Once it was certain that Leicester City Football Club had defied 5,000/1 odds to win the Premier League title, backstage the spotlight was turned to Kasabian’s production team as they began to plan two back-to-back stadium shows in less than a month. TPi reports exclusively.
It is amazing what people will do for their local football club; some will get their team’s badge tattooed, while others will name their children after their favourite player. But how many would organise a two-day stadium rock show? Well with Leicester City’s recent success, there was no way that life-long fans, Kasabian were not going to get in on the action, turning around a stadium show in under a month.
Understandably celebrations in the town went on for several days after the club’s success, which was highlighted by home-town-heroes Kasabian playing two nights at the champions’ King Power Stadium. The Leicester born four piece have never made a secret of their allegiance to the club and obviously wanted to show their support for the Foxes by staging two sell-out live shows over the May bank holiday.
This was the first time the band had played a full-length show since last August and, sufficed to say, they were met with open arms by the hometown crowd. The two performances had their fair share of surprises including the performance of a new song Put Your Life On It, accompaniment by a choir and even an appearance from everyone’s favourite goth-comedian, Noel Feilding (reprising his role as Vlad the Impaler). But once the dust has settled one question remained, how on earth did the band’s production team pull off these shows with less that four weeks of preparation time?
Since the early days of Kasabian’s career, Tour Manager Pete Gunn has been along for the ride and naturally was on hand to help coordinate this dual night of events in record time. “For several years the band had the idea of playing at Leicester City Football Club’s home-ground. The band have been life-long fans of the Foxes and it was great they finally got a chance to grace their team’s ground,” he said. Years of safety concerns and city council blockages had prevented the owners of the club from staging music concerts at the stadium, until a breakthrough in 2013 saw them finally granted permission. However this was the first time that the permission had been put into full effect. The band had made plans to play the venue in 2017 but brought the date forward after Leicester’s unprecedented campaign in the Premier League.
After the event, Gunn spoke of the events leading up to the two-day extravaganza. “The first time I got a call regarding this show was 3.5 weeks before it all happened, very little time to organise two stadium performances,” said the TM. “My first priority was checking the availability of equipment, crew, rehearsals and accommodation. This created an added issue as everyone is always busy this time of year and most suppliers’ warehouses are empty.” Unbelievably, the production managed to scramble all the gear to put on the large stadium show thanks to several sub hires bringing in a lot of equipment from Europe.
One of the graces of the production, according to Gunn, was the availability of Production Manager, Tyrone Brunton. The PM talked TPi through how the production was able to pull off the impossible: “There were only 27 days between the announcement of the performance to the night of the first show at the stadium and, on top of that, we had less than a week to put together two warm up shows as well as fit in a surprise Leicester City Victoria Park celebration slot. It was a massive undertaking and I have to give credit to the incredible team we put together in a very small window of time.”
If there were not enough challenges for this show already, the production was faced with another obstacle as this would be the first event of this size to take place at the Leicester’s King Power Stadium. Keith Wood was brought in by Live Nation’s Andrew Craig to take on the role as Event Producer. He explained some of the challenges he faced relating to the organisation of the show: “The club were naturally overwhelmed with celebrations and media interest surrounding the team winning the Premiership so we took the lead in advising how a concert operates particularly in terms of site layout and build schedule. One of the main issues we had to tackle was traffic management but we also worked closely with the local Police so they were prepared to deal with crowds in city after show.
“We didn’t have a great amount of time to liaise with the Police. However Andy Smith from Harrier who was our Event Safety Manager on the ground did a sterling job on noise plans, RAMS and event management plans.”
Gunn added that the venue design did not make it ideal to deal with the hospitality for a band of this size: “The venue was not built to accommodate the access needed so we had to take the band through a public area to gain access to the stage. Also guests with a box ticket could only get from the boxes to the floor by exiting the stadium, and entering through another gate some distance away.”
When Wood was first brought into the project, no suppliers had been contacted. The Event Producer described how he got the ball rolling: “The first thing on my list was to contact Star Events and Eve Trakway followed by suppliers I have had good results from in the past including Power Logistics for generators, Eat Your Hearts Out for catering, Stage Miracles for crew and barriers by Mojo and Delta One.” Rigging was provided by Germany’s Dart Rigging, led by Ole Sparboom.
