Designer Insights: Chance the Rapper 'Be Encouraged' Tour

by Steve Jennings (Photo and Text)
in Features
Chance the Rapper's 'Be Encouraged' Tour Photos by Steve Jennings
Chance the Rapper's 'Be Encouraged' Tour Photos by Steve Jennings

With his ever growing success, three time Grammy Award winner, including Best Rap Album — singer, songwriter, rapper and record producer, Chance the Rapper quickly returned to the stage for another tour following his 2016 trek, and with an all new design. The tour launched on April 24 in San Diego, hops the pond for a show in London on July 7, and returns to North America for more performances through Oct. 20 in Phoenix.

We caught up with production designer/creative director Michael Apostolos, who also serves as the tour’s LD and lighting director, about the current tour design.

Solotech provided the ultra curved video wall. Photos and text by Steve Jennings.

Michael Apostolos
Production Designer and Creative Director

“Chance and I are continuously talking and passing ideas off of one another whether we are on tour or have a break. For this tour, we didn’t have a ton of time due to our schedules, but we worked together to make the best of it. Towards the end of the last tour we knew we had a lot of events scheduled and were not sure when the next tour would take place. We did know that we had a lot coming up in a short period of time though. Following last year’s tour, we did a Europe run, and an Australia and Hawaii run. In the mix of all of those, we also did performances on SNL, the White House and a few others. Once finding out about and booking this tour, we only had a little time to get it designed and sent into pre-production.

“When discussing this tour, we decided to give the ‘puppets’ from the last tour a break. We knew that this tour would consist of a lot of new fans and viewers that we had gained since the last one, so in our eyes we wanted it to be impactful and to feel like a celebration. Because this tour didn’t come with a new mixtape or album, we updated the set list and included a few throwbacks from Chance’s first projects. We wanted this tour to cater to all fans, old and new, so we really combed through his music and brought back songs that haven’t been played in a few years.”

Front light was purposely omitted at times for effects. Photos and text by Steve Jennings.

Due to time and budget constraints, Apostolos had to swap a few fixtures along with cutting a few set pieces in the design.

“In the original design, we had a circular video ramp that led Chance to a horseshoe riser that followed the path and framed the curved upstage video screen. Indented into the video ramp, we had two risers for the band that were on lifts and were designed to rise out of the ramp for a section of the show. No matter the constraints, we made it work and found other ways to incorporate pieces of the original design and concept. I was very happy with what we landed on and I am looking forward to trying a few other ideas in tours to follow.

Sharpys framed the stage. Photos and text by Steve Jennings.

The tour brought in some different production companies for Apostolos to work with this time around.

“I worked with a few different companies and additional crew for this tour and it has worked out very well. It’s the largest tour we’ve ever done with Chance in all forms. From Solotech on lighting and video, to SGPS on staging and automation, and all in between, everyone worked very hard to make sure our vision was well executed and delivered properly. The Chance team worked very closely with both companies and everyone really put a lot of effort and time into every detail. Special thanks to Lee Moro (Solotech), Eric Pearce (SGPS) and Ted Maccabee (Strictly FX) who went above and beyond to make sure we were taken care of in every capacity.

The bridge comes down at the end to bring Chance closer to his people. Photos and text by Steve Jennings.

“The curved video wall we designed helps give the show a more unique look and to move away from the normal flat screens that you often see. It’s designed to give the audience a perspective that makes them feel as if they are in the show and not just looking at a show. Given this is Chance’s first arena tour, he wanted the fans to feel connected no matter where they were sitting.

“A large concern was the audience sitting in the back of the arena, and in the higher 300 levels. We started off by adding a B-Stage behind FOH to the show that would give fans sitting in the back a front row seat. While looking through drawings and finding ways to get Chance to the B-Stage without starting the show from it, we designed a bridge that would lower from the rafters and take Chance directly to the stage. After several looks at the design and the set list, we decided to cut the B-Stage before rolling into rehearsals and instead designed a 130-foot-long thrust that takes Chance on a journey up close and personal over the audience, en-route to a destination at the very end. The thrust lowers from the rafters as one large piece, but upon Chance’s return to the main stage, it separates into three sections that fly away independently. This gives Chance an opportunity on his way back to stand at the end of each section and have a moment with the fans below and around him.

