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Colour Sound Dares to Light the Human League
Europe – The Human League completed their 2018 UK and European tour with another fabulously elegant and eye-catching production and lighting design to match their seemingly timeless electric synth pop sounds and unique style, spanning four decades and spawning a string of melodic and memorable hits.
Colour Sound Experiment was once again the lighting supplier, working closely with award winning lighting designer Rob Sinclair on his tenth Human League tour, the ninth in the LD hot seat.
The set design was initiated by the band’s manager, Simon Watson, who takes a keen interest in production values and their stage visuality. He wanted something new and different, especially with the video element. Video has played a big part in Human League tours for the last ten years, and on this one, he didn’t want a stage filled with LED.
Instead, the concept that he and Rob developed utilised a series of aluminium framed projection cubes covered with gauze sides which were mapped to receive animated projections. This introduced a lively, highly effective signature video look to the mix.
The band was positioned within these set cubes, with Philip Oakey, Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley downstage in their usual positions.
“It’s a fun, arty, colourful pop show,” explained Rob adding that the set would look equally at home in a trendy art gallery as it did as part of a stage show.
Once the stage design had evolved to a certain point, the lights effectively sorted themselves out in terms of what needed to be where. On previous tours Rob commented that they had been through several revisions of his initial designs, but for this one, they went straight with the first set of visuals.
Lighting was chosen to work with and complement the video and set, and Rob chose two principal light sources. Claypaky Sharpies were the main beams, for their tight, bright columnated look and minimal spill (onto the projection areas), with GLP JDC1 strobes for lighting and highlighting the set, creating the big accents and percussive stabs that contrasted so well with the video content.
Three straight trusses were installed over the stage each day by Rob’s lighting director on the road, the unfazeable Chris Steel, working alongside Colour Sound’s crew of Jon Rickets and Chris Brown.
Thirty-one Sharpies were distributed across the mid and back trusses and they were joined by GLP X4 Bar 20 LED battens on the back truss.
Forty-six Chauvet Rogue R2 Washes were utilised almost exclusively for looks on the grey cyc upstage.
There were 16 Claypaky Scenius Unicos on the front trusses, used for key lighting the three singers, and down the sides of the stage in floor positions. These were selected for their shutters which helped keep light concentrated onto the cubes.
The JDC1s were all integrated into the set, positioned inside the cubes where they were highly effective.
As the show was all about the projection, delivered by Really Creative Media (RCM) who supplied the hardware (six machines located at FOH), and content which was mostly produced by Jack James with some direction from Rob. The two mediums worked in unison.
During programming, completed by Liam Griffiths using a grandMA2 console, lighting and video were synchronised and the whole show was run to timecode from one of the music track machines. It was the first time a Human League tour had used timecode to run a show, and this ensured that exactly the right amount of lights and video were combined in any one look and scene.
The main task was ensuring that the lights didn’t blast out the projection and that the show was a fluid and integrated mix.
Other general challenges included balancing creative ambitions, logistics, budget and making it work in the available rig time each day, as well as having viable and equally good-looking alternatives for some of the smaller venues.
Having a “great team” on the road was an instrumental factor in it all working confirms Rob, where everything was kept in order by production manager Sarah Hollis.
He enjoyed working with Colour Sound again. They are frequent collaborators and he comments that it is: “Always a joy. Nice people, great gear, good attitude and H [Haydn Cruickshank] is the only person I know in the business who seems able to get the work / life balance right and for that reason alone, he’s my hero!”
H himself comments: “It was great to be working with Rob and the band again. Their shows have plenty of potential for adventure and fun, and this was something very different that worked really well for a sensible budget.”
For the European leg of the tour Colour Sound supplied a lighting floor package and a nine-metre-wide by three-metre-high LED screen, which they hooked into the venue’s ‘top’ house lighting rig each day.
This 2018 show has been hailed by the critics as one of the best-looking Human League creations to date.
Rob’s “relentless collage of digital pop art psychedelia” wowed the crowds and the critics as the band delivered a set of electro pop favourites and Human League classics including “Don’t You Want Me”, “Electric Dreams”, “Heart Like A Wheel”, “The Lebanon” and a host of other catchy pop anthems and memorable hits which still sound futuristic and relevant 30 years on!
photos: Louise Stickland
21st December 2018
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