The Weeknd 'Starboy: Legend of the Fall' 2017 Tour

by Steve Jennings (Photo and Text)
in Designer Insights
The Weeknd Starboy Legend of the Fall 2017 tour photos by Steve Jennings
The Weeknd Starboy Legend of the Fall 2017 tour photos by Steve Jennings

Singer, songwriter and record producer The Weeknd (Abel Makkonen Tesfaye), is back out on the road, along with a massive set design by stage designer Es Devlin (Beyoncé, Adele, U2), who’s illustrious background includes design in theatre, dance, pop music, film and TV. Solotech provided all of the lighting and video elements in use. We spoke with two key individuals who worked with Devlin on the tour currently out on a North American leg, lighting designer Sooner Routhier (The Lumineers, Mötley Crüe, G-Eazy), and lighting director/programmer Darien Koop (Pentatonix, Sara Bareilles, Mutemath).

Beam fixtures were plentifully used

Sooner Routhier
Lighting Designer

“All the scenic was designed and facilitated by the lovely Es Devlin and her team,” says Routhier who, along with design partner Robert Long of SRae Productions, worked with associate designer Matt Geasey. Tait built the structure, which moved and manipulated itself into a variety of shapes.

“Es produced the models, sketches and renders, presented to La Mar Taylor and Drop (Creative Directors), and Abel and we began collaborative conversations on how to light the massive structure. Everything was done through conference calls and in person meetings.

“Robert Long and I treated this project as we treat every other project we work on, tossing ideas back and forth and editing as we go along. The main thing to consider on The Weeknd’s latest design was the projection element. There are more than 20 projectors lining the dashers of the arena producing massive lighting beams in the haze of the room.

“When you couple those beams of lights with the beams of a traditional moving light, you get a lot of confusing light in the air space. It can get messy with the movement of the content in the projection beams and effects running through the moving lights. We wanted to avoid that as much as possible to keep the lighting clean.

“The structure also has these incredible triangular lines running throughout. We wanted to make sure that we were complementing those lines with lights that are linear in shape. Robert and I tossed the challenges back and forth, deciding which fixtures to use and where, until the plot developed to what it is today.

“Matt Geasey, our associate designer was amazing at making sure that the lights all fit properly along the lines in the structure. I know he had to do quite a bit of number crunching to make the puzzle pieces fit. He had to try to make the Martin Sceptrons fixtures and Solaris Flare LR’s fit perfectly along each of the stock pieces and custom pieces of the truss.”

Cryo was added to the North American tour. The Weeknd 'Starboy' 2017 tour photo by Steve Jennings

“I LOVE to program. It’s one of my favorite things to do,” notes Routhier.

“On this show, Darien (Koop) and I split programming times. There was quite a bit to accomplish in the amount of time we had for production rehearsals. Darien would come in at night to program while I took over the day shift so that I could handle rehearsals and be on site when Abel and the rest of the team were in the room. I have no problem at all handing off a show to the directors and programmers that we work with. I just love to get on the console as much as I can to keep my programming chops up. It’s also a bit of a stress reliever for me. I enjoy the challenge of trying to get as much out of a rig as possible. A lot of times, I can’t do that unless I try to work the moving lights and the console myself.”

d3 Technologies served the Video images on the sails and video wall. The Weeknd 'Starboy' 2017 tour photo by Steve Jennings

There are some new fixtures being used on this tour. Most notably the Robe Spikie and the TMB Solaris Flare LR.

“Since this show design is such an architectural show piece, we needed to choose fixtures that would complement, not compete. The Flare LR is the perfect linear complement for the design. It’s bright with beautiful color mixing and a smooth face of LED. I love how modern they look along the lines of the trusses in the structure. The Spikies are used mainly for effect lighting. I was surprised at how bright they are.

“There was a bit of concern going into rehearsals that we wouldn’t be able to see their beams up against the projection surface. Once we turned them on against the structure, all concerns vanished. We also have BMFL WashBeams and Martin Sceptrons in the rig. The Sceptrons form all the lines in the structure creating a Tron-like look. We run content through them and use them as a standard LED fixture for different accents in the music.

