When English pop sensation Robbie Williams took over Europe’s stadiums for his Take The Crown tour, Creative Director Willie Williams wanted to make sure that the lighting not only illuminated but also reflected the artist’s energetic performance style. Williams collaborated on the stunning production design with Scene Designer/Architect Mark Fisher and Ric Lipson of Stufish, creating an unforgettable visual kaleidoscope of lighting, scenic automation and video.
The successful 26-date summer tour included a 41’ sculptural head coming out of a massive back video wall along with seven additional three-dimensional heads that moved around the stage. With so much automation, video, and larger than life scenery the lighting needed to be carefully positioned to allow maximum impact with minimal presence. Williams’ had much of the lighting rig built into the set, cleverly masking what was actually a considerable amount of gear.
The Lighting Plot
Production Resource Group (PRG) provided the lighting system and crew. The plot included 130 PRG Bad Boy spots, 138 Martin MAC Auras, 69 Martin Atomic Strobes with Atomic Color scrollers, 12 Zap Big Lites and 12 Novalight Nova-Flowers, PRG Best Boy4000 Spots and additional lighting fixtures. The Bad Boys were selected by Williams to be the primary source because of their output. Noted Williams, “In a stadium—never mind in daylight—it’s all about intensity. None of the subtle features of a fixture count for anything at all if you can’t see them so in many ways the brightest fixture wins. The Bad Boy is still the brightest fixture in its price range. Even though we have a lot of fixtures, due to the scale, we have very few different types; it was a very simple rig, really.” Lighting Associate Alex Murphy agreed with Williams’ assessment of the Bad Boy luminaires. “Once again we were spoiled with the Bad Boys. The light output and zoom range is just great.”
“The biggest issue was knowing that we would be playing in Northern Europe during mid-summer,” explained Williams. “This is death for lighting and the worst thing a designer can do is carry on in denial of the fact that it’s not going to get dark until 2/3 of the way into the show. In the spirit of turning a weakness into strength, I set about conceiving a show that would actually benefit from opening in daylight. I thought about outdoor entertainments that are invariably day lit—carnivals, parades, etc. From this I took the cue as to what kind of show we needed to design.”
He approached the overall production by breaking it down into acts. “Act I is in daylight so we’ve created a sort of Rio Carnival environment. As dusk falls, we move into a focused, centralized acoustic Act II before the video-based home run of Act III. Finally the more contemplative encore section uses the darkness to close out the show with pyro and other effects.”
Production Manager Wob Roberts worked closely with PRG to develop solutions to streamline the load-in/load-out of the lighting. This was an important factor in a production travelling with so much automation and video scenery. The pre-rigging of the lighting in some portions of the plot proved to be very efficient. This was particularly true for the band area roofette. PRG’s team worked with Brilliant Stages so that 65 of the MAC Auras could be permanently mounted onto U-beam. They made sure that all the cabling was hidden inside the U-beam, which was then attached to the main structural beams of the roofette. It took the crew only 30 minutes at load-in to attach the U-beams and plug it all together.
The selection of PRG BAT Truss for much of the rig also proved extremely efficient. Roberts liked BAT Truss for both the space and labor savings it brought to the production. “The time it saved me was really impressive. My lighting crew moved so fast they ended up having to wait for the next staging, scenic, or video sections to be built so they could move on. The lighting pieces were so well pre-rigged that they went in extremely quickly. Everything just rolls into place on the BAT Truss. It was a very slick operation.”
A key use of the BAT Truss was the inverted sections used on the floor rigs. Two 8’ sections with three Bad Boys sitting upright in each were joined with custom brackets, then a seventh Bad Boy unit sat on top of the bracket. The BAT Truss pieces with the lights were easily wheeled into place and bolted together. A Four-light PAR36 fixture and an Atomic with a color changer on one pipe were then clamped onto it. The solution was compact, easily setup, and something that wouldn’t get kicked or moved. This was done on both sides of the stage below the IMAG screens, mimicking in reverse the lighting above the screens.
“I knew that PRG could provide the gear,” stated Roberts. “They have supported Robbie’s shows for a long time and are great to work with. I knew PRG could deliver a tour of this size. They also really came through with a great crewing solution for us.” Roberts continued by noting, “There was no question that I had a top flight crew. 90% of the success of any production is the people and I had the best team out there.”
List of the production team
Show Producer – Lee Lodge
Creative Director – Willie Williams
Stage Architect – Mark Fisher and Ric Lipson, Stufish
Video Director – Stefaan “Smasher” Desmedt
Production Manager – Wob Roberts
Lighting Director – Mark “Sparky” Risk
Lighting Associate – Alex Murphy
Lighting Crew Chief – Nick Barton
Systems Chief/FOH Technician – Craig Hancock
Lead Dimmer Technician – Gareth Morgan
Header/Moving Light Technician – Blaine Dracup
Pods/Big Lite Technician – Andrew Beller
Moving Light Technician/Pods – Jason Dixon
High Platforms/FOH/Followspots – Mark Pritchard
Moving Light Technician/Dimmers – Urko Arruza Urrutia
Header/Roofette Moving Light Technician – Chris Sabelleck
High Platforms/FOH/Moving Light Technician – Matthew Bright
Scottie Sanderson – PRG Account Executive