There are a few givens with a Prodigy show! The first is that they are arguably one of the best live acts on the planet, and 27 years after they first exploded onto the big-beat electronic scene, chaos, anarchy and a riot of sound and light are still all vital to the mission of getting the energy, buzz and attitude of the music right out there to all the fighters in the room!
Tasked with creating a fresh and new regime of visual anarchy for their most recent tour was lighting and set designer Tim Fawkes, chose to work with leading UK rental specialist HSL as suppliers of lighting and a fantastic crew who were chiefed by Matt Brown.
Tim took a brief from the band and long term manager John Fairs ... the band are extremely passionate about lighting and it is an essential element helping them feel – and feed – the intense rapport between stage and fans.
This led to the development of four custom semi scenic old style searchlight assemblies upstage, with big hexagonal outer shells and packed with more modern lightning technology. These, together with three scenic CCTV camera towers were the main set pieces,
”The underlying idea was to create a scene of dystopia on stage” explained Tim ... all with a typical Prodigy industrial strength setting the mood for a spate of underplay gigs in the UK and Europe.
The set was built by Stage One. Tim devised the shape and size of the searchlight housings which he modelled and tweaked in WYSIWYG before finalizing. They were a compromise between being tourable, relatively light at under 300kgs each fully loaded ... and looking the part!
The two onstage ones sat on risers upstage with the two offstage ones on the deck. Prodigy have always played in a relatively smaller area downstage, so the concept fitted the space nicely.
Inside each searchlight pod were 7 x Claypaky Sharpies, a Martin Atomic LED, two Philips Nitro 510C strobes and eight individual PAR 36 ACLs. The shells were outlined with LED tape so they glowed menacingly in the upstage shadows
A typical Prodigy lightshow involves layers of visual effects and for this one Tim alternated between beams, strobes and Moles / blinders, flipping between tungsten and LED.
The strobes punched jauntily out of the front of the searchlights, and the colored flare of the Nitros which give a reflector effect blended edgily with the softer PAR 36s and the gas-like Sharpy CTOs.
The gaps in between the surveillance camera masts and the searchlights were filled with four trussing towers, the rawness of the metalwork visible, each loaded with Vari*Lite VL4000 wash beams, Atomic LEDs and Robe PATT2013s. The distinctive dish like appearance of the PATTs all adding to the intrigue.
Another eight Atomic strobes were dotted around in an arc shape on the deck including four to highlight the distressed oxidized metal finish of the riser fronts.
Robe LEDWash 600s rigged on two side truss towers a side and on top of the side fills were used for the main stage washes - the band have never been fans of front – with more LEDWashes upstage on the floor gazing up the fly artwork backdrop. This version was printed on trevira material with a gauze in front for a bit of additional resonance.
On the downstage edge of the stage were more strobes and some PixelLine LED battens providing some basic foot and side lights.
Prodigy founder Liam Howlett also had a very special request - for some Trilite Mark 12 rotating beacons (popularly known as ‘fuzz lites’) as a tribute to classic stage effects, for which Tim dug deep into the HSL vaults … and found he was spoilt for choice! These were gelled in red and brought a flourish of vintage to the mayhem!
Four trusses were flown above stage - two upstage and two downstage, all staggered in height - the idea being to replicate the spacing of the searchlights Sharpy effects with the Sharpies in the overhead rig.
Fixtures in the overhead lying rig were 30 x Sharpies, 25 x LEDWash 1200s – spec’d for their extra intensity, 16 x Atomic LEDs and 14 x 2-lite Moles.
“It was designed so we could up / down scale as needed to deal with the varying sized venues” explained Tim.
Tim used a High End Systems Full Boar 4 console for control. He works regularly on a number of different control platforms including this and grandMA, and being a programmer as well, likes to keep up with the most popular options. “It’s super-quick and very simple to program” he commented on the Full Boar, adding, “for festivals it’s extremely light to carry out and position at FOH and slot in to a small footprint!”
The biggest creative challenge of the tour was getting it just right for the band elucidated Tim, meaning both the industrial look they needed and producing a practical set. When it comes to operation it’s about creating the full-on Prodigy sensory assault – fast and furious from start to finish which requires good intuition, an intimate familiarity with the music.
“Fans are expecting to come in and tear the place up … and capturing that whole riot vibe is essential to delivering a successful show”.
During the prep, Tim’s background in project management and production came in extremely handy. “It was great going back to HSL in a client relationship (he worked there between 2009 and 2013) and spend time in the office amongst a familiar, friendly and very helpful team”
He is also the first to credit his hardworking crew who, in addition to Matt, were Steve Major and Joe Dowling.
HSL’s project manager Jordan Hanson commented, “We love working with Tim – he’s really thorough and organized which helps everything run smoothly, and we were all really impressed with the interesting set and the vibrancy and animation of the lighting”.
Photos by Louise Stickland