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Theo Cox Designs Spectacular Arena Tour for Yumi Matsutoya
Japan – Multimillion-selling Japanese singer Yumi Matsutoya’s ‘Time Machine’ arena tour has kicked off in spectacular style with a stunning lighting design by Theo Cox.
Cox, who during his 25-year career has created epic lighting for an eclectic mix of top international artists, was invited by Matsutoya’s team to create an impactful experience designed to fill Japan’s largest live music venues with wonder and joy.
“It’s a marvellously quirky show – Yumi materialises on stage riding a life-sized animatronic elephant, later there is an 'underwater' scene of ethereal jellyfish with aerial performers in shiny silver suits – it's bonkers, Japanese style,” says Cox. “It’s an in-the-round spectacle, with silks and flying performers, motorised turntables and lifts, and is as much a theatrical show as a pop concert. The project gave me the opportunity to draw on my diverse experience in designing lighting from a wide range of disciplines, from multi-media spectaculars to themed environments, as well as live music and TV.”
Matsutoya is a national treasure in her home country, selling more than 40 million records and racking up 21 chart-topping albums over her 45-year-career. Her ‘Time Machine’ tour is not only a three-hour celebration of her most memorable songs, but also a deeper reflection on time and the relationship between past and future.
The ambitious creative vision for the tour was masterminded by Yumi’s husband ‘Manta’ Masataka Matsutoya. Cox was challenged with bringing this vision to life with light.
“I love that it is not just a stage performance, but also a highly creative, theatrical experience,” Cox continues. “The many staging elements gave me great creative scope and inspiration for the lighting looks to help build up the rich visual texture of the show.
“Manta wrote a beautifully descriptive document for me, explaining his vision for the show and offering an insight into his interpretations of feeling and concept. This was extremely helpful in determining the look of songs not only by the music, but also with an understanding of the meaning and lyrics, which are of course mostly in Japanese. My ultimate aim is always sympathy and synergy with the performance and the music, whilst remembering that the artist is the ‘raison d'être’.”
The lighting rig is designed around concentric truss circles upon which huge motorised gauzes hang, the outermost encircling the entire stage area to give a massive 360-degree projection surface. Robe Washbeam BMFL’s make up the majority of the rig (the ‘EV’ model, with a second gobo wheel instead of the animation wheel). Other fixture types in the rig include GLP JDC1, Martin Mac Aura, Vari-Lite VL3000 Spot and Robe Pointe. Lighting infrastructure, kit and crew were provided by Hayashi Office.
Cox’s design was programmed by Jonathan Rouse on a MA Lighting grandMA2. With the exception of only a handful of manual cues, the complex show is entirely timecoded.
Cox says: “One of my favourite lighting moments is during the song ‘Esper’ when the ring of Pointes fly in low over Yumi on her raised podium, light beams stabbing out like a demented mind-control machine as she sings the tag-line: ‘E.S.P. – I send you my power’."
“An in-the-round show presents interesting challenges, a member of the audience may only see a quarter of the lighting rig ‘as intended’ at any one time, so it is a creative teaser to devise beautiful aerial beam arrangements and moves that work when viewed from any audience position,” Cox explains.
The audience is given ‘Fre-Flow’ wristbands, which are choreographed with the stage lighting. “Seeing the whole arena rocking along in sync is a special experience,” he continues.
“The production team is extremely happy and know they have a great show. I was delighted to receive a heartfelt email from Manta, written by him in English, which included the line: ‘Thank you for amazing work for a long time’.”
“It’s a privilege to work on a show that demands such a complex composition of light theatre. It’s also especially exciting to work with a pop star such as Yumi and a visionary like Manta and his superb team. It’s the stuff a lighting designer’s dreams are made of!”
The ‘Time Machine’ tour continues to perform across Japan until April 2019.
27th November 2018
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