Drake’s 2018 Aubrey & The Three Migos Tour wrapped in November, but the superstar and his production team have been busy preparing for their next outing in the United Kingdom and Europe. The Assassination Vacation Tour kicks off Sunday, March 10, 2019 in Manchester with support from fellow Canadian rapper, singer, and songwriter Tory Lanez on all dates. In anticipation for the upcoming run of Drake shows, we decided to take a look back at his North American tour – co-headlined by Migos - which featured a 360-degree LED stage the size of an NBA basketball court, a flying Ferrari, two hundred drones and 28 Barco UDX 4k32 Laser phosphor projectors double stacked in eight positions within the rig.
Steve Kidd has been working as Tour Director and Designer for Drake for the past seven years under his company with Guy Pavelo, GP-SK Design. The duo designed the critically-acclaimed 2017 Boy Meets World Tour and the Summer Sixteen Tour for Drake the year prior, and are currently in the process of designing the 2019 Fortnite World Cup. This time around, Kidd focused on tour direction while The Aubrey and the Three Migos tour design was creative directed by Willo Perron.
Seamless, transparent screens enclosed the stage at points in the show and projected close-up footage of Drake’s performance.
The creative team brought Drake’s dream of a flying LaFerrari, just like the singer’s own car, to life, while Kidd figured out how to get it into the arena every night without breaking it or taking out an audience member. The flying car was achieved by creating a model car filled with a giant helium balloon that was controlled by a fleet of drones. “Two guys from Madrid controlled those with a remote like you would use for toy cars,” explains Kidd. “We had to turn off the air conditioner in the arena when it was time for the car to come out because it was so sensitive to air and turbulence. One little gust and it would totally go off its path.”
The finnicky, floating luxury vehicle replica ended up being worth all the challenges. It was a big hit on social media last summer. “Drake really wanted it, and the fans liked it too,” Kidd said. “And I am pretty sure we are taking it to Europe.”
The flying LaFerrari replica was 110% the size of Drake’s own vehicle and was powered by a huge helium balloon and drones.
The LED stage, which will definitely be going to Europe, is one of the most impressive parts of the production. With 1,152 YesTech Magic Stage MG7 5.9mm tiles, a surround of 116 Roe CB8 LED tiles, four Flown LED Screens of Roe CB5 tiles, 3D content and motion tracking, there were so many things that could potentially go wrong. Drake wore a small motion detector that tracked his movements and fed them back to Blacktrax sensors installed on the stage. Two techs spent the duration of the show underneath the stage on mechanics chairs, ready to fix any issues with the panels immediately.
“We had a few people on the team who were always keeping an eye on the tiles. As Front of House Technician, I could see most of the stage so I would call out any issues I saw over the intercom system,” explains David Diamond, who worked as both FOH tech and the overall Systems Programmer for the tour. “It definitely takes a few people making sure you have eyes on everything. We had a few LED techs underneath the floor who would slide immediately over to that section in case of any problems. Drake is a stickler for making sure everything runs perfectly every single night.”
The LED stage floor includes 1,152 YesTech Magic Stage MG7 5.9mm tiles, motion tracking and displays 3D content.
Drake hired multiple independent content teams who had the challenge of developing 3D content for the stage and tailoring it to be enjoyed in a 360 environment. During “God’s Plan” a huge hand seemed to emerge from the stage. Typically, 3D content is only visible from one vantage point, but the content team made the image rotate to display the effect from four points of view, which gave a more democratic viewing experience to audience members. While its full depth wasn’t visible from every seat, the entire show was designed with the concept of “no bad seats” in mind.
“Drake’s inspiration for the stage was an NBA basketball court without any of the site line issues,” explained Kidd. “He wanted the entire audience to have good seats, and for them to feel close to him. He performs for two hours straight and it’s a long time for him to be up there alone, for the most part he’s just one guy on the stage, no band, just a brief moment with dancers and a few guest features, but his persona is so magnetic, and the design allows that warmth to shine through. Everyone feels it and stays engaged.”
