May 2012 Issue 153
Canadian hip hop and pop R&B star, Drake, has made music with Rihanna, forged an acting career and had released two solo albums by the age of 24. Now, the Toronto born artist takes on the UK as part of his global development with cross atlantic live production company, tour support. The TPi editors hit Birmingham to see the transformation from video star to arena filling live artist.
Drake and Creative Director, Willo Perron, have worked together for many years. When Drake wanted to step up his career, Perron was asked to create a show of the size and nature he had previously created for artists like Kanye West. Once Perron had established what he wanted to create, he asked Antony Randall to produce the world tour.
Randall noted: “Willo has been having amazing success across the industry. His creativity and design on this project was world class, and I think if you see the show, it speaks for itself.”
Randall also produces TV performances alongside live tours. He said: “For TV, we are focused on a three or four minute song that is viewed through the eye of the lens and only get used once. For tours, we build shows that run up to two hours and move cities every day. We love doing both; they are just extremely different skill sets.”
The Drake crew only had a few days of pre-production rehearsal time, and choose LH2, which Randall viewed as the right choice. “I am a big fan of the building and always choose LH2 whenever we have a large production in London. We have such a great team that we didn’t really need a large amount of time. We had three days to pre-wire the new set, and two days of pre production for the creative team to make some additions to the tour.”
“Once I put the tour together, I brought in Phil Broad as my touring Production Manager. I cannot speak highly enough of Phil, he made this tour easy for everyone. The entire nine trucks went in and out of the arenas like a hot knife through butter. We were up and running by 1.30pm every day and out of the building in about two hours.
“The entire touring production was a highlight. That this is how a tour should roll; from top to bottom, everyone delivered an amazing show. I learn every day, but this was the first time in a few years that I have run a split US / UK. I would say that my biggest lesson on this tour is just how different the US crew’s are from the UK crews,” concluded Randall.
“I’m the new guy here,” said Drake’s UK Production Manager, Phil Broad. “I got the gig through Antony Randall and it’s my first time working with both Drake and Tour Support.” Broad has recently worked on the Take That Progress Live tour.
“I was meant to do pre-production only [for Drake] and then was kept on for the full UK tour for the supplier liaison and daily production office management. The process will be six week in total,” noted Broad, who was present at the technical rehearsals in London’s LH2 Studios.
With nine trucks of gear on the road, although Broad didn’t get to choose the suppliers for Drake, he’s more than happy with the companies being used. “Neg Earth did the lighting and rigging, and I wouldn’t change that for anything, Eighth Day are a great sound company and Brilliant Stage and All Access did a great job with the staging, “ he said. A total of four crew buses and three band buses are also in use from Beat The Street. “I like Beat The Street, they’re a good bunch of drivers. It’s a very happy little tour, we’re a good team, if anything it could be longer!”
Randall added: “Fly By Nite has always been a great vendor to us at TS. It’s just really hard to go elsewhere when they give us the most competitive prices and first class service. They knew all the buildings, load-ins and load-outs so that our pre-tour load-in meeting with our lead driver, Paul, was very short.”
And Eat To The Beat provided both Drake and the Tour Support crew with some much-needed sustenance. Randall concluded: “We really had great fun with the ETTB team. They were extremely organised and fueled the tour with great food and great staff every day. No matter what time you went into catering, ETTB, were there with the best selection of food and really great staff. I had flown over Drake’s Private Chef who had never been to Europe before, and the entire team really came to the table to make him and Drake have a great tour.”
TOUR DIRECTION AND EVENT MANAGEMENT
Chris Connor is Director of Touring for Tour Support New York. Randall brought Chris over from New York to oversee the entire tour. “We needed to keep a cohesive system between the US and Europe”, said Randall. As Drake’s Tour Director, Connor worked across both Tour and Production Management to make sure that Tour Support delivered a successful tour not only on the stage, but also in the finance department.
For Scottish born and New York based Connor, his live production career started off in clubs till he became an Assistant Tour Manager in 2003 on a Queens Of The Stone Age tour.