Strictly FX supplied a plthora of dazzling effects for the production. Photos and text by Steve Jennings.

“This tour has been nothing short of amazing, and it’s been a pleasure to be a part of. It’s a stepping stone tour in many ways, not only for Chance, but for myself and our team as well. Going from theaters to arenas in less than a year has been an adjustment. With hard work and dedication from Chance and all involved, we were able to pull something special off. I am grateful for this opportunity to work again with such a talented and dedicated team and artist.”

A three piece band and four vocalists back the artist. Photos and text by Steve Jennings.

Chance the Rapper “Be Encouraged” Tour

Crew

  • Production Designer/Creative Director: Michael Apostolos
  • Show Director: Chancelor “Chance” Bennett
  • Lighting Designer/Director: Michael Apostolos
  • Associate Lighting Designer: Scott Sheffield
  • Associate Lighting Director: Elliott Little
  • Lighting Programmer: Elliott Little
  • Lighting Co: Solotech
  • Solotech Rep: Lee Moro
  • Lighting Crew Chief: Eric Belanger
  • Lighting Techs: Gabriel Foucault-Lemieux, Bryson Williams, Xavier Pugnet, Dennis Ayotte, Steven Schwenke
  • Video Content: OJ Hays, 4U2C, Bob Zegler
  • Video Director: Lindsey Haney
  • Video Co: Solotech
  • Video Crew: Jose “David” Cruz, Max Gabriel, Tony Doucet, Steve Tomanek
  • Media Server Programmer: Bob Zegler
  • Tour Manager: Kevin Puig
  • Assistant Tour Manager: Aaron Sweatt
  • Production Manager: Jeff Kicklighter
  • Production Assistant: Marisa Mallary
  • Stage Manager: Vid Sutherland
  • Stage Tech: Kenny Stahl
  • FX/Pyro: Strictly FX/Ted Maccabee
  • FX/Pyro Crew Chief: Reid Nofsinger
  • FX/Pyro Crew: David Serrano, Patrick Wetli, Alex Velarde
  • Staging/Automation: SGPS ShowRig/Eric Pearce
  • Staging /Automation Crew Chief: John Lunio
  • Automation Tech: Nicholas Snyder
  • Carpenter: Jordan Matson
  • Riggers: Jamie Rowell, James Vaughan, Craig Powell
  • Trucking: Ozark Mountain/Denise Henry

 

The deisgn framed the curved wall with light boxes utilizing Color Blast 12s. Photos and text by Steve Jennings.


Gear

Lighting:

  • 2               grandMA 2 Full consoles
  • 66            Claypaky Sharpys
  • 30            Robe BMFL Spots
  • 3               Robe BMFL WashBeams
  • 18            Vari-Lite VL4000 Spots
  • 52            TMB Solaris Flares
  • 56            Robe 1200 LEDWash fixtures
  • 2               MDG TheOne hazers


Robe 1200 wash fixtures gave the designer effects to augment his show. Photos and text by Steve Jennings.

Video:

  • 1               Saco Video Wall (48’ x 27’)l
  • 2               d3 4x4 Pro media servers
  • 3               Grass Valley LDX 86 cameras
  • 1               99X Lens
  • 2               18X Handheld Lenses
  • 2               Marshall POV Cams
  • 2               Panasonic robo cams
  • 1               Ross Carbonite video switchers
  • 4               20K Christie Roadster projectors

 Solaris Flares bathe the arena in light. Photos and text by Steve Jennings.

More Chance the Rapper "Be Encouraged"  2017 tour photos by Steve Jennings: