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Khalid ‘Free Spirit’ World Tour

Steve Jennings (Photos and Text) • Designer InsightsSeptember 2019 • September 9, 2019

KHALID © Steve Jennings

Singer-Songwriter Khalid (Khalid Donnel Robinson), whose 2016 debut single, “Location,” has reached quadruple platinum status, is out touring arenas in support of his second studio album, Free Spirit, released in April. The design team behind the tour are Baz Halpin (show director and co-show designer) and Alex Reardon (co-show designer and lighting designer), both from Silent House Productions, a full service production and design company, whose credits include Bruno Mars, Taylor Swift, Gwen Stefani and Beyoncé, to name a few. Lighting direction and tour programming is done by Jonathan Camarillo on this tour, a 63-show journey through North America, Europe and Australia/New Zealand from May 18-Dec. 5, 2019.

KHALID © Steve Jennings

Baz Halpin

Show Director & Co-Show Designer

Khalid’s team came to Silent House looking for a show that was a statement piece in itself, but also functional in terms of connecting Khalid with the audience. The usage of I-Mag was essential to both Khalid and his manager, Courtney Stewart. “Khalid is an authentic and emotive artist who maintains a visual connection with the audience,” says Baz Halpin. That feature became essential throughout the show. “Khalid is vibrant, young and energetic; so we made sure to add a large amount of I-Mag integration without it ever feeling solely functional.”

The stage design stayed intact from the first idea Halpin drew on the glass of Alex’s office. “During the early stages of the drawing process, Alex and I grabbed our paint pens and began to sketch an LED floor, rear wall and ceiling. Then we added a taper to the roof and floor to create a sense of perspective. At Silent House, we always try to align ourselves to our core belief that there are three fundamental principles to the success of a show’s design; aesthetics, logistics and finance. We work very closely with the production manager to achieve those goals.”

KHALID © Steve Jennings

Halpin notes that “the open space design just felt like the right fit for Khalid,” describing how it felt natural to follow that path with the initial design concept. “For the LED stage, it was essential to submerge Khalid within the digital content as well as the times that his countenance reflected in various ways through the Notch integration. To do that, we had a specific number of LED tiles, and the resolution was critical. The LED stage, where Khalid performs is about 22 feet wide (upstage) and 50 feet wide (downstage). The production includes a disguise GX2c and two GX2s, along with Notch. The entire show is video content and Notch heavy. I-Mag on the main stage displays different ways across all the LED surfaces.”

The lighting design goes hand-in-hand with the video elements of the production. The truss configuration frames the LED screens and showcases its shape. There are no lighting trusses that block the LED screens and the LED floor. “The goal was to light all the performers on the stage from the side,” notes Halpin. “Our result is that the LED stage sits at the center of the stage and dominates the visual, with no other elements taking away from it. Working with the programming team was fantastic. We found ways to use the mapping through LED lighting fixtures along with the Notch side of things that were unique to the design of this production. Finding new ways to create a musical dynamic in the lighting and screen content was a lot of fun.”

KHALID © Steve Jennings

Alex Reardon

Co-Show Designer & Lighting Designer

When looking at all the visual material supporting the Free Spirit album, it became clear very early on for Alex Reardon that this artist takes great interest in color and form. “The architecture of the design is deliberately simple,” Reardon says. “It sits strong and composed, allowing what we then do with it to create the dynamic. Khalid’s interest in visual artists, and light artists specifically, gave us a template to really make color musical. At the advent of the first media servers (some 20 years ago), I’ve been programming servers as light fixtures (i.e., manipulating the parameters as I would a moving light). Fast forward to this tour, and I was very fortunate to have Dan Norman programming the grandMA, Manny Conde programming the disguise servers and Rowan Glenn programming the Notch effects. They are all remarkably talented individuals who, collectively understood what I was talking about when programming servers as lights, and the results are, to quote Khalid’s manager, ‘epic.’”

KHALID © Steve Jennings

This was Reardon’s first time working with lighting director Jonathan Camarillo, who he says came into the experience with exactly the right mindset (“learn-learn-learn”). “It’s always refreshing to work with up-and-coming lighting directors who have an innate curiosity and an ability to learn. As a side note; it’s also somewhat bizarre being in the presence of the next generation, as I still think of myself as ‘young.’ Oh well, it seems I’m not.”