The working relationship started when Connor met Randall on a festival in Germany. “We then met a year later at John Henry’s in London and he’s such an infectious character that we got on really well. The first thing we worked on together was Tinie Tempah’s tour last year,” said Connor, who is in charge of budgets and vendor liaison. He continued: “My role is to make sure the tour is economically successful. I sit down with the Live Nation reps each day and make sure all the ticket sales are on track, not only is this tour well designed from a production point of view, but also from a punters point of view. It allows us to go to a 270° angle with the audience, there’s a 14.5 thousand capacity in Birmingham and it’s sold out.”
Tour Support is in the process of setting up an American side of the business, which will have the management side based out of New York with Connor and the live production side out of LA with Randall. “We’re also looking at partners in Australia as well, so we’re looking at the kind of network that this industry needs,” noted Connor.
Randall added: “We are helping our artists and crews get a better level of service when leaving the US and arriving in Europe, and Visa Versa. We have an amazing support team that enables both the artist and crew parties arrive to a well-planned tour.”
Back to today’s artist, and Connor explained: “But for artists like Drake, it’s really important to establish themselves on the live circuit. He’s invested in this show as well, so it’s a credit to him too. It’s important to stress that this is a vital next step in a young artist’s career.”
Once the tour is in place, the Event Manager’s role at a venue like the LG Arena is to establish communication with the promoter’s rep as soon as the show has been confirmed with the venue.
Alex Ginever, Event Manager, noted: “We are responsible for arranging all the logistics, including the coordination of the in-house departments. We produce an event schedule for every show for everyone to work from, monitoring budgets and advising the production on any additional costs that their requirements might incur. On the day of the show the Event Manager is on site to manage the load-in, ensuring that all services and facilities are in place, advising on health and safety and working as the client’s main point of contact.”
During the show, Ginever is the link between the production and the venue, coordinating the opening of the building, the running times and dealing with any challenges along the way. The Event Manager works closely with the Security Coordinator to ensure the safe delivery of the show and also acts as the Duty Manager. Post event, the Event Manager is responsible for collating venue costs and settling the show. Ginever explained that Drake’s production crew was especially happy with the results. “They were very pleased with the service we had provided and very happy with the shows. We had the highest number of early arrivals I have ever experienced for this show [lines of people queuing outside the venue]. They were also so excited that when we let them into the venue that we had to work very hard to stop a stampede! Luckily our experienced team was able to adapt and deal with this without problem,” he added.
IT’S ALL ABOUT SOUND QUALITY
At Drake’s FOH station at the busy Birmingham shows is Dwayne Jones, who has been mixing FOH and monitors for 25 years, mostly with classic R&B acts and recently with a new breed of hip hop artists. However, the one thing that doesn’t alter with Jones is his choice of console, the DiGiCo SD7.
Said Jones: “This console is the best sounding digital console but I don’t use any other features for this tour that I wouldn’t on any other. I do use the virtual soundcheck feature and the gig is multi-tracked and recorded every night.” Jones used 53 inputs on the desk. He continued: “I use reverbs but I don’t have to enhance Drake’s vocal because he wants it to sound just like the record does.”
For out board gear, Jones iused the TC Electronic System 6000, TC Electronic 2290 Delay and Avalon 737 Mic Pre, Yamaha SPX 990 and Eventide H8000 unit.
Over in monitor world, Darcy Khan, has been touring with Drake for two years. Previously he worked with Kanye West and when that touring cycle came to an end, Drake’s career was just getting serious. “I got a call from Drake’s management about this great up and coming artist, I accepted the gig and it’s been great ever since!” said Khan, who also owns a backline and rehearsal studio company in Atlanta, Georgia called Stage Audio Production. For the tour, as with the DiGiCo SD7, the Avid Venue, Khan’s first choice of console, was supplied by Eighth Day Sound.
He continued: “For every client that I take on, I use the Avid Profile, the reason being that this console has all the tools that I need to deal with different clients. Whether it’s effect, scenes or snapshots but the plug ins are the main reason I use the console. It just really allows me to mix any artist’s music just like the record. I’ve been using this console for seven years straight now.