The band’s personal security was headed up by Marty Farrow, and for the event, four separate security companies were brought in which, according to Wood, came down to two reasons: “As concerts took place at the end of football season which meant many of club’s regular stewards were not available due to being away on holiday. Also the club had never had 17,500 people on pitch before which required an additional security operation outside the stadium to deal with queue lanes, searches, ticket checks and wristbands before entry via stadium turnstiles.”
Giving his final thoughts Wood stated: “Even with the short notice, we fortunately were able to bring on board a group of suppliers and people like Site Manager James Barlett and Safety Manager Andy Smith who I have worked with me on previous events who were a great support pulling things together and we received many comments about the tidy site layout and how very calm things were.”
Prior to the performances, the production took up residency in LS-Live’s facility in Wakefield on the 19 to 23 May. The facility has a long standing relationships with Kasabian as well as Brunton and Gunn. The production used the main room as well as production offices, on-site hotel, and dressing rooms. LS-Live also provided them with riser package for the choir and also a 60 by 40 foot blackout backdrop including trussing for this and the band’s custom backdrop.
Providing staging and support structures for the concerts was Star Events, which has become ‘the’ supplier for home-town gigs this year working on both Stereophonics’ gig at the Cardiff City Stadium and The Stone Roses’ Etihad Stadium shows in Manchester. However, the King Power concerts were always likely to be the trickiest of the three to work on, due to the stadium never hosting an event of this scale before. Star Events was left with no template to follow, unlike the other, more established live music venues.
Project Manager Steve Holdich and his team were far from unprepared, however, having worked with Kasabian. Only weeks before when they played a surprise mini set at the nearby Victoria Park for the football club’s victory parade. Holdich had described the set-up for the Victoria Park event as a “great team effort” in the vein of the Foxes’ triumph against the odds in the Premier League. The following concerts were not quite so testing. “The King Power build went really well, with good support from the site and stadium teams,” said Holdich. The Star Events crew totalled 24 on site, including local labour.
Site and Stage Manager, James Barlett. cited the celebratory atmosphere of the city as crucial in the speedy yet smooth running of the operation. He told TPi: “It was great to be involved. The atmosphere around Leicester was superb and this good vibe transferred itself throughout the stadium,” he enthused, “Keith did an amazing job putting the infrastructure together in such a short space of time and it really didn’t feel like it had been rushed once we got on site and started the build.”
As the crew set about converting the stadium into a suitable music venue, another issue that had to be resolved involved covering many of the stands’ seats, as Barlett explained: “The need to cover so many seats had nothing to do with not being able to sell enough tickets but because the structure of the stadium is not deemed appropriate for the bounce associated with a live music crowd.” Providing over 4,000 sq metres of screening for the seats was UK based Sunbaba. Wood commented how: “Despite the last minute nature of the request, Sunbaba was able to react quickly and turn it around within the time frame.” The company’s Production Director, Trevor Booth added: “The screens provided a practical application and we could supply them quickly. I worked closely with the event organisers, offering them one point of contact, along with providing technical advice and overseeing the installation. It was a perfect solution demonstrating how screening can help to transform a venue.”
At 25 metres by 16 metres, the stage stood taller than the stadium roofline when completed and featured a Vertech platform, as had been used for the band’s performance at the parade earlier in the month. A trough running around the pitch caused access to be limited to a single 3.5 sq metre tunnel at the stage end and Star Events sought specialist plant to ferry the elements of its platform onto site. Subs were flown in line behind the stage’s main hangs, meaning that the downstage corners had heavy-duty masts while the wings took standard portrait video screens. A FOH structure was also supplied by Star Events, as were V towers, which the crew was able to build without plant.
After their work was done, the band’s own crew took over. “Kasabian’s production used about 50 stage hands to load in and out,” said Barlett. “The bulk of the load in was done overnight on the Thursday as the band requested a full rehearsal on the Friday. Thankfully Star were able to sign off the stage structure ahead of schedule on Thursday afternoon and we were able to start the production load in ahead of schedule.”
