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Lighting the End of the Tunnel for Six60 in New Zealand

Mike Wharton • Designer InsightsJune 2021 • June 10, 2021

Video content wrapped around the “mountain” fabricated by Angus Muir Design. Photo by Matt Clode

Ben Dalgleish and Human Person Inspire Hopes with Live Concert for Six60 and 50,000 Fans at Auckland’s Eden Park Stadium

“What’s up, New Zealand? We did it. We are finally here!” And with those words, Six60 lead singer Matiu Walters took the stage in late April in front of 50,000 fans packed into the country’s national stadium, Eden Park, located in central Auckland. The shout out was heard ‘round the world, as the concert was simultaneously a paid streamcast and played free on television to the surrounding Pacific islands, garnering over a million viewers in addition to the fans attending.

It was a long time coming. The 60,000-capacity sports stadium, first built in 1900, is nestled amongst a residential area where a small but powerful neighborhood association had imposed a local covenant of noise level restrictions that prevented any sort of musical event taking place. The idea for doing a show in Eden Park has been percolating in the band Six60’s mind for several years now, so much so that they participated in many of the official meetings taking place over the last three years as the debate raged. Aspects of why range from personal to professional. One of the band members grandfather played for the National Rugby team, The Blacks, while another grew up in the shadow of the stadium dreaming his dreams. The band as a whole wanted to be the first to stage a concert at the heretofore off limits venue for anything but sporting events.

Off limits, that is, until Six60 rocked the venue on April 24. The band had been touring the late summer months of early 2021 in New Zealand while awaiting the approval decision, which did not happen until a mere five weeks before doors. At that time, the full planning, site coordination, and infrastructure logistics were full on. Ben Dalgleish of Human Person was the designer and show director who brought the project to fruition once the approval was given. Six60 happened to be the first band he ever worked for when he started his career 12 years ago, with the first show he lit for the band being for 500 people on a cold Wednesday night in Wellington, New Zealand.

Among the guest performers for the Six60 set were a 60 person Kapa Haka group, a 30 person military band, 24 dancers for one song and another five-piece guest band. The large amount of extra people on stage all needed to be choreographed and planned out heavily with direction which fell under the auspices of Human Person.

“This would be a groundbreaking event,” Dalgleish states. “We knew it had to be spectacular. The band had been on tour all summer and we had the base of a show designed and working. Given the size of the Eden Park concert, we did a complete redesign for this with added automation both structurally and lighting wise, as well as all the changes to the show itself.”

The tour, which packed tens of thousands into large venues, created headlines around the world underscoring New Zealand’s ability to flatten the Covid curve.

‡‡         Lighting

The structure consisted of 11 automated lighting, moving truss, six finger truss, and five pods of fixtures. It was designed to be very dynamic, and every song had a changed look. Dalgleish had Robe Tarrantulas on the summer tour, deploying them throughout the rig. “It is such a strong and bright fixture; just a cannon of light, and I really enjoyed using them,” he says “For the Eden Park show, I tightly grouped them on the moving finger trusses which gave me instant architecture.”

A total of 75 Robe LEDBeam 100’s were mounted in the five pods (with 15 in each) to recreate that “wall of par can” look the band was after. On top of that, Human Person provided 24 mini winches with Astera Titan Tubes surrounded by custom façades that added to the constant motion theme of the production. “The whole idea was to have this ever-evolving lighting design,” says Dalgleish, which culminated in a show with 52 automated cues along with several moving cues throughout the songs. A massive floor package with more than 150 Claypaky Sharpys, strobes, and Robe BMFL Spots complemented the voluminous lighting rig above.

Robe Tarrantulas fill the automated pods.