“The analogue consoles do sound better, but the digital console allows you to recall different scenes to generate the mix. I’m using all in-ears too, once you use in ears, the mix becomes critical. It’s not like when you’re using wedges and monitors, you’re dealing with the room and so many variables. You have to have the mix sounding as close to the record as possible. I carry my own Sennhesier G3’s system. The G3 allows me to use the DSM, and I can set up really, really fast,” highlighted Khan, who also handled all the RF tech duties on the tour. “My entire monitor world is wireless. So if there are any problems, I want to take responsibility for that and fix it.“
His personal collection of Sennheiser G3’s are also part Ultimate Ears. He says of the personal moulding company: “I love Ultimate Ears for their support and customer service, and they have an excellent product. I use the UE 18’s [for himself and Drake] and the UE 7’s [for the band].“
Sennheiser was also deployed for the microphones. Khan continued: “I use the Sennhesier 5200 series mics with the Neumann KM 105 capsule. It’s absolutely amazing, I’ve had no problems whatsoever with this mic. I stopped blinging and doing all that custom stuff to Drake’s mic because it’s all about sound and we have the best sound quality now,” he concluded.
Eighth Day Sound also supplied the PA rig comprising d&b audiotechnik J Series with d&b B2 Subs and d&b J8 Side fills. The PA engineer on the tour is Shawn Williams.
Producer Randall commented: “Eighth Day Sound have had the account for a long time. I have toured with Eighth Day for many years and they have always supplied an amazing service, great crew and first class mixers. Dwayne Jones was top draw at FOH, he managed to give us a perfect balance every night, and really brought the show to life. Darcy Kahn held down the stage mix. Shawn Williams was our Crew Chief, someone I would love to be able to copy and take on every one of our tours!”
COMMUNICATING IMAGERY TO THE AUDIENCE
The initial idea for the show started with Randall and Perron’s discovery of the Elation moving video panels. Explained Perron: “We immediately thought we could integrate content into that technology in a really interesting way. The rest of the show then evolved out of that foundation. We determined the most effective way to configure the panels was in a grid of squares and then from there designed the content to fit that configuration.”
Added Randall: “Drake would often give us his ideas, but he was very trusting of us to make the right decisions and create the best show possible for him. The main challenge for us was designing the screen panel configuration because it had to fit both spatially within venue specifications and also had to be able to effectively translate the content imagery to all vantage points in the audience.”
According to the creative team at Willo Perron & Associates, who have worked for a handful of artists including Kanye West, Lady Gaga, Jay-Z and Rihanna, arriving at a good balance of all the individual aspects creates the best show. Perron elaborated: “We didn’t want the lighting to be more noticeable than the visuals or vice versa. We designed the visuals and lighting to be unique, but also to mesh with the music into a cohesive and complete show.”
Along with Perron and Randall, Jesse Lee Stout was responsible for producing the video content for the Club Paradise tour. “Part of what makes Club Paradise unique is that all the songs have a distinct visual style and not every song uses the same language,” commented Stout. “The entire process from ideas to execution took place over the course of a few months. We shot live action with Drake for Forever and UGK and then shot models for songs like Shot For Me. A song like Headlines is straight animation, whereas for Going In we used stock footage to create the dramatic natural disaster visuals.
“We tried something very different for Practice and used footage of fans they shot on their phones or computers and sent in. We drew from many different places in order to create such a diverse show, but all of the original ideas started with the music and grew from there. We started concepting by sitting in our studio listening to the album on repeat for hours going back and forth with ideas until we had something concrete.”
Although the content itself did not change as the tour progressed, the way that it is displayed altered on each leg of the tour. Explained Stout: “The first US leg, the UK / Euro leg and this current US leg have been in different types of venues, and we have to work around the confines of each one. Part of our task is not to just create visuals, but to display them within screen configuration in a way that communicates the imagery to the audience. For example, in a smaller venue some screens don’t fit so we have to re-edit the content to read well on what screens are available.”