Providing project management for the temporary power requirements of the concerts was Wiltshire-based Power Logistics, which had already worked with Kasabian on several occasions, most notably the launch of 2011 album Velociraptor! aboard a Boeing 747 at Bruntingthorpe Aerodrome. “It was great to get the call again this time round,” said General Operations Manager Dave Oxley of the company’s continued partnership with the band. Power Logistics supplied four 500 kVA synched generators for the stage power, with a 250 kVA standalone generator being provided for the catering concessions. In addition, they provided all cabling and distribution and several towerlights.
Logistics Manager, Steve Elsey of trucking vendor Transam also spoke positively of the experience: “From our side of things the shows went extremely smoothly, which I think was down to the combination of Kasabian’s great production team and the vendor’s willingness to accommodate the various loading and unloading schedules. We pulled it off despite the short timeframe for planning!”
Just as with the other departments, audio requirements for two-day show had to be pulled together incredibly quickly. Currently touring with Skunk Anansie on a European festival run, TPi managed to catch up with FOH Engineer Paul Ramsay about his busy month leading up to Kasabian’s hometown concerts: “I got the call just weeks before the first stadium show. It was insane; a month of my life passed by in a flash filled with frantic phone calls.”
As applications for public licences were hurriedly submitted and logistical considerations addressed, Ramsay commenced rehearsals. “We had four days in Marshall and a day at Millennium Studios, and finally four days full production at LS-Live. It was tight when you consider we had just a few days of rehearsals we had, then the special celebration event for 240,000 [70-90,00 of which were in Victoria Park itself] at the end of the open top bus parade. That was pretty amazing. Then full production rehearsals and two warm up shows before we did the two big full production shows at the stadium.”
Lez Dwight of Britannia Row, audio vendor, was more nonchalant about the short amount of time available for preparation. “We have a very high turnover of events at Brit Row this time of year,” he explained. “Typically, we might have 20 live events over a single summer weekend. Most are smaller of course, though on top of that we do currently have 14 major acts out with control and monitors for festivals, so it’s all full on! We have the systems in place to manage that high turnover, so we do have the gear.” Much of the gear is brand new; for this Ramsay was extremely grateful, as he got to play with Britannia Row’s new Vs KS28 subwoofers. “They were phenomenal,” said Ramsay, “First time I heard them was during the warm up shows. I heard stuff in the subs from the keyboards I’d not heard before. And I had to turn them down. That’s not like me.” The production also used 36 L-Acoustics KS28’s For the ground subs. “We did a sub array across the front of stage being 12 stacks of two high KS28’s and then on the end two stacks of three high KS28’s in end fire configuration angled out at 45° to push sub into the stands,” stated the FOH Engineer.
Though impressed with the new equipment, Ramsay found the rig for the concerts far from simple, with the substantial amount of covered seating in the east stand creating difficulties: “Construction regulations dictated that some grandstands were only rated for a brief thump of jubilation from a soccer crowd, not for dancing rock fans. One stand was limited to just 17 rows but the West stand was sold fully so needed to cover right to VIP box at the top here. That meant we had an asymmetric set of delays and a slight different arrangement to the mains left/right system.”
For the main hangs Ramsay used 28 K1 units, 14-a-side with four K2’s per side underneath, and 24 K1SBs flown behind the main hang: “I really like flying a large hang of K1SB behind the main hang as I did on the last arena tour and outdoor shows the last few summers,” explained Ramsay. “Josh Lloyd from Britannia Row came up with the initial PA design on Sound-vision once he had DWG of the stadium. I then sat down with him and went through the design. For the side hangs Ramsay deployed nine L-Acoustics K2’s on the East hang with West requiring 15 K2 units.
The rest of the audio rig was made up of 10 ARC 2 and 15 KARA systems from the ground front fills with the 12 K2’s being used for centre and left delays (six per hang) with eight K2’s being used for the right hand delay. For the VIP fills there the production also deployed two L-Acoustics 112Ps.
Allocating equipment wasn’t the only difficulty faced by Ramsay during the manic period leading up to the gigs. Being as spontaneous as this event was, Britannia Row struggled to acquire the kind of dream team needed for such a big project. With Ramsay’s regular System Technicians Adam Smith and Josh Lloyd already committed other tours, the FOH Engineer had to work with a lot of unfamiliar faces. Nonetheless, proud to have overcome adversity, Ramsay expressed his delight with how the concerts went: “The off-site noise limit was set at 65dB on a 15-minute LEQ at first residential property. We never exceeded it and the crowd were unbelievably noisy. Some grounds tend to have open stands but the King Power is completely enclosed, meaning I could make sure it was as loud as I needed it to be.”
Ramsey mixed the show on a DiGiCo SD7 running at 96K with Waves plugins using a selection of vintage style compressors on certain inputs and outputs. Distortion on vocals for key words when required using Waves Redd.17 along with four engines of H-Reverb for vocals and drums, three engines of H-Delay and some modulation effects. “The show was getting close to 100 inputs off stage as it had additions to the regular band, with a string section and choir,” commented the FOH Engineer. “We got all the audio dialed in during rehearsals at LS-Live and at the warm up shows although we didn’t have the choir on these. All system processing was done on LA Manager running wirelessly so I could tune all the zones while walking round the stadium. I also had LM44and LM26 processors for system EQ but this was used more as a global grab EQ during the show which was barley touched.”
Ramsey summed up on the show: “The shows were amazing. This was very special and everyone rose to the occasion. Well worth four stressful weeks in preparation.” Running monitors was engineer Wayne ‘Rabit’ Seargent.Flightcases and the rigours of the road were eased with bespoke products from Matt Snowball Music Cases, which looked after backline and various other areas. Matt Young of the MSM Cases Team said: “We have worked with Kasabian and the crew for several years now, building cases which are worthy of a tough life on the road. Whether its for a single show or a full tour we’re able to work with the crew to deliver a case that works for them. We’re on-hand for any modifications or repairs that are needed before any show but it’s great to see that after so many years on tour, some of the first cases we ever built for Kasabian are still going strong and able to support and protect their equipment – all over the world.” The MSM Cases team was completed by Pawel Maliszewski, Robert Stepien, Lucas Wach and Dom Parker.
A Visual Spectacular
Creating the visual look of the two day event was long-time calibrator and Lighting designer, Nick Gray, who collaborated once again with suppliers Neg Earth, ER Productions and Video Design to create one blinding show. “The tight turn around meant we had to be logical,” started Gray. “The previous arena show used fully manned interactive cameras, infra-red and lots of tricks. For this show however all the operators were already booked and both myself and the band fancied a massive rave with no big video accompanying the show! We all saw it as an opportunity to do something completely different. The arena show was also totally locked in with the previous campaign of 48:13 and this was almost the crossover to what will be the next forthcoming album by the band.” Although Gray said he has full creative control of the show he was quick to point out that the band are heavily involved with the production side of things. Obviously, due to the nature of the event, some of the Foxes colours were going to make an appearance in the design: “I couldn’t get away from the town’s colour and not least those of the football team,” said Gray. “I definitely used this as inspiration throughout, and why not? Blue and white are up there in my palette choices anyway. The entire thing was such a celebration for the band because they’re all long-term supporters of the team.
Gray’s creation was supplied by UK lighting specialist Neg Earth. According to the LD, the choice of fixtures and their placement came down to the needs of the show: “I needed a rig that was uniformed, discreet, precise and as bright as possible which, I might add we definitely accomplished this. I love symmetry and architecture so this always has a bearing on my designs. Rather than using masses of gobos I prefer to use small lamps that can be pre-rigged in a cool architectural way. This was one of the reason I liked the daylight element of this performance. It showed off how menacing the stage looked!”
Providing control for his bespoke lighting rig was a High End Systems Hog 4. “We have always used Hogs as it is both mine and my operator’s console of choice.” The rig itself consists of a large amount of Martin by Harman and Clay Paky products. In total 68 Clay Paky Sharpys and 68 Sharpy Wash 330’s were deployed with 18 Martin by Harman MAC Viper Air FXs, 20 MAC Viper Wash DXs and 36 Atomic 3000 LED Strobes. Also present on the rig were 24 SGM Q-7 RGB Colour Floor lights and 20 G-spots, six A&O Technology Falcon Beam 7kW Flood Lights. For Spots Gray used two Robert Juliat Lancelot 4kW HTI Followspot and two Robert Juliat Flo Followspot. Finally Gray also deployed 48 2-Lite and 28 4-Lite Molefay to complete the visual spectacle.
