we’ve adapted the set-up and gone out as far as we can across the audience to allow him to keep some of that element in the show,” said Hollis.
Flexible and reliable suppliers have been crucial in allowing changes to be made to the show design so easily. The tour’s lighting supplier, HSL, was singled out by Hollis, for their helpful service and knowledge of budget constraints: “The company’s Director, Mike Oates, is hands on and knows just how we want to work and never lets us down whatever the challenges. This time, video was split between HSL and Audiotech, who have some really impressive playback kit that we used to control the audio and visual content of Olly’s show.
“Wigwam Acoustics are another company we’ve worked with for a long time and were pleased to team up with again for this show as they always send experienced and hard working crew who just put their heads down and get on with the job. They have been particularly helpful with the RF element of the tour after changes took place in rehearsals.”
Keen to work alongside companies that have provided an impressive service was a key factor in choosing Matthew Kibble Trucking to supply trucks and Sarah’s Kitchen for catering on tour. “We use a lot of the same people for these tours and we know what we’re getting, we know they’re reliable and will pull out all the stops for us,” she said. “For example, rigging and the Ibex system that controls the walkway and moving screens were supplied by Mark Wade from Over the Top Rigging , who we’ve worked with for a very long time. He knows how we operate and is also familiar with the type of pop shows we are involved in so the kit’s there and ready to go.”
Working within a crew that are all aiming towards the same goal - producing a seamless show that entertains the much-valued audience of fans - is what has made being on Murs’ arena tour such a positive experience. Sarah concluded: “Production North tries to hire people that share the same touring values which makes everything so much easier on a day to day basis. The tour’s been fairly laid back and had a good vibe overall, but that also comes from the top down because Olly is so into it. He’s such a nice guy and is loving every minute of being out on the road, which becomes infectious to all of us out here with him.”
Photography by Zoe Mutter
www.sennheiser.co.uk, www.dbaudio.com, www.highend.com, www.audiotechuk.com