Lighting and video specialist Colour Sound Experiment supplied lighting equipment, LED screen, rigging and crew to the most recent UK leg of Respect: The Aretha Franklin Songbook tour which has just finished.
The vibrant and animated 2-hour live concert was created by Adrian Grant (producer of West End blockbuster Thriller Live) and directed / choreographed by Tiffany King, celebrates the huge success and amazing songs of Aretha Franklin - the Queen of Soul! It was delivered by three leading vocalists – Stacy Francis, Tanya Edwards and Cleo Stewart – together with a live band, a sensational gospel choir and ‘preacher man’ AJ Lewis.
Colour Sound had supplied the tour earlier in the year, so production manager Aaron Booth again returned to Haydn Cruickshank and the team in West London.
For this one, they were also asked to supply a lighting and visuals director … so regular Colour Sound collaborator Sam ‘Kenny’ Kenyon stepped up and took over programming and running of the show’s lighting and video.
Utilising the same basic rig as before, they wanted to recreate the looks, scenes and atmosphere that had worked so well previously.
However, there was no existing show file, so this involved Kenny in some intensive pre-vis and programming on-site to get a working show in the console. “That was a major task with plenty of pressure as the producers put a great emphasis on production values and general standards of excellence,” commented Kenny.
Whilst creating those big sumptuous signature looks, he also added some of his own creativity and refinement, including sections of new video content, all of which resulted in a stunning showcase replicating those tuneful Franklin classics like “Respect”, “Think”, “I Say A Little Prayer”, “Do Right Woman”, “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, “Natural Woman”, “Son Of A Preacher Man” and many more.
The venues were mainly theatres and concert halls, all with a wide variety of stage spaces, so it was essential that the rig was adaptable. Combining a bit of rock ‘n’ roll with some theatre methodology, using trusses for some shows and house fly bars for others, Kenny ensured that there was maximum production continuity each day.
The lighting rig was based on three trusses – front, mid and rear – plus a fourth truss for flying the video wall.
The main lighting rig comprised 14 x Chauvet Rogue R2 washes and 12 of the R2 Spots for the moving elements, plus some generic eye candy in the form of 8 x Showtec Sunstrips on the back truss on drop bars, and another eight on floor stands upstage. These Sunstrips plus six 2-cell blinders on LX2 added some great retro tungsten treatments to the picture.
Adding authentic-looking tungsten effects to the scene were eight Showtec Vintage Blaze 55s also on drop bars. Combined, the Sunstrips, 2-lites and Blaze 55s produced beautiful glowing warm looks and the vintage ambience that featured prominently, slickly setting the performance vibe.
Kenny’s console of choice was a grandMA3 – Colour Sound has invested in several this year – and they used two follow spots at each concert which were supplied by the house.
It wasn’t a massive lighting rig for so many people onstage and a dynamic show, so all the fixtures were worked hard and multi-functionally.
The basic washes and spots were all rigged on LX1 and 2, and were not seen to move so often, but produced elegant, striking looks with rich colours and classy texturing plus additional effects.
The video screen was upstage centre and measured 4.5 metres wide by 2.5 high, made up from Colour Sound’s proprietary BT6 product which had also been pre-specified by the production. The Resolume 5 media server was triggered by Kenny’s grandMA3.
Kenny co-ordinated the video content, using some material from the past show and commissioning digital artists including Tom Harding to produce some new clips and animations.
The main challenge on the road was reworking the show to fit the different stages, ensuring that the overall aesthetic remained intact if they had to lose or reposition luminaires. Sometimes if some of the tungsten elements and spots could not be used one day, the R2 Washes were adapted to cover the extra positions and compensate.
Overall, everyone was happy with the results including the public who help keep the show popular and relevant.
Kenny worked alongside Colour Sound technician Luca de Lauri “who was great!” he commented. “As always, it was a pleasure to work with Colour Sound! The kit was in excellent condition and any support and backup you might need is constantly on hand.”
For future tour dates of Respect: The Aretha Franklin Songbook, please visit: www.respectaretha.com
Photos: Leslie Forde