Modern City, Modern Concert

Part 1

Last month I spent a week in Manchester—England’s second city. A Mancunian friend of mine describes the city as one that “embraces modernism but still clings to its industrial heritage.” A fitting description for a city full of juxtaposition. Newly constructed glass and steel buildings sit next to classic Victorian architecture and former cotton mills. The beautiful, blossoming, bustling city was my home for a week, and it was also the home of Kylie Minogue’s KYLIEX2008 tour during a six-night residency at the Manchester Evening News Arena. With the Australian singer’s last three tours and now, including KYLIEX2008, Kylie has performed 23 dates at the Manchester Arena. The show, which supports her 10th studio album X, sold out the arena all six nights, had the crowds cheering from the rafters, and left fans screaming for more.

I was fortunate enough to see four of the six concerts in Manchester and I had the pleasure to meet with Nick Whitehouse, the show’s LD, and tour backstage. The concept for the show’s design, a giant “light box”, came from Kylie’s creative director, William Baker. The set comprises a rectangular, raked main stage and two band risers stage left and stage right of this. The main stage has three independently controlled lifts, lined up in a row stage left to right. Essentially, the stage is an enormous video screen, or, more precisely, lots of different video elements put together.

The deck for all three platforms is made up of thousands of Barco’s MiStrip modules and the stage is flanked upstage by layers of video curtains that are cleverly used as reveals and entrances throughout the show. Whitehouse’s lighting rig (including some X-shaped truss supporting the tour’s X manifesto) compliments the video-heavy show and his rig consists mostly of Vari-Lite VL3000 and VL3500 Spots, VL3500 Washes, and VL500 Washes. The rig is rounded out with equipment from SGM, Martin Atomic strobes, Lycian truss-mounted spots, Color Blasts, Showtech Sunstrips, Molefays, and other units. Touring with the show, Whitehouse acts as board operator, controlling his extensive rig with an Avolites Diamond 4 Vision console.

Standing onstage while the crew performed their video checks was a fantastic, yet, dizzying experience. During the song “Wow” the video floor flashes fervently in fluorescent blues, pinks, and neon greens. I chuckled to myself and wondered, “How do they perform complicated choreography on this raked TV screen that’s constantly pulsing under their feet?” I don’t know how they do it, but, even in heels, Kylie and the dancers perform without falter and shine throughout the 29-song set list.

Part 2 will appear online next week.

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