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Harry Styles “Live on Tour”

by Steve Jennings (Photos and Text) • in
  • Designer Insights
  • September 2018
• Created: September 14, 2018

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All Access provided the staging for the tour. HARRY STYLES © Steve Jennings

Singer/songwriter Harry Styles, who rocketed to fame as a member of the British/Irish boy band One Direction in 2010, has been busy since the band went on hiatus after an epic five-year run. Styles launched his own record label, Erskine Records in 2016 and started his own solo career on Columbia Records with the release of his first solo album, Harry Styles, in 2017.

The album sold well in the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Australia, and Styles’ stature as a solo artist was further bolstered with memorable appearances on Saturday Night Live in April 2017. With his first global tour a resounding success — with 89 sold-out shows in North America, the U.K. and Europe, South America, Australia and Asia now under his belt, Styles’ potential as a solo artist is now being compared to others like Justin Timberlake (NSYNC) and Robbie Williams (Take That) who have parlayed early boy-band success into impressive careers as adult performers.

disguise GX2 media servers were used for the imagery. HARRY STYLES © Steve Jennings

To help ensure the success of his inaugural tour, Styles and his managers turned to some of the best in the business, including a very busy Baz Halpin, who also designed 2018 tours for Taylor Swift, Pink and Katy Perry. Halpin, who served as production and lighting designer also worked with Eighteentwentysix, a production management company founded a decade ago in the U.K. by Joe Sanchez and now based in West Hollywood, CA, along with Harry Styles’ creative director, Molly Hawkins, and also lighting director and programmer Stu Dingley.

The trek, titled, simply, Live on Tour, launched Sept. 2017 at the 3,500-capacity Masonic Auditorium in San Francisco. By the time it wrapped up in mid-July, 2018, with two shows at the 17,500-capacity Forum in Los Angeles, there had been 89 sold-out shows and a total of nearly one million tickets sold. Supported with Kacey Musgraves and other opening acts, it packed venues ranging from Madison Square Garden in NYC and the O2 Arena in London, and also reportedly set merchandising records at more than 50 venues, while also raising $1.2 million for 62 charities around the world.

PLSN caught one of the last shows on Styles’ itinerary and talked about the tour design with Baz Halpin and lighting director/programmer Stu Dingley. Along with Styles’ creative director Molly Hawkins, Silent Partners Studio, which provided the video content, and Eighteentwentysix founder Joe Sanchez, who served as production director, Halpin and Dingley worked with an elaborate lighting, video and staging production provided by PRG and All Access Staging, with a trucking, transport and freight forwarding assist from Fly By Nite (U.K.), Stage Call and Sound Moves.

An assembly of 57 four-light moles illuminate the crowd. HARRY STYLES © Steve Jennings

Baz Halpin
Production & Lighting Designer

Creative director Molly Hawkins was working with Harry Styles from the outset on the look and feel of album artwork, music videos and the branding side of things. When Baz Halpin came on board for this tour in the creative direction as well, he felt it made all the sense in the world for Hawkins to follow through the live side of things also.

“Molly has impeccable taste and a fresh perspective on pop and rock performance,” says Halpin. “We collaborated on everything right from the very beginning with our first meeting being with Harry and his management at the Full Stop offices in Los Angeles.

“The first show that we worked on together was a Saturday Night Live performance,” Halpin adds, of Styles’ well-received episode hosted by SNL alum Jimmy Fallon in mid-April, 2017. “It was clear early on that this process was going to be both enjoyable and creatively invigorating. We worked more closely together with each promotional performance building towards the tour. The process was organic and fun, and I think that we were both inspired by the new directions that we pushed each other into creatively.

ROE Creative Display LED tiles were chosen for this tour.  HARRY STYLES © Steve Jennings

“We all discussed how the promo shows and tours were going to look and feel. We had some very specific aesthetics and inspirations in mind, so as we grew together as artist and collaborators, we grew in a linear fashion, constantly developing and expanding on an agreed upon theme. We started on the promotional TV shows, into clubs, then theater tour followed by the arena tour in Europe and a 360-degree tour in the U.S. The aesthetic was constantly developing and evolving, but not deviating from the original core ideas we had set out months and months previous.”

