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Madonna ‘Rebel Heart’ Tour

PLSN Staff • Wide Focus • November 16, 2015

Madonna kicked off her Rebel Heart tour in Montreal Sept. 9 to huge accolades as, once again, she presented her fans with an over-the-top concert production. Starting off her tenth world tour with a video montage and a stage full of sword-wielding dancers reminiscent of the Game of Thrones cast, the artist descended from the heavens in a pointed cage while the song “Iconic,” from her latest album, got the show started with a solid beat.

Over the Top

The show was a solid, two-hour, larger-than-life spectacle complete with outrageous costumes and choreographed moves involving the scenery as well as the dancers. While the artist certainly played many of her new tunes, she pulled plenty of songs from her repertoire. But as is her custom, the arrangements were often reworked mixes of the originals. “Like a Virgin” had more of an EDM synth beat going on. She worked several of her old hits like “Into the Groove” and “Lucky Star” into a Latin-infused dance number. Of course, the visuals of nuns on stripper poles and guys in top hats wobbling around the stage on stilts made sure the music was accompanied with plenty of spectacle.

Once again, the artist brought along Jamie King to choreograph and direct the flow of the show. The gang over at Stufish Entertainment Architects, with Tait Towers providing the staging elements, tackled the production design. Lighting designer Al Gurdon returned to the helm again for this tour. PRG was the vendor in charge of the lighting and video. Veteran director Bert Paré Jr. is behind the switcher and directing the video.

Upstage of the wide stage were three high-res video walls made up of PRG’s VR-7 7mm product. They are angled slightly to avoid looking like a giant flat-screen TV and give the side attendees a better viewing angle. The stage had various props built into it, with staired risers for the band and dancers to work on. More video elements were placed in front of catwalks and lifts used during the performance, at one point making a slide out of a video wall. A Hippotizer V3 media server was used for content playback and operated by PRG Nocturne’s Will Stinson, and five cameras were manned for this show.

The lighting rig was organized into specific blocks of fixtures. Upstage of the video wall was a truss with lighting fixtures such as the PRG Best Boy, but most notable was the new PRG GroundControl followspots that debuted on this tour. The company placed several of their Bad Boy spot luminaires (each boasting 48,000 lumen outputs) on the truss and fitted them with high-def cameras. Backstage sat the spot operators, seemingly oblivious to the physical stage itself. Sitting in a comfy chair, these operators could look through the lens of the camera and aim their pseudo spotlight device at their monitor (from the camera feed) and target the performer as if playing a video game. The lights pan and tilted via the operators, but lighting director Joshua Hutchings controlled their color, beams and shutters at the console.

A GroundControl Update

“We started out the tour with our four truss spots using the PRG Bad Boy followspots in traditional spot chairs,” says Hutchings. “Once the GroundControl spots were ready to be deployed, we swapped them out, and we have really enjoyed having them. The advantages are really great, they’re much safer not having our operators working at heights, very accurate, controlled from my console and at the location, much less weight on the roof, the list goes on…I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited about followspot technology. The PRG team has done a really great job, and I can’t wait to see where it develops from here.”

There are four straight trusses running up and down stage, containing a line of Clay Paky Mythos fixtures. More Mythos are located upstage, sharing pods with groups of Clay Paky Stormy Strobes (colored models). “The Clay Paky Mythos and the PRG Best Boys are the real work horses on this show,” Hutchings notes. Adding to the overall look are four more large square pods that each contain 16 Ayrton MagicPanel-R fixtures. These pods fly in and out on hoists, and the fixtures run through their pixel-mapped paces as well.

A long thrust, extending far into the audience before tee-ing off to the sides, makes for plenty of dance space for the performers. The entire thrust and stage appear to be lined with GLP X4 Bar 10 and X4 Bar 20 battens. Another 39 of GLP’s X4 pancake-type fixtures were used on the stage, as were Sharpy washes.

