by Cat Strom.
Photo Credits: Mhvogel.de
Cheekily entitled I’m Not Dead Yet, Phil Collins’ current tour proves just that!
With production and lighting design by Patrick Woodroffe, the show has been touring the world for almost two years with associate lighting designer Roland Greil at the helm of the MA2 console. “It’s a great artist and band to work for, as well as a great production to work with, because it’s an old school rock’n’roll family production style,” commented Roland.
The original design and thinking process was based around London’s Royal Albert Hall because initially the plan was to do five shows there, then Paris and Cologne were added and, before you know it, a world tour had begun!
“So to start with, the design was based on the Royal Albert Hall, and then we had to make it work for arenas and stadiums as well,” said Roland.
“As usual, Patrick had the vision and big picture – fortunately most of the time our visions are aligned as we have a similar mind set. The resulting design was still about 90% how we originally designed it.”
Patrick and Roland recognised that they were dealing with an artist who had his ‘heyday’ in the 80s and 90s, so they wanted to create a look that suited that era. “We didn’t want it too ‘digital’ but we still needed a versatile rig that could allow very theatrical, intimate looks as well as doing some big, powerful rock’n’roll looks,” said Roland.
“If you look at Phil’s music it is very versatile with upbeat, strong powerful numbers and intimate ballads. You need to be able to give the performance onstage the perfect picture frame around it.”
The lighting design relies heavily on two fixtures; the Robe BMFL, used as keylight and backlight, and the Claypaky Scenius Unico, used as an effect light.
“When the tour started, the Unico was a new fixture and I was impressed that finally there was a light that could do multiple jobs including being a really good substitute for a classic wash light,” remarked Roland. “Therefore, you don’t find any wash lights in our rig as the Unicos act as wash lights, spot lights and beam lights.”
Downstage is an advance truss holding 10 Robe BMFLs, mainly for key lighting the band onstage, interspersed with nine Claypaky Unicos to create looks. Also on the truss are a bunch of 4-Lite Molefays to light the audience and 14 TMB Solaris Flares.
“The Solaris Flares are used as strobes for only 30 seconds in the entire show but we use them as a blinder / molefay substitute which can also change colour,” explained Roland. “In my opinion, it’s still no substitute for a classic tungsten-driven molefay but it’s a great fixture none the less.”
Either side of the advance front truss are two side trusses sitting above the IMAG screens as an extension to the main rig, making a big wide look. They are similar in set up to the main front truss but instead of Robe BMFLs there are Claypaky Mythos to create beam or spot looks. Two wing trusses are filled with 8 Unicos to create nice looks from the side.
Three horseshoe-shaped trusses are hung above the stage, again with BMFLs and Unicos, plus a few Solaris Flares. Roland says that he likes to keep the variety of fixtures down to ensure you get a cohesive look out of the rig. The middle truss holds one Robe BMFL RoboSpot dead centre which is used as a backlight spot for Phil.
“It’s operated by the Robe ground control system which saved us putting a spot chair up there, which is visually nicer, safer, and also more practical,” added Roland.
In a reference to the 80s, upstage there is a starcloth that works its magic during a ballad, completely changing the scenery again. On the starcloth truss there is also a tabtrack with a silver grey curtain resulting in three different looks: starcloth off you get a classic black backdrop for strong lighting looks, starcloth switched on for twinkly stars, or close the silver grey curtain and light them up with GLP X4 Bar 20s for a strong, colourful background.
There is also a row of GLP X4 Bar 20s on the floor to light up the curtain as well as tilt forward for a nice even curtain of light.
Two verticals, one stage left and one stage right, contain five Robe BMFLs each for side lighting as well as a few Solaris Flares that face the audience. Together with the front truss, these create a picture frame around the stage.
Misty Buckley’s simple yet elegant and theatrical stage design features a curved band riser with a 2.5 metre high LED back wall creating a seamless digital backdrop. On top of that wall are Mythos to provide back light from a lower position as well as create beam looks.
Behind the band on the riser, there are six more Mythos either side for classic floor lighting shooting up in the air.
Specials in the show include a couple of elegant Robe PATT 2013 fixtures on stands which are rolled in for the first two songs. In fact the first song of the show is just Phil Collins sitting on a stool with the two PAT 2013 fixtures behind him.
Two very old school Stubbie PAR cans are downstage centre for the intro to In the Air Tonight, creating classic uplighting to make his face menacing. Four Robert Juliat 4K Lancelot follow spots are on Phil most of the time, and occasionally used for solos on stage. The lighting builds throughout the performance, creating a story arc in the show.
All the moving lights are used fairly early on, but two elements are kept as a surprise for later. Firstly the GLP X4 Bar 20s are not switched on until 2/3rds into the show when the silver curtain appears and this results in a whole new look to the show. The Solaris Flares are also held back until In the Air Tonight when they are given a spectacular moment to impress!
“It’s always better not to over-use gear. It’s better to be efficient and effective, which creates space for some big ‘wow’ moments,” commented Roland.
The tour carries two full-size MA2 consoles and three MA2 light consoles. The full size consoles are used for the show lighting, one as a backup, whilst one MA2 light is used as a tech console so the guys can test the rig onstage during load in. The other two MA2 lights control the Catalyst media servers, playback content, and treat IMAG from FOH.
Roland, who acted as the show’s associate designer, and who has programmed it and taken it out on the road, avoids timecode for concerts as far as possible. “We have a very talented band onstage
playing music and they don’t play to a click, so it’s a very live feeling and that needs to feed through to the lighting,” he explained.
“Obviously there are some shows where you have to use timecode but with a classic concert like this, as long as the guy behind the console understands the music it will always be better done manually. It’s the same with music, it’s those moments where you’re a little bit off track playing those ghost notes as a musician that makes it groove and interesting.”
Lighting was shipped over from Neg Earth with the stadiums supplemented by Creative Productions.
Credits and details of the production:
• Lighting and production design: Patrick Woodroffe
• Associate Lighting Designer: Roland Greil
• Set Designer: Misty Buckley
• Video Content: Sam Pattinson & Lizzie Pockock/ Treatment Studios
• Lighting Programmer: Roland Greil
• Lighting Director: Roland Greil
• Media Server Programmer and Operator: Joshua Key
• Camera Director: Ruary Macphie
• Lighting Crew Chief: Luke Radin
• Dimmer Tech: Matt Flood
• Lighting Crew: Barry Banford, Andy HED Thompson, Jake Wittingham, Neil Johnson
• Lighting Vendor: Negearth
• Production Manager: Howard Hopkins
• Tour Manager: Steve Pud Jones