It’s been barely twelve months since that cheeky little popstar Robbie Williams last toured the country with his Swing Both Ways show. This year he’s returned with his Let Me Entertain You tour, featuring a crowd pleasing parade of hits which combined with his charismatic, funny and mischievous stage presence, not to mention a consistently good voice, left the crowd consistently wanting more.
With only a couple of months between tours the staging has been recycled, minus the Austrian blind and ship staging elements, and whilst the basics were retained, creative director Willie Williams still managed to deliver a fresh look. Set Design was by Ric Lipson, lighting design by Mark Cunniffe and video direction by Jon Shrimpton.
“Obviously it costs hundreds of thousands of pounds to build the stage itself so we’ve reused it with the same risers, passerelle and catwalk around the stage,” commented lighting director for the tour Jonathan Rouse. “We’ve kept some of the lighting fixtures, plus the large semicircular downstage truss and the horseshoe-shaped mother grid. Whereas last year we had three concentric chandeliers on Kinesys, this time we have fifteen pods of Clay Paky Mythos which are on Kinesys. It’s similar but also very different.”
A total of sixty Clay Paky Mythos were in the rig with Jonathan describing them as a good workhorse favouring their animation wheels, gobos and texturing whilst interplaying with the video. Sharpy Washes were added for band keylighting and side washes. Martin MAC Quantum Washes provided audience lighting as there were no molefays or designated blinders in the rig.
Sixty-one Clay Paky Stormy strobes framed the main screen and also resided on the front truss from where they could also be used for audience lighting.
“It’s great to have the impact of a strobe but in a saturated colour,” added Jonathan. “All through our European leg we toured follow spots: two truss spots, two side spots in the bleachers and three FOH spots and they’re all on Rob throughout the show. It’s very important that he is lit for the cameras especially as the Imag is integrated into the video content. All of the video content has space for the Imag shots and it really looks beautiful. Jon Shrimpton does a great job of cutting the cameras. It’s great to have all of the audience focused solely on the stage rather than eyes being pulled out to the side all the time. It’s all about the stage which is very powerful. Rob loves it too because he can just look back and see himself on the screen to check which camera he is playing to. Rob’s relationship with the camera is a big part of the show and he’ll look at the camera the whole way through some songs.”
Lasers were mounted on vertical trusses either side of the main screen, as well as one on each pod and a few on the floor which shot onto mirror faced risers to bounce back over the audience.
Control was an MA2, a platform that Jonathan has been using since prerelease having demonstrated the first units on the market for MA at PLASA. An MA2 light was used as a tech desk for focusing from the stage. Added to that were MA NPU’s although the whole rig is driven over ArtNet and Luminex boxes.
Lighting director – Jonathan Rouse
“That enables us to be fully flexible when we do festival shows or shows where we don’t have the full production,” said Jonathan. “We’ll have one rack that we take with us at dimmer end which has a stack load of ArtNet boxes and DMX8’s and things like that. That way we can be fully flexible with whatever is thrown at us.
“The MA’s have been rock solid, as always, and enable us to easily change the show regularly. We’re just about to do the final couple of shows of the tour and the set list has only just settled down!”
The opening of the show was time coded which allowed Jonathan time to brief the follow spot operators, making sure all is good and the rest of the show is manual.
“It gives a nice, live feel which is what Rob wants …. although it still has to be slick and polished,” remarked Jonathan. “One of the things Willie Williams was quite passionate about during rehearsals was to have no black between songs. He wanted a journey between consecutive songs so we’ll preserve the look of the first song visually and then it will segue into the next.”
Apart from the JPJ Audio supplied speakers and the TDC supplied video screen, all of the gear came out of the UK. There are three different versions of the show with Australia getting the A-version. The B-version has six fingers of truss over the stage, fanned out but still with a screen surround, plus a single thrust catwalk lit by MAC Auras. The C-version, which is the festival show, has straight trusses across stage, a bit of a thrust and screen surround. This was co-designed with Oli Metcalfe, Muse’s lighting designer, as they were playing the same festivals through Europe.
Audio gear was shipped in from Britannia Row with JPJ Audio supplying the speakers and amps and is basically very similar to the last tour. “We’re touring two DiGiCo SD7 consoles for FOH and monitors, sharing racks to keep the footprint of the control package down,” commented Josh Lloyd, systems engineer.
Systems engineer – Josh Lloyd
“We have refined the PA from last year when we had an L’Acoustics Kara cabinets as downfill for the main K1 hangs, replacing them with K2 cabinets. It’s very similar to last year as it worked really well. The biggest change is that we have a rock’n’roll band this year as opposed to a swing big band, so the backline we’re carrying is different as are the inputs. There are still about 140 channels with all the talk mics, comms and that kind of thing.”
In Sydney’s Allphones Arena the main PA hangs had fourteen K1 per side with four K2 underneath, side hangs were fourteen K1 too but with six Kara elements and rear hang was twelve K2 cabinets. Twelve K1 Subs were flown behind the main hang and twenty-one SB28 subs built under the stage into the set. A handful of Arcs and 108’s were used as fill cabinets around the stage. In Allphones three hangs of six V-Dosc cabinets were added as delays to cover the top level of the arena.
Simon Hodge was mixing the show using a lot of snapshots, this year he had timecoded much of the show especially for busy segues in the show with multiple snapshots or people performing live off stage.
“Time code helps for when it’s really busy so Simon can concentrate on dealing with Rob’s vocal so it’s quite programming intensive that way,” added Josh. “The biggest challenge is that Rob’s out front of the PA for a lot of the show and he can go from singing quite gently say for My Way to shouting for Let Me Entertain You so it’s quite a lot to deal with the vocal in terms of dynamic range. Most of it Simon deals with onboard with the only outboard gear being a Bricasti Reverb, a Waves MaxxBass over the band and a tc electronics multiband limiter over Rob’s vocal and everything else is inside the SD7. It works well because it means the footprint is quite small and that’s helpful as we have been flying the gear between many of the gigs.”
Robbie had a Sennheiser tour kit which primarily includes SKM5200 MkII handheld microphones with 5235-J Capsules and SR2050 Dual Channel In-Ear Transmitters.
“Robbie spends a lot of time in front of the PA system and the 5235 Capsule has a modified low/mid presence in the upper mic which is very good at rejecting noise flow when he is in front,” remarked Josh. “He also monitors his own voice and after testing lots of capsules, we found that the 5235 has far less bleed in the ear. The engineers prefer the sound and his mic technique works a lot better with this.”
(Concert images credit: INFPhoto.com / Troy Constable)
First published in CX Magazine (December, 2015)