This was Gurdon’s second go-round with this artist, having designed the MDNA tour last time. Gurdon is the owner and creative director at Incandescent Design, with a production team that covers both live and television events internationally. He brought in programmer Mike “Oz” Owen to do the programming while they rehearsed at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island.

The show is programmed on the PRG 676 lighting desk, which replaced their Virtuoso some years ago. “I love the 676; I was quite happy when I found out that Oz was going to be programming the show with it,” Hutchings says. “My background is primarily in television, and having used the 676 on many seasons of American Idol, America’s Got Talent and X Factor, I was glad to use it yet again. It’s a really fast and easy console to program.

“The bulk of the show is time-coded, allowing for the show to be cued as tightly as the choreography,” Hutchings continues. “Then there are sections of the show that allow Madonna to be more fluid and not be constrained by having to follow the rigidity of the timecode. This is the part of the show where Madonna has a library of songs that she will throw in, based on how she is feeling about the audience. It also gives her some time to connect with the audience. This is where I really have to follow the bouncing ball, as she can pretty much go anywhere with no advance notice. It keeps everyone on their toes.”

The Rebel Heart tour finished its North American leg Oct. 29 in San Diego. The European leg runs from Nov. 4 (Cologne, Germany) to Dec. 7 (Glasgow, Scotland). It then visits Mexico City, Puerto Rico and more U.S. venues in January before crossing the Pacific for a run through the Far East, Australia and New Zealand from Feb. 4 to March 27, 2016.

Crew

Lighting Designer: Al Gurdon

Lighting Director: Joshua Hutchings

Production/Show Designer: Stufish (Ric Lipson)

Lighting Programmer: Mike “Oz” Owen

Lighting Co: PRG/Mickey Curbishley, Eamonn McCullagh

Lighting Crew Chief: Oli James

Lighting Techs: Simon Garwood, James Jones III, Craig MacDonald, Alex Peters, Dave Prior, Mark Pritchard, Tim Probert, Mike Rothwell

PRG Interns: Katherine Putnam, Harry O’Neil, Patrick Warrington

Show Director: Jamie King

Video Director: Bert Paré Jr.

Video Co: PRG Nocturne/Bob Brigham, Todd LePere

Video Crew: Gene McAuliffe (engineer), Will Stinson (server operator), Adam Dragosin (crew chief), Scott Grund (LED/cameras), Josh Phebus (camera manager), Romon Pastrana (projectionist/cameras), Mike Johnson, Redo Jackson, Kandy Sepulveda

Production Manager: Jason Danter

Tour Manager: Tres Thomas

Production Coordinator: Zeb Minto

Sets: Stufish Entertainment Architects

Staging Co: Tait Towers/Brian Levine

Stage Managers: Mike Morobitto (Theatrical) Brian Wares, Todd Green

Automation: Robin Henry, Sean Mullarkey

Head Carpenter: Noam Sigal

Props: Erin O’Brien

Riggers: Bill Rengstl, Lenyn Barahona, Alex Bolduc

Trucking Co: Upstaging

Gear

2          PRG 676 Lighting consoles

129     Clay Paky Mythos fixtures

44       PRG Best Boy HPs

39       GLP impression X4s

38       GLP Impression X4 Bar 10s

94       GLP Impression X4 Bar 20s

10       Vari*Lite VL1000 AS fixtures

14       Clay Paky Sharpy Wash fixtures

90       Clay Paky Stormy Strobes

64       Ayrton MagicPanel-R fixtures

6          Solaris Flares

4          PRG GroundControl remote followspot systems

2          PRG Bad Boy HP followspots

4          DF-50 hazers

3          VR-7 7mm LED walls (68’ x 24’ total)

1          PRG Nocturne/Saco video processing system

4          I-Mag screens lit by Barco HD20K projectors (24’ x 13’)

2          Hippotizer V3 media servers w/ Green Hippo Zookeeper software

More tour photos by Steve Jennings at http://plsn.me/PLSN-2015-Madonna

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