Blur’s high profile performance at the Barclaycard British Summer Time event in London’s Hyde Park was preceded by an eclectic series of warm up shows including Glasgow’s Barrowlands, Le Zenith in Paris, an intimate show at Newhampton Arts Centre in Wolverhampton and headlining Saturday night at the Isle of Wight Festival … with west London based rental specialist Entec supplying crew plus lighting and sound equipment for selected shows.
Entec also supplied the floor lighting package for the Hyde Park gig, which saw the band WOW 60,000 people and delight them with extracts from their new alum The Magic Whip – the first complete studio work of the original line-up since 2003.
Entec has enjoyed a long and fertile working relationship with Blur dating back over 20 years, and lighting designer Dave Byars and FOH sound engineer Matt Butcher have also both been an integral part of the Blur production team for over 20 years.
Due to the huge variety of the warm-up shows, a very flexible rig was needed explained Dave Byars, which could be scaled up or down to fit the assorted stage spaces.
This replicated what would be the major elements of the Hyde Park show as realistically as possible for these gigs, so everyone in the band and crew could get familiar with some of the production elements that would be in place.
For Hyde Park a quirky, eye-catching and characteristically humorous set relating to ‘The Magic Whip’ ice cream theme included a real ice cream van, internally lit with 3 shape shifters and covered with Light Initiative’s LED neon. A set of three octagonal bagua mirrors (popular as Feng Shui protectors) were filled with high intensity LEDs and centred with massive mirror balls … replaced by Super Nova Flower fixtures for the encores. There were also three 3-metre high scenic ice-creams, also decorated in LED neon together with some of the backline.
The album was inspired whilst the band were in Hong Kong, so the set design united graphics from the artwork, and was evolved with reference to the elaborate ‘house’ video system in Hyde Park - a back and side ‘wall’ of LED screens wrapping around the stage, conjoined to the two stage side wings (left and right), which were large scenic surfaces with IMAG LED screens embedded in their centres.
To capitalise on having these extensive video surfaces available, album art designer Tony Hung was commissioned to produce special video content for the show that was mapped to the screens.
The floor lighting package comprised eight Clay Paky a.leda K20 wash lights fitted with B-Eye lenses, positioned upstage of all the set pieces to provided a layer of basic upstage wash lighting effects in three different modes - ‘tight’, ‘wide’ and ‘effects beams’.
Ten CP Sharpies along the front of the backline produced the classic piercing small beam effects – the show was near to the longest day of the year – so all lightsources were chosen for their brightness.
Six Robe LEDWash 600s lit the front of the ice cream van and the ice cream set pieces.
For the ‘warm up’ overhead rig, Entec additionally supplied Clay Paky QWO Spots, Sharpie Washes, more Sharpies, strobes and Molefeys.
Dave Byars used his own Avo Sapphire Touch running the new v9 software to control all the lights on the tour and hooked this into the ‘house rig at Hyde Park. A Tiger Touch II was the backup.
Set lighting elements included, the Bagua Mirrors - constructed by Steel Monkey – featuring outer rings laced with custom LED strips from specialist light designers Light Initiative led by Ben Vaughan. Each mirror centre revolved and was dropped out for the later part of the set to reveal a mirror-ball behind. Later on the mirror balls were themselves removed, and Nova Flower fixtures (on wheeled truss pieces) shunted into place behind, to blast intense split-beams through the holes in the middle.
The ice cream van was trimmed with an LED flex product that emulates neon and fitted with three High End Shape Shifters. These were initially used as interior lighting and then refocussed to point out of the windows, running in full rave mode with big colourful beams for ‘Universal’.
Dave was supported by an Entec crew of Pete ‘Pepper’ Schofield’, Stephen ‘Sven’ Jolly, Aamir Riaz and Nick Burlace. Svend Pedersen was brought on-board for Hyde Park to enhance and run Blur’s video on the house system.
The audio logistics for the tour and the festival dates were co-ordinated and designed from the office with the helpful input of both FOH Engineer Matt Butcher and Monitor Engineer Dave Geurin.
James ‘Kedge’ Kerridge represented Entec ‘on the ground’, while Matt Grounds looked after system and FOH – which required a flexible design that could be taken as a control package to the festival shows, and then augmented with some additional PA for their own shows depending on venue/audience size.
The French show was recorded and broadcast live by Radio France and the Wolverhampton show was a charity fundraiser in a tiny 200 capacity venue – rather than the familiar Civic Hall – to the delighted of fans!
Entec’s PA comprised d&b J8 and J12 speakers with twelve J-Subs – set up in different combinations according the room - with d&b’s V series as delays for Barrowlands and also used as the main PA in some of the smaller venues as a ground stack.
All of the systems were running on the new D80 4-channel proprietary amplifiers.
The FOH and monitor consoles were both DiGiCo SD10s and Matt and monitor engineer Dave Guerin worked extremely closely taking advantage of the gain sharing facilities on the SD rack to simplify the system and reduce the amount of kit needed.
Dave Guerin had master control of the gain, supplying Matt at FOH with a digital trim.
It was a ‘busy’ stage with 20 x d&b M2 wedges, two V-SUBS for drummer Dave Rowntree and side fill stacks each side of two V-SUBs and two V8s.
The four band members were joined onstage by a lively mix of four backing vocalists and 4-strong string and brass sections, plus Phil Daniels as the guest vocalist on ‘Parklife’ … giving a total of 17.
The band own all their own mics and IEMs, running 11 sets of hard-wired IEMs (for brass, strings, BVs and the drummer’s click) in addition to the monitors, so the only radio components involved onstage were for Kedge’s shout system.
Once again, all of the Entec crew enjoyed the great vibes of being part of the Blur phenomenon on tour, collaborating with tour manager Craig Duffy and production manager Dermot Lynch. The shows went down a storm, fans love the album and everyone is looking forward to more live shows