A VISUAL HUB OF ACTIVITY
Over at FOH, the man in control of operating both video content and lighting is visual guru Guy Pavello. Always technically minded, Pavello studied computer programming before moving into the world of theatre production. After a brief stint as a chef in his home state of Connecticut, Pavello received a call to work on Disney On Ice. Six years spent working on the touring production allowed Pavello to make valuable contacts within the industry, leading him to land a job with his first touring artist, Van Halen.
“I already knew the designers working on that tour and they had been impressed with my work ethic on Disney On Ice. Since then I have worked on the shows of many artists including Kanye West, Rihanna and Bon Jovi in pretty much every area of the world apart from Asia,” said Pavelo.
“During the second half of last year I worked on the video side of Drake’s tour and then when they needed someone to program the next run of shows, they got in contact because the video and lighting vendors knew me. After working more closely with designers towards the end of the year, they felt I was a good choice for the future so I took over controlling the lighting as well as video.”
With Show Producer, Antony Randall’s creative input, Willo Perron and Jesse Lee Stout created all of the video content that Pavello would control – along with lighting - from the MA Lighting grandMA2 console that Neg Earth supplied.
“The main look of the video is relatively abstract whereas originally - on the shows towards the second half of last year - it was very linear. This time Drake wanted a different direction, so this one is more graphic and almost like abstract art,” said the video operator.
“On Underground Kings, it’s more about Drake’s story and it definitely goes along with the lyrics. They go in both directions with the content; it’s either soft and subtle or in your face. Other strong visual elements include an owl, which is the main focus of the whole number Up All Night. Later, to symbolise Drake defeating his difficulties in the past, an interesting boxing theme is introduced and all the snare hits in the song are represented by stop motion animation, which is pretty neat. It’s a great concept and it works because it is visually so solid.”
When operating video content, Pavello’s signal went straight into the racks before the visuals were displayed on the centre LED video wall. Having been a Catalyst user for the past 12 years, Pavello knew it would be reliable and made the decision to bring it onto the Club Paradise tour. “With this show, the crew wanted the content to control everything so we are using the Catalyst more as a playback machine to make adjustments and then spit the content back out. On past tours we were doing all the graphics with it, but this time the content goes unmodified out to the screen and I get a click track from audio so I can line the content up in time.”
A TOURING FIRST
The Club Paradise crew was the first to take Elation’s EPV762 moving head LED video panels out on the road - a brand new video tile on a moving yoke allowing its direction to be changed. A total of 48 tiles took pride of place behind Drake during the performance, creating a stunning wall of imagery. Explained Pavello: “It’s a brand new thing and we’re working hand in hand with Elation, which is already into the second generation of the fixture. We just put in an order for the third generation - so they are already working on modifying things to make it even better for us.
“It requires lighting control because that’s how it moves, but it’s still a video panel. The computer software, LED Manager, then controls where each square is within the picture, while the lighting console controls which direction it points. The Elation stood out, but because it is a new product we weren’t sure how it would last at the beginning. However, it’s been one of the most solid pieces of equipment we’ve used. We have a couple of really good techs from Upstream that understand the product and even worked with Elation to write more software for the moving head panels to make them function in exactly the way we wanted.”
One of the technicians that Pavello was so impressed by was Upstream’s Richard ‘Timmy’ Schreiber. The LED Engineer, who has mainly lent his LED expertise to corporate events and TV productions such as America’s Funniest Home Videos, was trusted with looking after the Elation LED panels and WinVision nine mm tiles.
Said Schreiber: “This show is different because it is the first one to have these particular LED screens to introduce an additional element of motion to it. As the LED is so spread out the video is more expansive and it gives the show more of a club feeling. The video is then intermixed with the lights to produce a more cohesive feeling between the two.
“When Guy is playing back content, my job is to make sure the maps stay loaded and everything is functioning correctly. The Elation product has been very stable and has held up well so far. The tiles are individually pixel mapped so every tile is positioned using the mapping software, LED Manager for Elations and WinVision 2.1 for WinVision tiles.”
