One of the common complaints that you often hear about livestream performances is that they lack that ‘excitement’ you get while being shoulder-to-shoulder with a room full of fans. Although I’m somewhat biased, I think nowhere is this truer than in the world of metal, where so much of the live experience is fuelled by the energy of the crowd. Despite being unable to call for any circle pits, we have seen a number of groups from the genre take to virtual stages to present raucous live performances to their fans at home. Most notably, in September 2020 Wacken Open Air reinvented itself as a virtual show. The latest band to adopt to the virtual transmission of live performance is none other than British metal band, Architects.
On course to release their ninth studio album, the group have secured themselves as favourites among the genre’s biggest followers and have become known, in recent years, for their groove-laden riffs and crushing breakdowns. Having worked with the band during their previous Holy Hell tour, Production Manager, Kenny Macleod was familiar with the musicians and their longstanding touring crew. “I was brought in to start pulling the pieces together for this show two months prior to the recording,” the PM began. Admittedly, this was quite a long lead-time, the PM explained that working during COVID-19, where vendors, suppliers, travel agents and venues are on reduced hours made for a “slow and drawn-out” process.
This was not Macleod’s first experience with a livestream show, having PMed for Scottish band, Mogwai’s performance due to be aired later this year, as well as collaborating with electro singer, Elisabeth Elektra. “This particular project with Architects is by far the most ambitious livestream I have had the pleasure of working on,” he explained.
“We were hoping to bring all the excitement and energy of an Architects show to the livestream, with production values that rival most live concert DVDs,” he explained, outlining the initial brief from the band. “We have all seen other livestreams during 2020 and, while some were inspiring, it was clear that we could do something really special that could stand alone as an excellent show.”
Production Designer, Paul McAdams made use of the vast space, creating a high-energy design to showcase the venue and ensure viewers watching the livestream could experience that same live energy from behind their screens. Tech support in visual department came from PRG, which supplied lighting, rigging, disguise media servers and LED for the performance, which was livestreamed globally by Veeps.
PRG shares a longstanding relationship with the camp, having provided a video and lighting package for the band’s prior European tour. “Jackson Warner from PRG has been integral to Architects choosing PRG as their go-to AV supplier,” explained Macleod. “He came in initially as a video operator and has toured extensively with the band since then as part of our core crew. His knowledge of our desires allowed us to move between Paul’s ideas and the restrictions due to time and budget, and end up with the compromises we need in order to deliver on time and on budget.”
Martin by Harman Sceptron LED fixtures were used to create a flown triangular set-piece, which was situated above the band. These were also used to edge the band’s risers. To complete the look, PRG supplied the lighting floor package, which comprised PRG Icon Edges, GLP JDC1s, Ayrton MagicBlade Rs and TMB Solaris Flares, as well as ROE Visual CB5mm LED panels, which made up the video wall.
To keep the consistency and feel of the band’s live shows, the full touring family was also brought back for the Royal Albert Hall performance, including their FOH Sound Engineer, Jonny Burgan, who moved to recording duties for the show.
“As the show marked the start of a new album campaign, it required the same pre-production as would be required if we were doing a full run of shows,” stated Macleod. “From video wall footage synchronisation, to IEM monitoring presets for the new songs and a full new lighting and set design, there was plenty to be getting on with.”
Along with these numerous obligations, there was further preparation of health and safety considerations to make the show a COVID-19 secure environment. “I felt that it was important to understand industry best practices, so I put myself through the Safe Sets COVID Awareness training and the full COVID Supervisor course from First Option Training,” stated Macleod. With the learned knowledge, both the PM and representative of the venue, Jane Colenutt, were able to put together a plan for the shoot.
All the teams were housed in ‘sub-bubbles’ with everyone who had been working with the band in rehearsals in one bubble then the film crew, vendors and production in their own. “Working in masks all day takes some getting used to,” stated Macleod, adding: “If it gets us back to work, it’s a small price to play.”
Macleod concluded by giving his final thoughts on the performance. Although very happy with the show, he admitted that he hoped he didn’t have to resort to another livestream for Architects and that “we can get back out there with an audience sooner rather than later”.
Speaking late last year, he concluded: “I have another livestream before the end of the year and have just finished an ambitious livestream with another band. While livestreams have become the ‘new norm’, there is no replacement for the excitement of a physical audience.”
This article originally appeared in issue #257 of TPi, which you can read here.
Photos: Ed Mason