With so many fixture choices, Reardon says they really are spoiled to see so many excellent products coming from so many wonderful manufacturers. “The MagicBlades by now pretty much need no introduction. Ayrton have always been such innovators and these bright, reliable, flexible workhorses are always really useful. The GLP X4 Bar 20s work so well with the Ayrton products. They’re different enough to have their own application but work seamlessly together. The BMFL WashBeam is an absolutely fantastic product. It’s bright, quick, reliable, full of interesting and useful functions — I absolutely love them. The Solaris Flare Q+LR is a fixture that I wish more vendors had. There are lots of linear LED battens out there, but none of the competition quite have the flexibility of the Q+LR. If there happened to be a couple of shorter ones (so we could fit them in to defined architectural space more often), that would not be a bad thing — hint hint, Colin Waters…”

KHALID © Steve Jennings

Reardon and Halpin were brainstorming over ideas at the office one day, and Halpin asked fellow Silent House partner and production designer Tamlyn Wright her thoughts. She thought for a moment, then started smiling and told us to check out the string curtain. “It’s one of the fun things for us at Silent House, and a benefit to our clients, that we can throw multiple experienced design heads at projects. In essence, it gave us a similar look to a “blow through,” or gauze, but Khalid can walk through it. It also has great fidelity of color and definition, even though so much light is passing through it.” It worked out really well, says Reardon, noting that Khalid said enthusiastically that “it looked like an art installation.”

The string curtain was connected to a wraparound traveler track so it could be used side stage as well as downstage at times. It was illuminated by Barco projectors at FOH and hidden under the risers. Four FOH spots provided front light on the artist.

With the creative and lighting design put to the test through a 36-show journey across the U.S. and Canada from May 18 through August 17, Khalid and the crew headed across the Atlantic for more than 20 additional shows in Europe from Sept. 8-Oct. 9, 2019. After that, the tour heads Down Under for another six concerts in Australia and New Zealand in late November and early December.

KHALID © Steve Jennings

Khalid Free Spirit World Tour

Crew

  • Show Director & Co-Show Designer: Baz Halpin (Silent House)
  • Co-Show Designer & Lighting Designer: Alex Reardon (Silent House)
  • Lighting Programmer: Dan Norman
  • Lighting Director & Tour Programming: Jonathan Camarillo
  • Lighting Co: Solotech
  • Lighting Crew Chief: Martin Laurendeau
  • Lighting Techs: Mathieu Blais, Shane Soper, Simon Stabenau
  • Video Director: Tyler Chappel
  • Video Programmer: Manny Conde
  • Video Co: Screenworks
  • Video Crew Chief: Austin Smith
  • Video Techs: Rick Popham, Eric Simnacher, Michael Roberts,
  • Tyler Fields
  • Notch Programmer: Rowan Glenn
  • Tour Manager: Jessica Franks
  • Production Manager & FOH Engineer: CJ Blair
  • Production Coordinator: Brishon Neu
  • disguise Tech: Asad Yousof
  • Projectionist: Mark Adams
  • Video Servers: Control Freak Systems
  • Stage Manager: Joshua Gelfond
  • Staging Co: All Access Staging
  • Riggers: Chris Sabosky (Head), Nicholas Sabosky
  • Carpenter: Marcus Guzman
  • Staging: George Stipanovich
  • Trucking: Truck’N Roll

KHALID © Steve Jennings

Gear

  • 2       grandMA2 Full consoles
  • 1       grandMA2 Light console
  • 4       grandMA2 NPUs
  • 80     Robe BMFL WashBeams
  • 75     Ayrton MagicBlade R’s
  • 45     TMB Solaris Flares
  • 75     TMB Solaris Flare LR’s
  • 10     GLP Impression X4 Bar 20’s
  • 2       GLP Impression X4 Bar 10’s
  • 4       GLP Impression X4’s
  • 5       ELC Nodes
  • 3       Brainstorm Timecode Distripalyzers
  • 2       MDG The One Hazers
  • 2       DF-50 hazers
  • 199  ROE CB5 LED Tiles
  • 472  Yes Tech X5-C Floor
  • 1       Ross Vision Video Switcher
  • 2       Barco HDX 20k projectors
  • 4       Barco HDF 30k projectors
  • 4       NovaStar MCTRL4K units
  • 3       disguise GX2 media servers

KHALID © Steve Jennings

 

More Khalid Free Spirit World Tour photos by Steve Jennings:

 

 

 

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