As the lighting and video worked hand in hand on the tour, each of the video pods on the back wall comprised a Sharpy in the middle, four Martin MAC 101’s surrounding it and then four Elation video panels in the corners. The front fascia of each pod was then bordered in LED tape. Each of the 48 panels was almost two ft square long. These were joined by a six ft video pod that featured a further four of the video panels. Also appearing in the visual arrangement were 128 WinVison nine mm progressive video panels, plus another 32 on the downstage truss video border.
DIRECTING THE LIVE FEED
After seven years of freelance live video directing for the likes of No Doubt and Chris Rock, Ivan Gomez became a valuable member of the Club Paradise tour, bringing an extensive amount of creative skill with him. “I had been in control of the live video footage on Lil Wayne’s tour and as Drake is part of his Young Money record label, they asked me to be involved in this show too,” explained Gomez.
As the tour progressed into different territories, the video crew remained the same, much to Gomez’s delight: “I was happy to be working with my same camera guys, Naturice Mclean and Tristan Rossi again. I’m familiar with them and like their work.”
Although certain songs, such as The Motto and Headlines, were accompanied by completely black-and-white visuals, more colour was introduced towards the end of the predominantly monochrome show. Continued Gomez: “It is quite a harsh looking show because Drake likes it dark, but we needed to try to make it look good for him. That’s our job - to make the cameras look perfect even if it’s dark.”
No IMAG was displayed on the centre wall, only on the side screens, and according to the video director, the minimal use of effects worked perfectly for the live footage. Added Gomez: “It’s simplistic and so far Drake has been happy with it. He sees the shows and we occasionally get requests from him. For instance, at one point of the show there’s a shout out to the crowd and I get one of my camera guys to go on deck and follow Drake so it feels like it is from his perspective. That came through from a request from Drake himself.”
With visual quality being at the forefront of the entire tour’s design, the whole video system was high definition. The live video fly pack comprised three Sony handheld cameras in the pit and one HD Swann SportsCam at FOH. Meanwhile, Gomez was working with a Panasonic AVS400 switcher to call the live shots that would be sent to a pair of 15ft by 20ft Stanfold IMAG screens, which were rear projected onto using Barco R12 12k projectors.
Explained Gomez: “Although Guy controls the graphics that are sent to the main video wall, I get the same signal too. We have separate inputs for the content - one comes to me and the other goes to the LED racks. This means that if something crashed with my system, I would always be able to cut to the content and have that running on my side screens. It never happens, but at lease we’re prepared with a back up.”
As the Video Director likes the set-up to remain the same on tour, he requested that similar kit be used in the UK as featured in the US. “When we got to London we were really impressed that the fly pack was pretty much identical. We love working with VER, they always take care of us!” he exclaimed.
Aside from the Catalyst used by Pavello, which was provided by Upstream and used by Pavello to generate graphics for display on the main video wall, all other video equipment such as the video tiles, projectors and IMAG screen was supplied by VER.
GEOMETRIC LIGHTING DESIGN
Lighting Designer, Patrick Dierson, was aiming to achieve a masculine, geometric look when generating concepts with Creative Director, Willo Perron, and Show Producer, Antony Randall. “There are lots of straight lines and all of the patterns and motions are very linear and chunky, with some pretty in your face graphics,” explained Lighting and Video Operator, Pavelo.
“Drake likes a certain colour palette so there are no pinks or purples in the show. Instead Patrick Dierson and Willo Perron went for whites, reds, blues and more masculine colours. Everything has a hard angle and is geometric rather than curvy and frilly looking. I was also involved in that process as I programmed everything.
The visual specialist continued: “I think the visual impact of this show really makes it stand out. It’s a rap and R&B production, but to a degree it has a rock feel to it due to the fact we’re not using loads of colours - it’s mainly black and white or red and white. Some of the looks are similar to when I worked on Van Halen and that has gone down well with the team, the artist and the fans of Drake.”
Dierson chose all the fixtures that would be used in the show, but as some of his first choices were not available when the crew first started touring in the US, the list of kit supplied by Epic Production Technologies altered somewhat. The California-based rental company was also the location for the show build. Explained Pavelo: “Epic has a very large warehouse, in which we could build the lighting side of the production, before it was shipped out to Citizens Business Bank Arena in Orange County, California, for two days of rehearsals. The intricacy of the overall lighting design and how far the Designer, Patrick, has pushed it is great. We built the show in a very short time period - five days when in reality this should have taken three weeks or more. It’s been interesting to see how intricate we were able to make things in such a short time.”
When the tour came to the UK, the show was built in LH2 and rehearsals were carried out for five days before touring began. Lighting kit supply for the UK leg was then placed in the capable hands of Neg Earth. The company provided a total of 128 Martin Professional MAC 101’s, which were integrated into the back video wall, along with 68 Clay Paky Sharpys - with 20 in the air grid and 48 on the back wall.
“The Sharpys are pretty new, punchy and sharp. Like most of the fixtures we chose, they also don’t need a lot of power. The Martin 101’s are LED fixtures and from the get go, LED was relatively important. We were trying to get the MAC Aura - the brand new fixture - but they weren’t available when we were first heading out on the road. The 101 is so punchy and fast, which is important because the graphics are mostly in your face so the fixtures need to keep up,” commented Pavelo.
A further 20 Philips Vari-lite VL2500 Washes were positioned in the air, along with eight on the floor. To set off the video wall, 1,152ft of Elation LED tape was then introduced into the visual mix, in addition to 28 Martin Professional Atomic Strobes, which were arranged in a formation of 20 fixtures in the air and eight on the floor. Swing Wing trussing was also supplied by Neg Earth for the UK shows, which comes pre-assembled to enable the crew to open it up and fly the fixtures with ease.
Added Pavelo: “All the pods are pre-loaded, so we don’t take any fixtures off of that when we move from venue to venue. It would take forever if we had to reassemble those everyday because of the number of fixtures!”
For additional effect, four Reel EFX DF-50 diffusion hazers and two High End Systems F-100 fog generators were added to the show set-up. “These are used throughout the day and then I turn them off once I’ve finished focusing. These are then switched back on for doors. They are used heavily throughout the show because if there is no dirt in the air, you’ll never see the Sharpys. Those fixtures need the hazers and fog generators because the beams are too small to be visible if there is nothing in the air,” commented Pavelo.
According to the experienced visual operator, the main lighting hurdle he faced whilst working on the production was making the focuses look the same each day due to the challenging angles of the back wall. “It has been very difficult because our original design had the centre portion of the wall - which is in three pieces - as flat and the two sides at a 45 degree angle, so when you turned everything on it made squares and cubes. Now, due to the amount of seats sold and because we had to open up to more venues, the back walls are at 15 degree angles.
“This has made making true squares, whilst keeping the depth of the show design, very difficult. As the side wings can be at different angles, it can be very hard to make straight angles, but this was resolved by investing a long time and waiting until it looked right.”
CUE STACKS AND CLOSE INTEGRATION
When Pavelo programmed the show, video and lighting was combined and controlled almost as one entity on the grandMA 2 desk. Speaking beside his much loved console, the lighting operator said: “We are very lucky that MA Lighting are on board with us so if we have any issues they are eager to help. We were debating between the MA1 and MA2, but Patrick and I felt it was time to make the step forward. As the design was a clean slate and a total change for Drake’s live shows, we had to start from scratch anyway, so we thought it was the right time to make the switch.
“The console is great and we made the right choice. Being able to see and work with much more at one time was very useful and the extra executors that this one has are incredible. Once we learnt the layout and the many different ways to use its features, it made certain programming aspects much faster.”
With 1,600 cues packed into the show, full manual control was not an option, explained Pavelo. “We kept looking into whether to put in timecode, but we didn’t have time in the end so it is all cue driven. Even the lighting that is manual is written as separate cue stacks. Around 20% is controlled manually and we wanted to keep as much as possible in the cue stack because we like to make the show the same everywhere we go, whether it’s a big or small venue. If there are 20,000 or 2,000 people; they should all get the same show.”
With video and lighting being controlled from the same console, close integration was essential. When the video and lighting were displayed in unison, the visual team strived to make the colour patterns follow suit. One example took place a third of the way through the show, when beams of light appeared to be shining from the eyes of a graphic representation of an owl on the video wall. Continued Pavelo: “We use the lighting within the video to accent it, but then on some numbers there is no video and just lighting. If they didn’t work together on some songs, we would just remove one of the visual elements.”
