HSL Walks Between Worlds with Simple Minds

Photos: Lindsay Cave

HSL is delighted to be on the road again as lighting suppliers with Scottish rockers Simple Minds and their long time lighting designer Stephen Pollard who has created another innovative look for the band’s acclaimed new Walk Between Worlds album, released in February 2018 as part of a celebration of an incredible 40 year career.

This was a showcase tour for the new album. Visually, lead singer Jim Kerr wanted a dramatic change from what had come before for – a different way to presenting a show that combined a popular pick of hits whilst showcasing the work from the new album. Rather looking at the past at this stage of their career, the emphasis was on the future.

HSL has been the band’s lighting supplier since 2011, when Pollard first met MD Simon Stuart at HSL’s Blackburn UK headquarters, and has taken his business there ever since. “They always do a fantastic job and are a pleasure to work with,” he affirmed. The account is project managed at HSL by Andy Chatburn.

This first leg of the UK tour played to a selection of intimate venues around the UK and Europe. One of the changes within the band was founding members Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill were joined by a strong female line up featuring drum/percussionist Cherisse Osei, keyboard player and backing vocalist Catherine AD and long time backing singer and sometimes lead vocalist, Sarah Brown, along with bassist Ged Grimes and multi-instrumentalist Gordy Goudie.

“Jim really wanted to keep the impetus we achieved with the last acoustic tour going with these new additions to the band,” explained Pollard. Also with this, he wanted a new visual approach. The visual essence started with a new hybrid lighting fixture created by Pollard, combining URC’s GoldPix 77 – an LED warm-white halogen look-alike 7×7 pixel-mappable panel – with 8 Martin Professional Sceptron VDO 10s mounted on the front. These were then rigged on custom stands.

This gave the combination of 2 different mappable lightsources through which he could potentially play video as well as programming traditional lights, one outputting in the tungsten CT range and the Sceptrons in full colour and cooler, crisper whites. They were dubbed the ‘Sceptopix’ and 5 were used on this leg of the tour at different heights positioned around the stage, giving full tungsten / daylight effects as well as dynamic blocks of video driven output.

HSL’s Andy Chatburn engineered and fabricated all the Sceptopix fixtures. He commented: “Stephen usually comes up with something off-beat and wacky, and we really love challenges like this and making his ideas into tourable solutions.”

All the lighting specials for this section of the tour had to be floor mounted and quickly and easily deployable, and these were combined with a very straightforward promoter-supplied 2 truss rig specified by Pollard, comprising 7 spots and 6 wash moving lights in the front and 8 washes and 7 spots on the back.

Upstage, the design included 2 rows – 1 above the other – of Martin Professional LC2140 plus semi-transparent 2m x 1m LED video panels. The LC2140 panels were concertina-ed in 7 2-way jointed sections in order to be free standing and behind these, Perspex mirrors were fitted to reflect the lighting, video, the band and in which the audience could also see themselves.

12 Martin Professional Axiom hybrid moving lights were mounted in stands positioned at different heights upstage, and 14 Mac Aura XB were positioned around the floor and set risers. The riser edges were also mirrored but the fronts remained open as to allow a see-through path to the video screen at the back. At times with the smoke and atmosphere, drummer Cherisse Osei appeared to be floating.

Pollard created all the tour’s video content working in conjunction with programmer Matt Brown. Much of it was inspired by the Walk Between Worlds album artwork, graphical, bold and colourful in content, run through a Catalyst media server where it was animated, treated and affected. This was triggered via Pollard’s MA Lighting grandMA full size console.

Ryan Soave joined Brown as the second HSL crew-person technician, with Pollard commenting that both were “fantastic people, highly skilled and great to work with.” He continued: “I really love the way HSL come up with good practical solutions and help me stretch the budget – and the creative options – as far as possible.”

Pollard has worked with Simple Minds for 38 years, “most definitely the longest relationship I’ve ever had,” he quipped. He commented that it has been an incredible journey not just personally with the band, but seeing how the technology has evolved and changed in that time and how that has consequentially enabled different and continually exhilarating approaches to each touring campaign.