Talking TPi though the video elements of the show was Alex Leinster of Video Design, who made no bones about just how tight the two celebratory concerts proved to be. “That last minute aspect is one reason why I was there and ran it myself. Despite the pressure however, Kasabian and their management organisation are a really nice bunch of people to work with and these shows truly deserved some special attention.”
Video Design provided a four camera package along with two 8mm daylight LED screens for the band’s long time Video Director, Paul Eggerton. The side screen were almost five metres wide by 7.8m tall on the wings that flanked the stage tucked neatly between elements of Nick Gray’s fantastic lighting rig. “Serge Pizzorno [Kasabian’s guitartist] really likes IMAG screens in portrait orientation which we were happy to provide,” stated Leinster.
Eggerton described how, despite the short lead time, he was still able to produce a show that really packed a punch: “I’ve been with the band since their first ever arena tour, so I do know all the songs well. More recently they’ve been using interactive video content on tour, presented on an onstage centre LED screen. It just wasn’t possible in the time to put something like that together, so that did mean there was more focus on sustained IMAG to either side. For me that’s all about finding the right image for the moment. As I said, that’s what I’ve done for them for a long time.”
Leinster went on to describe how the video department had to produce a show that was on par with LD Nick Gray’s lighting rig. He continued: “We had to rack the screens up to a brightness level we’ve never used before and Paul worked tirelessly to fill those screens.” Eggerton however saw that only in terms of advantage: “From my point of view it’s the same, but for the audience, especially those that know the band, that did make a difference. The huge lighting rig that Nick designed looked spectacular so it was more of a challenge for me to show off the enormity of the rig. That said, in the stadium what the audience see is two visions, that big view of the stage itself, and the shot I put on screens; that lack of the big backlit view actually presents the crowd with an alternative and possibly more intimate experience. Alex and the Video Design crew did a great job! It was an added bonus to have Alex there in person for both nights. He’s a good man and you know he’s going to be there 24/7. They all say that, but you know, if he says it, he means it.”
Having worked closely with the band for five years, laser experts ER Productions lent some further visual and atmospheric effects to the shows. Known for developing and bringing cutting-edge performance lasers to the market, ER Productions installed one newly launched Cyclone, a multi-directional scanning system that creates geometric shapes and cage effects and 18 new BB3 lasers, a fully DMX controlled professional laser. Additional kit included 20 Laserblades, five Excellent 21 lasers and a sizeable smoke package, ensuring the stadium was filled with atmospheric effects.
The music featured many of Kasabian’s best-loved tracks including Shoot the Runner, Club Foot, and Take Aim, as well as new release, Put Your Life On It, which was accompanied by vocals from the 30-strong choir. The electric performance by Kasabian and the classical was heightened elements by clever laser choreography with the BB3’s producing stunning, 180° linear line grating effects.
However, it was the track 9that really wowed the audience. Using the Cyclone, ER enclosed lead singer Serge inside a multi-coloured, multi-beam laser cage during the final moments of the track. To say the effect was well received by the audience of Leicester City fans and players was an understatement.
Ryan Hagan, co-founder of ER Productions, commented: “Kasabian didn’t hold back for this event, which required a huge laser package. Although it’s never easy delivering a job of this size, we take great pride in our first-class team – they always rise to the challenge and go the extra mile for our clients.”
Once all the celebrations were out of the way, and the residents of Leicester return to normality (although probably with rather sore heads) it was time to reflect on the enormity of what Kasabian’s production team had pulled off. Reflecting on the two-night show, Gunn gave his final thoughts on the on the performances: “The band were extremely happy with how the shows went. All the football fans evidently revelled in LCFC’s triumph and it was great for Kasabian to be at the front and centre of celebrations.” The TM went on to state that the media requests for both interviews and photos, not surprisingly, were very high. So much so that the band’s management had to organise one large photo shoot with all the major print media and multiple interviews with TV, radio and digital media. He added: “Being part of a historic event such as this is a great moment and certainly something to be remembered.”
Photos: TPi, ER Productions