Upstage of all this, Dalgleish deployed an “incredibly large” LED wall that spanned the entire performance area and then spilled outside of the overhead roof structure all the way to the side P.A. hangs. A mid-section was incorporated into the structure logistics that could be flown out separately for set changes. There were no side walls on the stage. Dalgleish and the band wanted a very open, shallow stage to allow the audience to get as close as possible to the band while also optimizing sightlines for the stadium-sized audience. One of the goals was for Dalgleish to give the band their expressed wish for a “rock club-like” feel in the midst of this phenomenally huge setting.

“One of the most interesting parts of working with this band is, they are five equal members, who each have very definite ideas on they want the show to look,” Dalgleish says. “It’s why I like working with this band so much. These guys all have dreams and visions they want to share with their audience. My role is one of working through their setlist and creating moments within each song that satisfy their visions. It’s a very exciting process, because the intention is to create a cohesive arc to their performance, not just string a bunch of hit songs together.”

Previz was done onsite, allowing for a more nimble response to onsite changes. Dalgleish and his programmer Jade Fraser started the first day of load-in and “pretty much worked ‘round the clock” for the week leading up to show day. Editor Ash Smith and animator Steve Hedges worked with them, redoing all the video content to match new setup and musical arrangements of the larger show. Most of the show was time-coded, but Dalgleish did operate six of the songs live.

At times, the lights went dark and pyro and video took over.

‡‡         Video

Human Person designed all the video content and brought a team of six animators to create 2D and 3D content. “Ian Valentine, my partner at Human Person, was the video designer and came up with some unique ways to incorporate I-Mag into the show in an artful way,” Dalgleish says. From Toronto, Dalgleish brought in legendary Notch designer Ryan Shephard. “We are very proud that, although the LED design was relatively simple with no automated video, we made a big effort to have a lot of I-Mag on the screen in a creative way using an element called UV Mapping, where we could put the I-Mag on different animated 3D objects so everything looked like it was all together rather than random scenes. Ryan did a fabulous job.”

To underscore the significance of this first concert event in the stadium’s 121-year history, pyro was an absolute must — and that turned out to be a first for the band as well. Dalgleish specified a wide range of different pyro effects to ensure that the cues would match each unique moment. There were 14 pyro positions spread out all over the stage and up on delay towers. “I made a very big effort to use them in unusually creative moments rather than just the chorus accents on the big songs. We had moments too when only pyro colored and illuminated the stage; all video and lighting were off.”

In addition to the massive amounts of smoke lingering in the air from the pyrotechnics, 14 fog and haze machines, including Look Solutions’ high powered Viper 2.6, were active throughout the night. This being autumn and a somewhat rainy week, weather presented its own challenges to the production. So much rain fell during load-in and rehearsal nights that they were never able to do a complete run-through before they went live.

Although there was not an audience lighting package per se, audience blinders and Robe BMFL Spots were present on stage and the delay towers. Dalgleish chose the Follow Me spotlight system utilizing additional BMFL’s. As director, he had full control of all functions. “With all five members needing equal key light, the tracking capabilities of the system allowed me the luxury of precisely controlling the overall environment on the stage.”

Another feature was a large LED mountain shape with content mapped around it from the LED wall. Fabricated by Angus Muir Design, it became the “theme” for the first chapter of the show. Then it was removed for the rest of the show, and three other different landscapes of content provided visuals for the duration of the performance. These came in the form of four LED columns, which did double duty to mask cable picks, stage legs and accentuating the clean stage presence.

All the video content was redone for the larger show.

‡‡         Spreading the Love

“We had amazing support from all of our vendors — cleaning out the warehouse of many of them with the sheer amount of equipment used. Spot-Light Systems was the lighting vendor, who did a great job dealing with such a large, new rig for a one-off.”

Big Picture NZ provided all of the LED and video gear for the production along with13 cameras, a jib, and Steadicam. “Wendy A’Bear did an incredible job of directing the live show, with Matt Clode and his team directing the stream that over a million people watched on the night around the world.”

