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Robbie Williams “Live in Las Vegas”

Steve Jennings (Photos and Text) • August 2019Rockin' the Residency • August 9, 2019

ROBBIE WILLIAMS © Steve Jennings

Robbie Williams’ Live In Las Vegas residency, which kicked off at the Encore Theatre within the Wynn/Encore resort complex in Las Vegas in March, is a perfect match, giving this English singer-songwriter with seven U.K. number 1 singles a chance to perform a Vegas-styled and encore-worthy show to American audiences (although a number of the seats were undoubtedly filled by Brits on holiday). Lighting Williams’ sold-out run was production designer, lighting director and programmer Seán Burke.

ROBBIE WILLIAMS © Steve Jennings

Seán Burke

Production Designer, Lighting Director and Programmer

This is not Seán Burke’s first experience working with Robbie Williams. Many years ago, Burke worked as a lighting tech for Williams. It was around 1998, and Williams was just starting his solo career after gaining notice for his role in U.K. band Take That. Burke later designed a show for him in 2001 at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark. “When Omar (Abderrahman, Williams’ production manager) asked me if I was interested in doing this Vegas run, I of course said ‘yes.’ It has been as much an ambition of mine to design a show for Robbie as it is an ambition of his to do a Vegas show.”

Burke is currently on a Full Boar 4, having been a Hog user for a long time. The lighting for this show does not run on time code. Burke says he seldom uses it. “It has its place, but for this show, it’s not appropriate. We run video on code for some of the show, but some triggers come from the lighting console. Robbie ad-libs, [and] the band can free form a lot and don’t stick to code on certain songs, so some of the video has to be manually trigged. Robbie’s opening numbers are pretty high energy, and the lighting for those songs reflect that. It’s all pretty intense, with lots of punctuation on the music. It’s a lot of fun to run as a lighting director.”

This was the first time Burke got to work with show director Barry Lather. They had come close to working together in the past, but it didn’t happen until now. Barry is a pretty full-on sort of guy, says Burke. “He is a lot of fun to be around and is really focused on the show, the music and the artist. He is one of those directors who just gets it. He knows how to get the best from the artist. The design process was a lot of fun, as we both seemed to agree on a lot of things and could visualize the finished show. Overall, it was a great experience collaborating with Barry. The time scale for rehearsals was extremely tight. We used a mock-up set for the dancers and the band to rehearse on. The entire show was pre-vized for lighting. We had so little time in the theater that it all had to be done blind. I have done this on many shows now and don’t fear it anymore, it’s a great tool. We had three days to load in, rehearse and then do a show, all very tight. The crew did a great job in making that happen.”

One of the challenges of the set design were the two side ramps which curve around the band. Burke wanted a big telescope lift upstage for Robbie’s entrance and exits, and also for the dancers and props. With the available depth of the stage, this took a lot of calculations, plus the addition of steps and ramps to keep the side ramps from turning into ski slopes. The entire set is internally lit with RGBW LED tape. The surfaces of the ramps and steps are opaque Perspex, so the entire set glows with color. “We have a lot of large props in the show. ‘Go Go’ frames — edge lit open frames the dancers push about and dance inside, reminiscent of an Amsterdam Window… Big red dice the girls dance around — very Vegas — and giant martini glasses the dancers frolic about in. These are all great fun and add a lot visually to the show. The props are DMX wireless controlled.

“I love lasers, and so does Barry,” Burke continues. “They are a great dynamic light source, and when they are programmed well, they add a whole new aspect to a concert. From the beginning, Barry and I identified a bunch of songs where we wanted to use them. The song, “Feel,” was always positioned as ‘the laser song’ for us in the set list. A great song, and I had a good idea of how I saw that working.

“Lawrence Wright from ER Productions and I are old friends. We have done many shows together. Having Lawrence on board for programming was great. We know how each other work, and I have learned over the years how to give the lasers the dark space they need to truly shine. Shane Davis took over from Lawrence on the show operation. He had big shoes to fill, but he does it well… he is a great addition to the team at ER Productions.”