Randall commented: “I have never had a bad tour with Neg Earth. I rebuilt the entire set in the UK, so that we reduced our production rehearsal down to almost Zero on both sides of the globe, and Neg earth helped us rewire and rebuild the entire tour. We wired the entire set and lighting system at LH2. We didn’t need to freight any of the US show to the UK, saving vast amounts of money on freight. We also used all of Neg’s crew, again saving a lot of money on flights from the US. John ‘Shelly’ Smith was our crew chief, and had the rig up and wired by 1.30pm every day.”
Tour Support’s Antony Randall contacted Robert Achlimbari, Sales Executive at All Access staging, with an initial design for Drake’s tour. All Access supplied rental risers and custom built pods to house lighting and video fixtures with LED tape supplied and fitted by GLP. Robert Achlimbari, the Sales Executive on this job, said: “I was very pleased with the way the set turned out, the PODs gave the set a dynamic look with the mixture of moving lights and the video elements.”
As the turnover time from the American to European dates were so close, Brilliant Stages built a duplicate system for the European tour to save shipping time.
Brilliant Stages were approached by Randall, to discuss building a set very similar to Drake’s set used in the US. As a result, Randall worked closely with David Harrison, Senior CAD Designer at Brilliant Stages to discuss design elements of the set and make various design changes.
The final agreed brief was to design 40 off six by six ft by one by 11ft frames that could hold a variety of lights and LED panels, which included Elation EPV762’s, and LED strip around the perimeter. It needed to be quick and easy to assemble not just on tour but during the installation of the lights at LH2 Studios.
Working from pictures of the existing set, Brilliant Stages was able to design the light boxes to be as universal as possible to allow for various light configurations. These were designed with unistrut vertically to mount either winvisions led panels or the elations allowing us to align the panels in the correct position. To get horizontal adjustment and to help with the depth restriction, custom support brackets for each LED panel were made from profiled plates that attached to the unistrut.
To allow the Brilliant Stages team to attach the lights quickly and in the correct position, the Clay Paky Sharpy and Martin Professional MAC 101’s were attached to an internal support cross bar in front of the unistrut. The Box frames linked together horisontally and vertically with added castors attached to the base to make it quicker to strike on tour. Also utilised were used heavy duty over centre latches to secure the frames vertically with location pins to align the frames vertically.
Brilliant Stages used a combination of 12m pins and r-clips with lighter duty over centre latches for the horizontal alignment and attachment. Custom connection brackets that allowed two frames to link together were designed to protect the lights and panels inside. The design and arrangement was discussed with Phil Broad.
Randall stated: “I brought in Brilliant to rebuild the set in the UK. This was the best part about the tour for me. We designed the entire show around the boxes. We worked really hard to make sure that this entire set loaded in and out fast. What Dave [Harrison] did for us, was amazing and once he had finished our entire show could be built in three hours.”
ON HAND RIGGING
Steve Keddy, LG Arena Rigger and National Indoor (NIA) wanted to do something different after leaving college and applied for an apprenticeship with the LG National Indoor Arenas rigging team. The rest, as they say, is history.
For Drake’s crew, Keddy was the main point of contact for the touring riggers and helped to support the crew during the rig in the arena roof. He stated: “I was on hand throughout the pre-show rigging and the load in on the main day of the concert to facilitate any changes that may occur and help the crew if needed. I was also responsible for overseeing our own arena’s rigging team and supervised the in-house build, making sure health and safety practices were adhered to at all times.”
Kedyy noted that communication between the touring riggers and the venue, safe operation of the build up and supervising the arenas rigging team - which included house riggers and freelance staff brought in for the event – was a pivitol part of his role on Drake two-night stint at the arena.
Throughout the build, Keddy worked with the riggers from the venue, the LG Arena in-house rigging tackle for the top installations and two 85ft cherry pickers to get access to the roof due to it not being a climbing venue. He stated: “For the main load-in we installed the chains with CM motors, which are as heavy as half a ton, one tonne and two tonnes. With these installed the touring riggers can then start to rig their trusses and PA for the show.
