By Cat Strom
Photos: James Hughes
Vera Blue, aka Celia Pavey, is one of Australia’s most promising emerging talents. Following the arrival of her debut single ‘Hold’ three short years ago, Vera Blue has released an EP ‘Fingertips’ and her first full-length album ‘Perennial’, and also featured on tracks with Illy, Slumberjack and PNAU.
In addition to her recording success, Blue has also hit the road for two national tours that sold-out numerous shows, and played festivals including Curveball and Groovin the Moo. With her most recent national tour – ‘Lady Powers’ – Vera Blue has, for the first time, been able to incorporate a sizeable production into her show. We spoke to Production Designer Matt Smith of Colourblind and Video Designer Rachael Johnston of Strictly Lowdown about the tour.
“One of the initial creative concepts we developed was to create a separation between Vera Blue and her band on stage. We decided to place the band quite high on a 1.5m high x 8m wide riser with a LED façade, to create silhouettes of Vera Blue,” Matt explains. “She loved that concept despite initial concerns that there may be too much distance between her and the band. It worked really well.”
With such an expanse of video, LD Nick Beachen had to be extra careful with fixture placement so, as with many of Colourblind’s designs, it was a clean, simple and symmetrical set up. Matt’s initial plan was to have one wide screen behind the band as a parallel to Vera Blue, but opted for three columns of LED screens behind the band as a clever and more cost-effective solution.
Eight ladders between the screens formed four frames, each containing two GLP impression X4 LED washes and two SGM X5 strobes. A line of seven GLP X4 Bar 20 fixtures were situated on the downstage edge, mirrored by seven more on the band riser.
“I love GLP products and I use them as much as possible,” Matt says. “The X4 washes and X4 bars are both exceptional units, I’ve been putting them on everything for the last 18 months including current projects with Rüfüs, Du Sol and Flight Facilities.
“As well as being great products, I also chose GLP gear for consistency; when you take all the fixtures to magenta, it’s all the same. There are a couple of points in the show where we wanted a consistent, big-colour look.”
Eight Martin MAC Vipers were rigged overhead as the workhorse fixture and Colourblind were fortunate enough to secure the first six Robe MegaPointes in Australia thanks to Jands. “They are an excellent fixture,” Nick said. “I’m not usually a fan of hybrid fixtures as a lot of the time they are doing three things averagely rather than one thing really well. However, I love the MegaPointe.
“I mostly used them as a spot because we had the eight MAC Vipers overhead so for the most part they were trying to match what the MAC Vipers were doing, which they did very well.
“They have really good globes, zoom and prisms plus the colours are very nice, rich and saturated. I found the CMY flags in the MegaPointes were much, much faster than the MAC Vipers overhead. There were a couple of points in the show where I had them down to a beam look and they did that exceptionally well, I’ll definitely be using them again soon!”
Matt has collaborated with video artist Rachael Johnston on various projects since 2003, when they both worked with Brisbane’s Family nightclub, so there is an established level of trust that their lighting and video work will be complementary.
The downstage riser screen is a 7m wide by 1.5m high Dicolor M480, which covers most of the riser and is edged in black, while the three back screens, also Dicolor M480, are 2m high by 1m wide.
Rachael describes the show as being super fun to work on, adding that she was given a lot of creative freedom. “I came up with most of the creative ideas and Vera Blue just liked all of them. It’s unusual for an artist to like ideas straight away,” she laughs. “I got my inspiration from her music, lyrics and visuals – for example her Instagram feed features many flowers, so I incorporated a flower motif into the visuals.”
Rachael was excited to engage in some film work for this project, as a counterpoint to the EDM-type visuals that she’s been used to.
“So, we did a film shoot with Vera Blue, who is very striking,” says Rachael. “One visual that ended up being a favourite of mine and Matt’s was a set of coloured ribbons tied to a fan and filmed in slow motion with some added post effects… it was so simple, yet extremely effective.”
Although Rachael often operates video, everything is edited really tightly for timecode. It was a huge job given that she assembled thirteen songs’ worth of content, a lot to achieve on a modest budget. “There were a few moments of strobing so it was really important that the video was exactly in time which we were able to achieve with ease.”
Content was run via a Green Hippo Hippotizer, Colourblind’s media server of choice.
Production Design: Matthew Smith, Colourblind
Touring Lighting Director: Nick Beachen, Colourblind
Lighting Technician: Nathaniel Collins, Novatech
Vendors: Novatech, NexStage
Photos: James Hughes
Audio Control: 8th Day
Audio: James Livingston
Monitors: James Luscomb