The pyro element of the show was actually one of the difficult parts. With the stage being so shallow, crew members had to push the flame projectors and effects off stage and upstage for audience safety. “We also use LSG [low smoke generator effects] for a couple of songs, and these work very well in the confined space; they add to the design. One fun effect is the handheld streamer cannons the dancers use for ‘Swings Both Ways’ — they have an amazing throw, given their small physical size.” Volt Live, with 11 separate North American offices, including Las Vegas, looked after all the pyro, streamers and smoke effects.

The original brief from production was to incorporate the Wynn house lighting system into the design to keep an eye on cost. Dale Hurt and Ben Clarke of the Wynn were really helpful in working with Burke. After speaking with “Marko” (Mark Stewart) at Christie Lites, Burke knew they were heavily vested in Martin gear, which worked out well. “I like the Vipers, compact and lightweight. The GLP X4 Bar 20 is great doing multiple tasks, all with ease. The vertical lighting frames between the video walls were made and hung so as to represent the width of two video tiles (60cm wide each). The battens fitted perfectly for this, nice eye candy and a serious back light for the band, coupled with its ability to move fast and have different beam angles. The Wynn own Impression X4 S units I used to light dancers, ramps and do aerial looks. The Martin Axiom is the lighting star of this show. It’s my first time using them, and I love them.”

ROBBIE WILLIAMS © Steve Jennings

Robbie Williams Live in Las Vegas

Encore Theatre, Encore/Wynn Resorts

Crew

  • Show Director/Co-Set Designer: Barry Lather (B-Rock Inc.)
  • Assistant to Show Director: Bryan Anthony
  • Production Designer, Lighting Director & Programmer: Seán Burke (Holes In The Dark)
  • Lighting Co: Christie Lites, Las Vegas
  • Christie Lites Reps: Mark “Marko” Stewart, Jeff Johnson
  • Lighting Crew Chief: Matt Bakken
  • Lighting Tech: Kyle Rees
  • The Wynn Chief Lighting: Ben Clarke
  • Production Managers: Omar Abderrahman, Scott Christensen
  • Production Assistants: Paiton Zilio, Lauren Abderrahman
  • The Wynn Production: Dale Hurt
  • Stage Manager: Chris Malta
  • Video Co: Colonel Tom Touring/Van Jarvis
  • Video Techs: Eoin McMahon, Scott Coraci (Video Racks Engineer)
  • Media Server Programmer: Zach Peletz
  • Cameras: Patrick Gibbs (Director), John Pilosi, Kevin Ross
  • Video Content: Neil Harris, We Are Shop
  • Stage Set & Automation: SGPS
  • SGPS Reps: Justin Summers, Eric Pearce, Justin Lamka
  • Rigging Co: Rigging Technologies
  • Riggers: Peter Cagle, Eoin McMahon, Rick Wilmot
  • Automation Operator: Jeremy Wetter
  • Pyro/Effects: Volt Live/Dennis Brady
  • Pyro/Effects Operator: Mike Sholes
  • Laser Co: ER Productions
  • Laser Programmer: Lawrence Wright
  • Laser Operator: Shane Davis
  • Stage Carpenter: Joe Rogers
  • Master Electrician: Ben Clark (The Wynn)
  • Technician: Scott Hynge (The Wynn)
  • Soft Goods: Sew What?/Shane Nelson

ROBBIE WILLIAMS © Steve Jennings

Gear

Lighting:

  • 2       Full Boar 4 consoles
  • 54     Martin MAC Axiom Hybrids
  • 24     Martin MAC Viper Profiles
  • 4       Martin MAC Viper Performances
  • 55     Martin MAC 2000 Washes
  • 10     Martin MAC 2000 Performances
  • 6       Martin Rush MH109 Fx fixtures
  • 6       Martin Atomic 3000 LED strobes
  • 24     GLP impression X4 Bar 20’s
  • 24     GLP impression X4S fixtures
  • 6       GLP impression X4 fixtures
  • 18     ETC Source Four (19°)
  • 7       Vari-Lite VL3000 Spots

Video:

  • 3       LED Screens (ROE CB 5 Black SMD 3:1; 48 x 600mm tiles)
  • 2       Brompton M2 processors
  • 1       Barco Image Pro II HD unit
  • 1       Barco HDX 20K projector

 

More 2019 Robbie Williams “Live in Las Vegas” show photos by Steve Jennings:

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