“The rig took a matter of hours on the morning of the first show. We did the pre-rigging the day before, ensuring that everything went up smoothly on the day without any issues. The load out / de-rig only took around two hours as the tour was very well organised and the teams involved worked very well together,” he concluded.
A WONDERFUL TOURING EXPERIENCE
The LG Arena and NIA have their own in-house security team, but also use an external security firm, Man Commercial, who act as a response team they can call upon on for big events.
Paul Ickringill, Security Event Coordinator, was in charge of the venue security for the Drake concert. He said: “My role was to meet with the artist’s security team and manage their requirements, plan the security operation for the two nights and manage the security on the day of the shows. We had 168 security staff working on the shows, and we also had 20 security officers on stand by from MAN Commercial.”
Health and safety measures over the two nights altered after the tour’s debut at the arena. Ickringill said: “On the first night we had a lot of people pushing, trying to get to the front of the queues so on the second night we changed our tactics and introduced more break points and had more staff covering the entrance, so we could manage the flow of people entering the arena.
“In all my years of working with the NIA and LG Arena, this was definitely one of the most excitable crowds I have ever come across. My main concern was managing the pit, as it was a standing show and fans were trying to get to the front of the barriers.”
Elsewhere, touring security is employed on the road. As Director of the Venue Security company, liaising with the artist, management and the venue is just part of NPB Companies’ Lonnie Southall’s everyday tasks. When not in his hometown of Los Angeles, the security specialist is out on the road with A-list stars including Jay Z, Linkin Park, Rihanna and Beyonce. “NPB Securities looks after 28 of the biggest clients in the world and I spent seven months in Europe last year, working between Linkin Park and Rihanna. This year won’t be any different for me – I’ll be out providing my services to a number of artists,” said Southall, who is joined by Security Assistant, Larry Echols, and Personal Security, Spooon on the Club Paradise tour.
“This business is pretty much all about word of mouth and I came onto this tour when Drake was still on his way up a couple of years ago,” he continued. “It was just me on the security side of things and then as he got bigger they brought in an additional member of staff. When we tour the States we have so many opening acts that we need even more people in the security team.”
For every show of Drake’s Club Paradise tour, two venue and two personal security staff are employed. The core team then set up meetings with local security to run through what is allowed in the building, camera policy and the type of searches that will be carried out. Inside the barricade at the LG Arena show, Southall also enlisted the help of 15 security personnel. He added: “My jurisdiction is anything from the stage coming backwards and then anything beyond the stage is down to the venue’s security.”
To ensure people can gain access to the areas needed, Southall coordinated with local security at each venue. He continued: “If you are a star, you’re liable for anything that happens during a show, so we represent the artist and this liability by making sure there are enough security and medical staff and ensuring the building is safe and the crowd get enough water to stay hydrated.
“Drake is like a modern day LL Cool J and the demographic at these concerts is about 80% girls. A lot of the time this show might be the first concert they have been to and they don’t always know what to expect. They’re often standing for hours while 5,000 people push them against the barricade so a lot of the time they get dehydrated and can’t take the pressure so we have to pull them out.”
Travelling the world and working for some of the world’s top entertainers is what makes touring security the ideal role in Southall’s eyes: “I don’t really have any horror stories from working with any artist and once again this tour has been like one big happy family. Every night is a highlight for me and just to be somewhere new in the world every day is amazing. I love the people I work with and I love Drake - I was a big fan even before I started working for him. I feel blessed to be getting paid to listen to one of my favourite artists whilst going around the world. It really is a wonderful experience.”
Randall stated: “I have worked with Pete Beattle on Jay Z, and he gave us two of his best guys to handle the security for the tour. His company is one of the best within the touring world, and they make it easy for us to run our tour. Our Security Director was Lonnie Southall and his right hand on the tour was Larry Echols. Both did an amazing job, and really showed how great and consistent NPB are.”
Photography: Amanda Rose, Zoe Mutter and Kelly Murray
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