“One of the things Es wanted was a huge line of bright light coming down the center of the structure. We achieve that bright line of light with the BMFL WashBeams on the central beam. They become visibility light for Abel in some songs purely because of the bounce of the shiny runway.”

Es Devlin's Spaceship reaches deep into the house. The Weeknd 'Starboy' 2017 tour photo by Steve Jennings

Rob Kennedy is the vendor rep at Solotech for The Weeknd, which is handling both lighting and video for the tour.

“Rob has been great at sourcing the products and crazy requests we have. We required a massive amount of Sceptrons on this gig. He had no problem supplying. It was also difficult to find the number of Flare LR’s we needed to match all the lines in the structure. I’ve been impressed with him and his team and how they can roll with the punches when it comes to our somewhat unconventional designs.”

Robe BMFL Blades line the center spine of the structure. The Weeknd 'Starboy' 2017 tour photo by Steve Jennings

Darien Koop
Lighting Director/Programmer

For preproduction on The Weekend tour it was a challenge to try and previz ahead of time as there were so many unknowns on how the rig would work in real life, says Koop.

“Given the size and broad expectation of looks everyone wanted to achieve, we really only had a story board as well as console show file prep. This made for a crazy 2.2 weeks at Rock Lititz, but in the end, some really amazing things came from it!

“Abel likes to have the ability to adjust the set list at will to make sure that musically we have the right order. As well, there were songs that we played in Europe that he felt he wanted to change for the North American leg. On another rig it’s a little easier to toss in new songs but with this one, everything requires a lot more thought and specific programming to be able to fulfill both the song and the overall creative vision of the team. Personally I really enjoy the fact that at any point in the tour we can have new songs or set list order changes as it keeps everything fresh and puts the pressure on!”

Sexy Backlight illuminated the structure. The Weeknd 'Starboy' 2017 tour photo by Steve Jennings

Koop says that walking into this project was great, as they had all worked together on the Fall festivals from last year and had a great working vibe already, as well as having worked with Sooner before.

“Es really is an amazing artist. Given her broad range of design in theater, fashion, stage, and even her own art installations, she brings an overall level of creativity that people don’t usually get in the world of concerts. One major thing that she pushed for all of us was to remember the art in this and to present that first before adding the other elements. As well, to remember that to a large extent we’re making a show for the world of Instagram and other social media. Keeping this in mind was at the heart of the entire project.

“Working with SRae Productions, it really is a dream team to collaborate with. Sooner is an incredible creative mind but also has the wisdom and experience of really knowing what she’s looking for and how to get there. This makes for such an ease in the process as we can really communicate the right aspects back and forth to bring our concepts to life.

Solaris Flare LR fixtures complimented the rig. The Weeknd 'Starboy' 2017 tour photo by Steve Jennings

“Where Robert comes in is the years of experience in production, and really everything. His ability to guide us in the process of conforming design with reality is key.

“Matt Geasey, I really think, is one of the greatest talents in the industry right now. He’s spent so much time becoming a real expert in the specifics of the grandMA2 as well as drawing in CAD and Cinema 4D. These skills allowed for the closest possible MA3D file we could get to for this rig and one of the best I’ve ever seen in general, but also really perfect plots that allowed the entire crew to be successful in the build.”

Tait's Navigator system moved the structiure in different configurations. The Weeknd 'Starboy' 2017 tour photo by Steve Jennings

The addition of lasers and cryo on the North American leg have added a new element from the European shows.

“A nice added touch to the show having the lasers and cryo now. Fixtures are a mix of Robe BMFL WashBeams and Spots, Robe Spikies, Claypaky Mythos, Solaris Flare LR’s, LED Pars and Martin VDO Sceptrons. The Sceptrons are the workhorse of the show as just turning them on creates the finishing piece of the design look. The Spikies end up being just the right amount of punch without blowing out the projection while the Robe BMFL WashBeams give us the power to accent the strong points of the show in the spine and also the grid. One fixture that has been a standout though is the new Solaris Flare LR. We’re the first tour to have them and currently have the only batch in existence. Given that the design is very linear and geometric, they complement the look perfectly. Programming them has been great as well.”

The long thrust enabled the artist to get close to the crowd. The Weeknd 'Starboy' 2017 tour photo by Steve Jennings

Louis-Philippe Gaudreau (“LP”) is the d3 operator and tech who also handles the projection mapping every day, notes Koop.

“LP is one of the main keys to making the show work. At first he wasn’t meant to actually be on a console with me during the show, but this changed during rehearsals once we realized the shear amount of work this was going to be. Being that we’re doing this in a decently unconventional way, he’s actually making live adjustments in the map during the show to constantly find the best projectors to use in that moment as well as shift physical maps to keep everything in line during the show. All of the automation info gets fed from Tait’s Navigator system into the D3 where it processes that math and interpolates it to the 3D environment of the rig. At this point D3 handles all of the blending and mapping. LP then has to take that and make it match in real life. We all can’t say enough how grateful we are to have him on this tour with us.” 

The Weeknd 'Starboy' 2017 tour photo by Steve Jennings

The Weeknd
Starboy:
Legend of the Fall 2017 Tour

Crew

  • Production Designer: Es Devlin
  • Lighting & Video Co: Solotech/Rob Kennedy
  • Lighting Designers: Sooner Routhier, Robert Long/SRae Productions
  • Associate Lighting Designer: Matt Geasey
  • Lighting Programmer/Director: Darien Koop
  • Creative Directors: La Mar Taylor, Drop
  • Media Server Programmers: Kirk Miller, Zach Peletz
  • d3 Tech and Operator: Louis-Philippe “LP” Gaudreau
  • Lighting Crew Chief: Matt Lavallee
  • Lighting Techs: Jonathan “Pogo” Coulombe, Anthony Michon,
  • Sebastien Beaulieu, Vincent Cadieux, Dany Yockell, Max Kinsella, Kevin Chan, Sam Stuart, Sarah Ng
  • Video Director: Kevin Carswell
  • Video Engineer: Serge Bergeron
  • Video System Engineer: Iain Donham
  • Video Crew Chief: Carson Austin
  • Video Techs: David Keipert, Barrie Roney, Nicolas Gagnon
  • LED Tech: Luc Dube
  • Video/Projection Content: Strangeloop, Neil Krug, Anton Tammi
  • Tour Manager: Matt Petroff
  • Assistant Tour Manager: Mariko Jones
  • Production Manager: Rob DeCeglio
  • Production Coordinator: Sara Bennett
  • Stage Manager: Rod van Egmond
  • Staging Co: Tait/Brian Levine
  • Special FX/Lasers: Strictly FX
  • SFX Crew Chief: Jackson Frazier
  • SFX Techs: Ray Galvan, Dave Johnson
  • Automation Programmer and Operator: Aaron Levy
  • Automation Tech: Dan Hartmann
  • Automation Climber: Monkey
  • Head Rigger: Chris Wilson
  • Rigger: Morgan Prine
  • Carpenters: Noam Sigal, Jimmy Sontag
  • Trucking: On Tour Logistics

Gear

  • 3               grandMA2 Full Size consoles
  • 1               grandMA2 Light console
  • 1               grandMA Dot 2
  • 7               grandMA NPUs
  • 49            Robe BMFL WashBeams
  • 8               Robe BMFL Spots w/Black Trax
  • 90            Robe Spikies
  • 48            Claypaky Mythos
  • 88            Solaris Flare LR
  • 6               Elation Elar 180 RGBW LED Pars
  • 554         Martin VDO Sceptrons (1000mm)
  • 106         Martin VDO Sceptrons (320mm)
  • 2               Martin P3 Processors
  • 3               d3 4x4 media servers
  • 1               d3 2x4 media server
  • 1               BlackTrax system
  • 128         Solotech SL Pro8 LED tiles
  • 20            Barco HDF-W30-FLEX units
  • 4               Christie Roadster HD20K units
  • 1               Sony MVS 3000 video switchers
  • 4               Sony HXC-100 cameras
  • 2               Panasonic Robo cameras
  • 1               Toshiba POV camera
  • 6               DF-50 hazers
  • 4               Radiance hazers
  • 3               LSG G300 low lying foggers
  • 15            15W Arctos lasers
  • 14            Cryo Jets
  • 56            Tait Nav Hoists
  • 130         Rigging Points (aside from the Nav Hoists)

More The Weeknd 'Starboy' 2017 photos by Steve Jennings:

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