Mirroring the popularity of his latest album, Following My Intuition, which debuted at No.1 on the UK chart, Craig David’s recent arena tour was a huge success, visiting 16 cities across the UK and Ireland.
With Craig’s career encompassing songwriter and musician, as well as his DJ work, which has grown from his acclaimed TS5 parties which started in his Miami penthouse, Tower Suite 5, the aim was for the tour to include a live set with the band and a DJ set. The live set featured songs from his latest album, alongside classic hits like Re-Rewind, Fill Me In, and 7 Days.
Supporting the Show Producer and Designer, Emma Bull, Lighting Designer, Stephen Abbiss, Tour Director, Sam Kruger, and Production Manager, Wob Roberts, PRG XL Video supplied video and lighting technology and services for the arena tour.
Emma Bull started working with Craig in late 2016, brought in by his record label to work on the design for TV performances promoting the album. The first of the performances was the MOBO Awards, and subsequently Craig’s manager Colin Lester asked Emma to be involved in the tour.
Working with Sam Kruger and Wob Roberts, who took care of the more technical requirements, Emma explains her main aims for the tour’s creative design: “The brief I was given was to achieve two shows in one. The band section was always going to be heavily IMAG-led on stage, with the band forming a key part of the look. I wanted to keep an open stage vibe and not do anything too conceptual, which gave us a bigger opportunity to change the dynamic for the TS5 section, at which point the arenas became more like clubs.”
In order to achieve the two distinct looks for the show, Emma kept the approach understated with a focus very much on who was on stage as opposed to what. She explains: “It was important to me that we kept the show feeling modern and minimal. The video screen was a big feature, but we kept the look widescreen with 3 positions. I didn’t want to do a graphic-per-look type show, as it needed to feel more organic, so the combination of bespoke graphic assets, Video Dust and the live cut helped us achieve this.”
PRG XL Video supplied their ROE Visual MC-7 LED to form the screens and this was automated on a Wii Creations Tracking system combined with Kinesys control which allowed the single wide screen to split into multiple elements.
For the TS5 section she incorporated the style of Craig’s TV performances into the tour design: “The lighting structure, which formed the look for TS5, was something I’d already designed for Craig on a smaller scale for TV and it was a natural progression to build TS5 around it. Abbiss was brilliant at adapting that design for the arenas and he selected all of the fixtures and dealt with the automation of that.”
For the band section Abbiss worked around the automated LED screen sections. He explains: “I knew I needed to keep a clear space for the moving screens, so we created pods of lights far upstage left and right and for these I used PRG’s Bad Boy moving lights, with Sharpy beams located all over the rig. As the screen took time to build each show, we used PRG Bat Truss to rig the lights. This allows you to transport the lights in the truss and it saved time off the truck. We had 10 short Bat Truss sections. It was great. For the floor package we used Martin MAC Viper AirFX fixtures upstage, and they gave a good ground-based texture.”
Taking the inspiration from Craig’s TV show appearances, seven vertical structures were used behind the DJ riser. Abbiss explains how these were lit.
“For the TV shows I believe MiStrips were used, but we needed more dynamic fixtures for the tour. The uprights had Wands from Light Initiative on each of them, with GLP impression X4 Bar 20 battens placed horizontally along them. I chose them because they have a wider angle of view, and to give a better show to the audience who were seated alongside the stage.”
Emma continues: “Abbiss and I worked collaboratively across the entire design, not just the lighting side. Abbiss did all of the drawings and renders, dealt with all of my creative ‘moments’ and really allowed me to push on some of the finer details. Hopefully he will work with me again!”
In transitioning from one section of the show to the other, there were some technical challenges of the design, which Sam Kruger and Wob Roberts handled. Emma explains: “There were considerations regarding the backline set up and how we transitioned from a band show into a DJ show, but Sam Kruger very much took on the role of the design from a technical point of view, and between Sam and Wob, they very much let me take care of the look and focus on working with Craig and the show overall, whilst they dealt with the detail and the clever stuff.”
Emma’s visual design was supported by PRG XL Video, who brought in specialist Phil Woodhead from Thundering Jacks to work with Emma and Content Director Judy Jacob to give the show a distinctive look. Emma comments: "The team from PRG really played a huge part in the success of the show. Phil Woodhead was really great during the pre-production design process. He met with Judy and I to go through the capabilities of the Video Dust software, and that helped to shape how I approached the looks.”
Phil was Video Director on the tour, mixing shots from a variety of fixed HD cameras, mini and robo-cams located at front of house, and onstage.
Thundering Jacks’ Video Dust/Catalyst software loaded on one of PRG XL’s media server racks provided the playback content and this was engineered by Stuart Merser. Emma explains Stuart’s input: “Stuart Merser also played a big part in getting the show to where I wanted it to be in a tight production rehearsal period. Having worked with him previously, he was able to quickly get things to a place he knew worked for my aesthetic.”
For the mid-show transition the production team brought in a Metallic Bobbinet from Gerriets, and two of PRG XL’s Barco 20k projectors, fed by the Catalyst/Video Dust projected on to the semi-transparent surface. Abbiss used a single Clay Paky Sharpy wash light as a downlighter. Craig was filmed behind the gauze and that image was projected during the transition.
Emma was pleased with the result: “There were challenges as always with touring shows, but the projection element that formed the transition between the two sections of the show exceeded my expectation in terms of the impact, and I know the guys on the crew had to really work to make that happen.”
Photos: Nicky Kelvin