“We worked with our partners Eighteentwentysix, on the production side of things for this tour,” Halpin continues. “It’s not a pop show, but a rock show,” he adds. But this was not a bare-bones rock show by any means. The elaborate production elements including moving LED screens, moving lighting trusses, a custom stage, B-stage and custom lighting fixtures, such as the PAR ACL Orb.

The Par 64 Orb lowers down above the B stage. HARRY STYLES © Steve Jennings

“There was still a considerable amount of planning and logistics that went into the tour,” Halpin says. “On the U.S. arena run, we had sold audience seats all the way around in a 360-degree format, with the stage in one end. So taking those sight lines into account and making sure that we crafted the show to those audience members also was important and challenging. Rehearsals for the tour began in London with the process just like any other show we’ve worked on in the past. We did full run-throughs, automation run-throughs, late night lighting and video programing, etc.”

802 GLP X4 Atoms were incorporated into the set design.  HARRY STYLES © Steve Jennings

For Styles’ B-stage segment behind the FOH position, Halpin says he wanted a large format light source but also something that felt retro. “We came up with the idea of an eight-foot-diameter sphere populated by over 100 ACL Par 64 bulbs. It lives on automated hoists that lower to approximately 14 feet off the stage height for the B-stage section.”

The designer opted for PRG Icon Edge lights as the main beam fixtures in the rig. They lined the floor of the stage with GLP X20 Bars and made use of the GLP Atoms as built in scenic fixtures. “We created a diffusion for each of the fixtures so that they would be viewable from wide angles.

“Harry’s music is dynamic and powerful, so we knew that we needed to have a system comprised of fixtures for the show that would be able to complement the dynamism as well as the musicality,” Halpin concludes.

Molly Hawkins and Baz Halpin co-designed the production. HARRY STYLES © Steve Jennings

Stu Dingley
Lighting Director/Programmer

Stu Dingley notes that PRG kindly let them use their Covent Garden offices in London for a day with a selection of the lighting gear in the show and a grandMA2.

“I had the show built in a WYSIWYG file, which was great just to check patch, personalities, create presets and just get a feel for the rig before we headed into the main pre-production. We had two weeks in London with the full rig and creative team. There were 18 songs in the show, with the set list generally the same each night. I think we swapped a couple of tracks early on in the tour to help the show flow better.”

“For the Europe/North America tour, the equipment was exactly the same. They freighted everything over at the end of the E.U. run, as they had a slightly modified show for the Australia/Asia/South America shows in between,” Dingley says. Although PRG still supplied the gear for the Australia shows, other tour stops in the Far East and South America were supported by local vendors.

MDG the One hazers adjust the atmosphere. HARRY STYLES © Steve Jennings

“We did, however, freight the control system and the [Robert Juliat] Dalis bars with backline for those shows. We also lost the X4 Atom risers for those shows at the last minute. These were pixel-mapped in the console for the most part. We had all sorts of substitutions in Asia and South America, but being able to just drag the pixel map grid over the new fixtures was a lovely feature in helping retain the programming and, ultimately, the look and feel of the show. The local providers were often surprisingly good at supplying a show file with the 400 or so fixtures/cells in a layout view, ready for a PSR.

“Harry is a proper entertainer and keeps you on your toes, as he can often stop songs midway through, extends intros before the click, etc., so programming was kept song by song and timecode arming/disarming was manual to allow for flexibility in the performance. Also being able to kill any content free-wheeling after an unexpected song-stop helped preserve the authenticity of the show. Harry is also very particular with the arrangement of his music. So a few times we ended up changing track tempos by one or two BPM.”

The trusses move into an abstract position with a Kinesys system. HARRY STYLES © Steve Jennings

The PRG crew members were superb, says Dingley. “It was a real pleasure to be on the road with such an experienced and friendly team. Oli James, our lighting crew chief, is an all-around great guy — super calm and very knowledgeable. He was also invaluable liaising with the local production companies on the shows where it was just the two of us. Mike Rothwell, our lighting systems tech, was excellent in ensuring night after night stability with the control systems and also setting us up with a very smart, cut down package to take out to Australia/Asia/South America. Andy “Paris” Hilton, head rigger and Kinesys programmer, did a stellar job getting the most out of automated trusses and screens and worked tirelessly creating looks for us night after night in rehearsals.”

