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HSL Gets the Blue Lights for Jorja Smith Tour
Europe – Critics Choice Brit Award-winning singer-songwriter Jorja Smith is one of the UK’s most exciting rising star musical talents, currently enjoying the success, both commercially and creatively of her debut album, “Lost & Found”.
Blackburn-based technical production specialist HSL supplied lighting equipment and crew for her recent UK and European tour, working closely with Boston-based lighting designer Tyler Trofatter and, for this section of the tour, lighting director / operator on the road, Matthew Kemp.
Tyler started working with the artist earlier in the year when they sought a US-based LD to look after the live show aesthetics and stage presentation. In the US they were using 4Wall Entertainment as the lighting vendor, and their account handler Bob Suchocki first connected Tyler with HSL when they needed a specials package for a summer show at Somerset House in London.
That all went very well, so when this tour was announced, following the album launch in June, Tyler and Jorja’s production team: tour manager Simon Parkinson and production manager / FOH engineer Mike Excell, returned to HSL where they worked with project manager Jordan Hanson.
Tyler commented that the HSL crew for the Somerset House gig were “fantastic”, together with the service and the lighting package. Jordan was also helpful in providing a visualisation computer and console a few days earlier, allowing him more time to program.
Jordan stated: “After working with Tyler on the one off earlier on in the year I was delighted when he came back to HSL to supply the tour package and the flown rig at Brixton. Tyler and the production have been fantastic to work with, the design has a lot of style and it’s also great to have been involved with an artist with such a positive future.”
There is no video in this current design, so all the visual reinforcement for Jorja’s compelling and powerful performance is from stylish lighting. Her music embraces R&B, hip hop, soul, rap and several other genres in a rich vibrant mix, much based on personal experiences and with a strong sense of social activism.
The music was partly the inspiration for Tyler’s design which evolved into a blend of vintage and contemporary elements to match her voice which has a timeless resonance but is highly distinctive throughout as she flips between different genres of music.
Another criteria driving the design was that all the lighting fixtures had to be multi-functional.
A sumptuous red Austrian drape denoted the back of the stage, making a strong statement that required careful lighting.
To complement the retro feel but with a touch of industrial chic, Showtec Vintage Blaze 55 fixtures were added to the rig, their big dish-like reflectors feature a tungsten bulb with an RGB LED backlight that transforms the reflector, making it a hugely versatile and almost scenic luminaire.
Six of these were supplied for the tour boosted to thirteen for the London and Paris shows. Some of the Blaze 55s were on floor stands and others on drop bars from the back truss for depth and layering.
Martin MAC Axiom hybrid spot / beam fixtures were positioned upstage of the band for powerful, moody silhouetting and backlight looks. They were chosen for their nice fat beams and good gobo selection.
Also on the floor was a row of GLP Impression X4 Bar 20s LED battens, which Tyler loves. These brought individual pixel control to the equation and were used to up-light the backdrop. As they can also tilt, they were extremely useful for producing dramatic curtains and sweeps of light and colour behind the band and Jorja.
The two Brixton Academy shows were enjoyed by very ebullient audiences who gave the young star an incredible reception, and for these HSL added Mac Viper Performances, MAC Viper Profiles plus Robe Pointe and LEDWash 1200 moving lights, all of which were dotted around over stage trusses flown at different heights, with the upstage one being the lowest.
These were joined by more GLP Impression XBar 20s, 8-lite and 2-lite blinders and DF 50 hazers.
Using the extra fixtures intelligently, Tyler was able to fill out the stage sufficiently and produce a classy and appropriately upscaled show which impressed the London crowds and the critics.
Jorja Smith’s stage set-up is very clean. The band risers are wrapped in draping and the lighting enhances the fluidity and diversity of her vocals which engage and draw her fans into the experience.
“I really appreciate and enjoy the trust and creative freedom invested in me to imagine the show,” commented Tyler, adding that Jorja does preview the work-in-progress for them, and he will often bounce ideas off Simon Parkinson.
Another objective is to ensure it photographs well and easily, an important consideration for a social media savvy world which is a vital channel of communication for so many artists and music events.
A grandMA2 light console was part of the touring kit which, back in the US until Christmas, Tyler is operating himself. He was also there in the UK for the London shows.
It’s Tyler’s first time working on a touring production with HSL as a supplier, a process that has been “brilliant” he stated.
“Jordan has been very accommodating,” he says, especially with any last-minute changes due to the spec, all of which were dealt with efficiently and kept within budget, so Simon Parkinson was happy!”
HSL’s Brixton crew of Keith Parrot (who also worked on that original Somerset House gig) Harry Duffin and Stuart Wright were “fantastic” enthused Taylor.
photos: Lindsay Cave
14th November 2018
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