It was rather fitting for the singer, whose lyrics often refer to sports and have drawn parallels between musicians and athletes, to perform alone on a basketball court. His more sensitive, introspective songs speak of the insecurities he faces within his own head and heart, meanwhile he has had one of the most successful, dominant years of any popstar, perhaps ever. When Drake’s fifth album “Scorpion” was released in June of last year, he broke single-day streaming records on both Spotify and Apple Music. He was the first artist to have an album pass 1 billion streams in its first week. With 12 Top 10 Billboard singles in 2018 alone, Drake surpassed the Beatles for the most in a year. The numbers don’t lie - Drake is at the top of his game, and only has himself to compete with.
The setup for the tour demanded that the 136-person crew also be world-class, and according to Kidd, they brought their A-game to every stop in North America. The show build was a grueling 16 hours, so there was a pre-rig day when they could fit one into the schedule. If there wasn’t time for that, then the crew went in at 1 AM to start rigging and wouldn’t finish until 5 PM the day of the show.
“With the amount of gear we had on the show, we started load in at 1 or 2 am for rigging,” Diamond explains. “Once we were able to get in around 7 am we would start getting all of our dimmers set up and putting video walls in the air. Lighting was tightly integrated with the video in that we were hanging lights off the bottom of the video tiles. We had to coordinate interdepartmentally to make sure that everyone was able to get their jobs done and that everything flowed smoothly.”
The early load ins ensured there would be time to do the projection mapping, get all the LED sources up and running, and make sure that all the Blacktrax systems for Drake were fully operational.
“We had a tireless crew and a great staff of people that ultimately made a show that was challenging production-wise feel seamless once we got it out on tour and figured out all the little bugs,” says Kidd.
Kidd pushed for as many of the PRG crew members as possible to return for the European and United Kingdom run.
Migos opened the 2018 tour and performed with Drake midway through his performance, along with various special guests including Travis Scott, Gucci Mane, Lil Baby, 21 Savage and others.
“We had a very large video team and a reasonably-sized lighting team, all from PRG. The overall crew was probably one of the best crews we have ever had for a Drake tour,” says Kidd. “The combined effort from everyone was so impressive.”
Diamond says this was achieved by hiring crew that could be lighting or video people interchangeably.
“We all worked smoothly as one big team to embody PRG as a whole. Besides being techs, we are friends as well, so when we had an issue, we went the extra mile to help each other. It’s great when multiple disciplines are done by PRG,” says Diamond.
Kidd attributes the ongoing success between PRG and Drake’s team to the quality of the products, reliability, maintenance, and dedication.
“The relationship I have with Curry Grant, Jennifer Christiansen and Randy Hutson and the smart budgeting they all do keep me coming back. The staffing is another strong point - we always get great crews, and as everyone in the industry knows, sometimes you have to make changes. Someone could be coming off a long tour and maybe it doesn’t work out, but it always gets handled right away,” Kidd says. “Everyone at PRG is committed to Drake and committed to us as a client. For me, that keeps us coming back.”
Written by: Erin Bates
Photo Credit: TINY HOUSE PHOTO
PRG Crew List
Account Executive – Curry Grant
Jennifer Christiansen – Lighting Project Manager
Brian Bateman – Video Project Manager
John Hayes – Director
Dustin King – Crew Chief
Lewis McMillan – Engineer
David Keipert – LED 1
Pia Eerikainen – LED 2
Mason Braislin – LED 2
Noel Galan – LED 2
Ryder Darcy – LED 2
Austin Colby – LED / Cam
Roger Rubey – Cam / LED
Victor Davis – Cam / LED
Jordan Wesolek – Utility
Matthew Ortiz – Utility
Mark Barrow – D3 / Utility
Lorenzo Loche – Projection
Rachael Hudson – Projection
David Bartlett – Projection
Daniel Chayra-Nieto – Projection
Scott Amiro – Crew Chief Leg 1
Dave Diamond – FOH / Systems Programmer
James Keegan – Dimmer Technician
Scott Naef – Crew Chief Leg 2
KY Dobson – Lighting Technician
Dave Roman – Lighting Technician
Matt Shelz – Lighting Technician