Following a successful UK run of shows, George Ezra and his entire touring family are looking forward to closing out the year with a number of shows in Dubai, New Zealand and Australia. Before the next leg, TPi spent some time with Ezra’s long-serving Production Manager Jake Vernum. Fresh off a busy festival season with Ezra, Fatboy Slim and Pearce Hire – as well as picking up the prestigious TPi Production Manager of the Year award – Vernum discussed the inner workings of the artist’s latest arena tour.
When did you first start planning George’s latest tour?
“Pre-production began well over a year before the first date. The process started in Summer 2021 when we put the foundations in place, from busses and trucks to audio, lighting and video suppliers. Ultimately, I’m a very loyal Production Manager and I knew who I wanted to work with quite far out. That said, it doesn’t mean we don’t go out to tender when the process starts. We have to make sure the pricing we receive is in line with the rest of the industry. It’s never a waste of time to have a supplier quoting for a job even if I know who I want to work with. If the price is correct and they have the products you require then they could always be in the best position to win the work.
“The creative process, on the other hand, started in February 2022. There was a process that we followed from underplays to arenas via a festival season. The initial concept grew from a small two-truck tour to a three-truck festival package and finally resulted in the 10-truck arena tour.”
How does this run differ from his last major touring campaign?
“This design was much more flexible. For his last tour we had a living room theme based on his record, Staying At Tamara’s. We had a similar goal on this campaign to support his latest album, Gold Rush Kid, but the narrative of this album is different. Although the record still centres around travel, it’s more about the journey than the destination.
“The initial brief from George was partly inspired by Bob Dylan’s The Rolling Thunder Revue and was based around traditional theatres. This is where the idea for the theatre underplays stemmed from. Our Show Designer Cate Carter took a very theatrical approach to the designs, which emphasised the use of set and video rather than lighting. Hence, we toured our mountain facia system in the summer to replicate the album artwork.
“The largest element of the show was our take on the traditional proscenium arch. This, combined with our 22m by 12m ROE CB5 video wall, brought the design together giving us the ability to use huge visual looks to bring the audience into the virtual world of the music.
“The arch was made by Set Stage and was formed of 52cm of truss supplied by UK Rigging, which was wrapped in custom cladding. It contained around 30 GLP JDC Line fixtures which gave the LED effect. This was like LED tape on steroids.
“Other custom elements included our riser package which had contoured step facias. Again, created by set stage, this integrated with all access stock decks to give the band a dynamic look onstage rather than generic band risers. The entire stage, custom riser system and arch were scenically painted by Jon Perry and his team.”
Did any new faces join the touring camp this time around?
There were no major notable changes to the crew bar the introduction of a new stage manager. Everyone on this crew was perfect for the tour and I wouldn’t have changed a single person, right from drivers through to techs and the senior team. Everyone was spot on. Special thanks has to go to Meg Hood, Production Coordinator, Mark Cameron, Stage Manager and Show Designer Cate Carter. Their hard work and additional hours were most appreciated.”
What are some of the biggest challenges you face?
“There have definitely been a few challenges! Brexit and rising travel costs have been the hardest thing. The crew pool is smaller and if you need to bring crew over from the EU there is now added cost and sponsorship. This comes with difficulties. We are only able to spend so much time working in the EU now, which will have its challenges when we move into the European leg in 2023.
“Costs in general are higher but labour, raw materials and transport costs are through the roof currently, making budgets extremely hard to finalise.
“Venue availability has also made it hard with the pre-pandemic hangover still being churned through. I think we are getting through it now but routing and budget challenges can make a tour harder.
“There’s no question. It’s difficult for everyone. We are all suffering from the knock-on effect of the supply chains being hit by the pandemic and the cost of living crisis potentially hitting ticket sales.
“It’s as challenging for the suppliers as it is for production managers like myself but I’d encourage others to put themselves in the shoes of the person on the other end of the phone in order to understand their position. I’m lucky enough to sit on both sides of various deals – as both a client and sometimes a supplier – so I understand it well on both sides. It’s definitely still possible to do what we do and execute big shows whilst clients turn a profit. But we are having to think outside the box a little more with how we operate and be clever not to waste resource these days. This could be labour, truck space, money or even materials. Cost effective efficient solutions have definitely been our friend on the tour.”
What are some of your personal highlights from this latest tour?
“A personal mantra has always been to make everyone feel welcome and looked after. So when we got the feedback, both during and after the tour, that people had enjoyed themselves and were excited to come back for more in 2023, I really could not be happier.
“From the set itself, a highlight for me is during the track Did You Hear The Rain? when the arch and lighting really come to life. I also love the moment in Manila when our pantographs come in and the mole beams are used to change the look and create a more intimate feel with our downstage piano moments.”
Jake Vernum – Production Manager
Trevor Plunkett – Tour Manager
Stage Manager – Mark Cameron
Meg Hood – Production Coordinator
Cate Carter – Designer
Mike Smith – Co Designer
Flora Harvey – Set Designer
Joe Lott – Lighting and Video Programmer
Chris Taylor – Lighting Director
Phil Woodhead – Video Director
Dave Oldham – Head Rigger
Cary Nightingale – Security Coordinator
Mike Timm – FOH Engineer
Oliver Weeks – Monitor Engineer
KB Events – Trucking
Phoenix – Bussing
Popcorn – Catering
Lite Alternative – Lighting
Adlib – PA
Stylus Productions – Audio Control
4 Wall Entertainment – Video
Set Stage – Set
All Access – Stage/Risers
Treatment – Content
FBN Studios – Rehearsals