Dalgleish also credited Leon Dalton, the band’s production manager, for his tireless efforts. Dalton and his team at Global Production Partners coordinated with the staging company, Stageset, and with Big Picture NZ to engineer custom rigging to ensure all elements of the show were safe. A massive amount of infrastructure had to go into the stadium as well to make it ready for a successful debut concert, with a big assist from promoter Eccles Entertainment.

Covid protocols, which were still very much mandatory all over the globe in April 2021, were practically a non-issue for this event. “We are incredibly lucky to be a small island nation which was largely unaffected,” Dalgleish says. “New Zealand has a really good contact tracing system,” he adds, noting that it works as part of “an app on our phones.” But even in the absence of Covid precautions, there were still plenty of challenges, starting with time constraints, involved in “bringing a new production in a full-fledged stadium environment together in such a short time.” That, however, was also “one of the most satisfying parts of doing this concert”, beams Dalgleish. “This time around, the real highlight has been to work with the band with my company, Human Person, and bring fresh eyes from my team into the fray. They are a remarkable group of people who always shoot for the best they can, and we achieved that with this show.”

Summer starts in January in New Zealand, which is when the touring season kicks off. Going into 2021 was bittersweet for Dalgleish. “We knew a lot of the world couldn’t tour. There was a sense of being so lucky to do this and wanting to do it justice. We at Human Person tried as hard as we could to bring people in from around the world overseas to work on our New Zealand shows. A big part of our efforts was to spread the love as much as we could.”

In trying to grasp just what has transpired at this moment in the history of the live event business, Dalgleish reflects that, “We all get that feeling when houselights go off and the show is about to happen. After going through lockdowns and isolation of the last year, the feeling has amplified immensely. We all used to know that the next show was around the corner, but in these times where it has been a long time between jobs it makes you appreciate that moment so much more.”

The first concert in Auckland’s Eden Park Stadium came in with a bang with pyro.

Six60 at Eden Park Stadium

April 24, 2021

Vendors

  • Lighting: Spot-Light Systems
  • Video: Big Picture NZ
  • Staging: Stageset
  • Special Effects: LiveFX
  • Lighting/Show Design: Negative Space, Human Person

Crew

  • Show Director/Production & Lighting Design: Ben Dalgleish
  • Visual Design & Creative: Ian Valentine
  • Notch Designer: Ryan Sheppard
  • Editor: Ash Smith
  • Automation Director: Steve Hedges
  • Media Server Operator: Evan Dilworth
  • Lighting Programmer: Jade Fraser
  • Video Director: Wendy A’Bear
  • Live Stream Director: Matt Clode
  • Animators: Ian Valentine, Ash Smith, Steve Hedges, Alex Ness, Lorenzo De Pascalis, Norma Toraya, Robert Wallace, Gabe Damast
  • Drone Videographer: Lee Gingold
  • Concept Art: Frances Waite
  • Scenic Fabrication: Angus Muir Design
  • Follow-Me Systems Tech: Jason Steel
  • Head Rigger: Raymond Hodge
  • Production Manager: Leon Dalton/Global Production Partners
  • Production Logistics: MJ van Lingen/Global Production Partners
  • Production Coordinator: Stacey Henderson
  • Stage Managers: Gavin Philpot, Ron Kessels
  • Playback Engineer: PBJ Playback, Jimmy McDonald
  • Tour Manager: Mike Frye
  • Promoter: Eccles Entertainment
  • Band Manager: John Riley
  • Lighting Crew: Scott Wickham, Tim Mason, Nat Turner, Brian Mahoney, Alex Oldham, Ben Cooper, Mike Bowerman, Nathaniel Gaudin, Brad Gledhill, Gavin Philpot
  • Video Crew: Luke Thomas, Alastair Harris, Nick Tauiliili, Justin Brown, Ian Andrews, Matthew Cooper, Kieran McGarrity, Joshua Beaven, Kelvin Cope, Tom Tyer Drake, Anthony Ireland, Reuben Simmonds, Paul Carppe

 

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