Solaris Flares bathe the arena in color. HARRY STYLES © Steve Jennings

On the video side, J.T. Rooney and his team at Silent Partners Studio produced some stunning content, notes Dingley, who also credited the Notch camera integration, programmed by Lucy Ockenden on disguise media servers that had Heath Saunders creating and editing in rehearsals well into the night. “We also had various attribute control and effects triggered from the MA to give us the ability to treat the video as a light source at times,” Dingley adds.

HARRY STYLES © Steve Jennings

Dingley has worked with Molly Hawkins on previous projects and also mentions having a great working relationship with her. “She is a pleasure to work with and has a real connection to the artists and how their shows should represent them. This was my first time working with Baz, and he certainly lives up to his reputation as a world-class show designer. The rig was beautiful and a lot of fun to work with. He is an incredibly talented designer, with a great sense of humor. Finally, as for Harry… he is a genuine rock star, incredibly thoughtful and one of the nicest people you could ever hope to work for.”

 

PRG’s Icon Edge fixtures in use. HARRY STYLES © Steve Jennings

Harry Styles, Live on Tour

 

The show was sold 360-degrees. HARRY STYLES © Steve Jennings

Crew

Creative Directors: Molly Hawkins, Baz Halpin

Production Designer & Lighting Designer: Baz Halpin

Lighting Director & Programmer: Stu Dingley

Production Director: Joe Sanchez

Tour Manager: Daniel Humphreys

Production Manager: Derek Fudge

Production Assistant: Amanda Barker

Tour Coordinator: Pamela Harris

Stage Manager: Tom “Keano” Keane

Lighting Co: PRG

PRG Lighting Reps: Yvonne Donnelly Smith (U.K.), Jules Edwards (U.S.)

Lighting Crew Chief: Oli James

Lighting System Tech: Mike Rothwell

Lighting Dimmer Tech: Craig MacDonald

Lighting Techs: Mark Hollis, Ryan Harrington,

Michael McCullough, James Harris

Screen Producer: J.T. Rooney

Video Director: Andrew Hutchinson

Video Content & Live Video Effects: Silent Partners Studio

Video Co: PRG

PRG Video Reps: Stefaan Michels (U.K.) & Jules Edwards (U.S.)

Video Crew Chief: Ed Prescott

Video EIC: Nigel “Griff” Griffith

Video LED Techs: Graham Lambkin, Jeroen Mahieu

Projection Tech: Ed Moore

Media Server Programmer: Lucy Ockenden

Media Server Operator: Black Dog Video

Camera Supervisor: Mark Wilkinson

Staging Co: All Access Staging

Head Rigger/Kinesys Programmer: Andy “Paris” Hilton

Riggers: Max Reynolds, Steve “Fingers” Foden

Trucking: Fly By Nite (U.K.), Stage Call (U.S.)

Freight Agent: Sound Moves

Silent Partners Studio provided the video content. HARRY STYLES © Steve Jennings

Gear

Lighting:

2       grandMA2 Light consoles w/5 NPUs

57     PRG Icon Edge fixtures

86     Solaris Flares

48     GLP impression X4 Bar 20’s

802  GLP X4 Atoms

57     4-Lites (vertical)

20     2-Lites

8       Robert Juliat Dalis 862 bars

2       MDG the One hazers

The show looks were controlled with grandMA2 consoles. HARRY STYLES © Steve Jennings

Video:

LED: ROE MC7 tiles

Media Server: disguise GX2

Video Switcher: Karrera by Grass Valley

Projectors: Barco 30K (double-stacked, SL + SR)

GLP impression X4 Bar 20 fixtures line the stage. HARRY STYLES © Steve Jennings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Harry Styles Live on Tour photos by Steve Jennings:

 

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