Parnelli Awards Voting is Now Open – CLICK HERE to Vote!
x

Massive Attack Mezzanine XXI Tour

Steve Jennings (Photos and Text) • October 2019Wide Focus • October 11, 2019

GLP X4 Bar 20 fixtures line the rear. Massive Attack 2019 tour photo by Steve Jennings

Massive Attack, the Bristol, U.K.-based band consisting of Robert “3D” Del Naja and Grant “Daddy G” Marshall, are touring this year on their much-anticipated Mezzanine XXI trek, marking 21 years since the 1998 release of the album of the same name. The act, known for its frequent collaborations with standout vocalists, performed at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium Sept. 7 with reggae vocalist Horace Andy and Cocteau Twins singer Liz Fraser, who hail, respectively, from Jamaica and Scotland. The tour, which had been postponed from March and April of this year to September, traveled across North America in a West-to-East arc during the month of September.

Massive Attack, which has won numerous awards over the years, once again teamed up with frequent and longtime visual collaborator Adam Curtis for the show’s artistic and thought-provoking visuals. Curtis and Robert Del Naja also once again worked with video director Icarus Wilson-Wright, who started out with the band in 2002 as their LED tech, on the video content. Complementing the screen visuals were the masterful lighting effects created by LD Paul Normandale and lighting programmer/director Hunter Frith.

Simple shadowplay is utilized. Massive Attack 2019 tour photo by Steve Jennings

Paul Normandale
Lighting Designer

Paul Normandale, lighting designer on the 2019 Massive Attack Mezzanine XXI tour, acknowledges that video plays a massive role in the overall look of the show, but he doesn’t see the lighting and video designs as elements that are in competition with each other.

“I find that the video element is a giant visual tool to interplay with the lights and vice versa… When talking about the design, Robert ‘3D’ is a multi-disciplined artist, and he has a total view of what he wants to achieve. I am merely there to help this vision.”

Normandale finds the GLP impression X4 Bar 20’s in the show to be a great fixture to really light the house up. “I like the versatility of its appearance as a linear LED, it has so much appeal. As you can see, we have a line of them across the back truss.”

Along with the lighting technologies at his disposal, provided by Upstaging, Normandale appreciates the capabilities of the other designers and crew.

“It was a great opportunity to be involved again with such a creative project,” Normandale says, noting that Hunter Frith and he “have worked together on a series of projects. He is a great programmer and director of the show, and is more than capable of maintaining and evolving the show’s direction within the context.

“Video content creators Adam Curtis and Rob del Naja put together some great footage,” Normandale adds. “The content is extraordinary. More than mere visuals, it’s thought-provoking, challenging and truly unique. Rehearsals were very much about how the visuals would present on the screens and interact with the lights.”

The show’s lighting and color spectrum was kept to a minimum at times for artistic effect. Massive Attack 2019 tour photo by Steve Jennings

Hunter Frith
Lighting Programmer/Lighting Director

Hunter Frith and Paul Normandale first worked together back in January of 2016, and it happened to be on a Massive Attack tour. They have since worked on many projects together.

“For this tour, I had four days in previz, just getting a show file together and putting song structure into the console. Then we were in rehearsals for essentially six days before the first show,” Frith says. “The video was still being worked on up till the first show. The lighting and video departments certainly work closely throughout the whole process.”

Although most of the video is on timecode, with some manual cueing from Icarus, Frith notes that most of the lighting is freeform, with some assistance from timecode. Part of the reason for that is the variety of venues on the tour’s itinerary.

“Every venue changes, and therefore the environment changes,” Frith notes. “Smoke levels vary, and the color of the walls change. You need to be able to ride levels. Timecode is a handy tool to help with certain elements that you can never learn. This is not a normal show. It is more of an art piece, a statement. So because of this it is very important that we deliver the same product every night.”

The show does have some colorful moments. Photo by Steve Jennings

Massive Attack has never had front lighting. In 2016, the lighting team started top lighting the performers on stage, and that was as close as they could get. But this year there is a downstage truss that gets used to actually do a little keylighting at times.

Even so, “it’s all about heavy back lighting and strobing,” Frith says. “We like the shadows. There is a lot of restraint, we only see certain fixtures for perhaps one minute for the whole show. Generally, the brief was to make it look broken — nothing pretty. We stick to the white color palette. Warm or cold. Similar to the original Mezzanine tour 21 years ago. This is more about the content and the message.”

Frith concludes with a note of appreciation for the opportunity to be working with Paul Normandale. “He’s so creative and always very relaxed — we get on very well.” Frith also credits the other crew members on the trek. “This tour has a great camp, and Upstaging have been brilliant with a lighting crew that’s very supportive and helpful. Nothing was ever a problem. Icarus and I work very well together, always have. We like discussing the process and bouncing ideas off each other all the time.”

The video setup included Glux and ROE Vanish 18 LED displays. Massive Attack 2019 tour photo by Steve Jennings

Icarus Wilson-Wright
Video Director

Icarus Wilson-Wright got his start with the group in 2002, back when he was the band’s LED tech. He worked alongside UVA (United Visual Artists), the previous show designers, between 2004 and 2016, and has worked with Rob Del Naja “3D” directly since then.

Wilson-Wright also notes that Ash Nehru, who developed the video software d3/disguise, had been challenged to come up with a technical design solution for this band’s imagery as part of the UVA team. “Originally, [d3/disguise] was part of UVA’s design solution for the band,” Wilson-Wright says. “We used it as a video ‘Swiss Army knife’ to make the shows interesting and unique. Obviously it’s mainstream now, but I remember it when it was a puppy… I was the tour operator and programmer using this software from 2007. Over the years, my role has got more interesting, and always involved new challenges as the band has evolved… I feel fortunate to have ended up working with this team.”

U.K.-based Universal Pixels is the video vendor. Other tours they’ve worked with include Roger Waters and Depeche Mode. Wilson-Wright had worked with Phil Mercer before he set up Universal Pixels, and so he already had a strong relationship there.

“I think this Massive Attack show could be seen as an art piece as well as a live performance,” Wilson-Wright says. “Most of my work for this on a day-to-day level is fitting the show into the different spaces we are playing and adjusting the content to suit the venues. I do have a few cues to hit and do some tweaking, but since there are no cameras, it’s reasonably straightforward.

For control, “I’m using two disguise gx2 video servers located backstage with a remote FOH operating system connected by fiber link,” Wilson-Wright says. “We have a GreenGo
comms system. It uses the fiber for VLAN with local PoE. I use the VLAN to run a disguise editor from my laptop, should I need one. It also gives me the opportunity to push and pull content from my operating position.”

The show’s video imagery appears on three upstage Glux 10mm pitch LED screens, Wilson-Wright notes. “We have two 4.8-by-6-meter ROE Vanish 18mm pitch LED screens offstage left and right that are controlled by Brompton processors.”

Wilson-Wright also relished the chance to work with the other visual designers on the tour looks. “I’ve wanted to work with Paul Normandale ever since I saw a show he designed for the Charlatans in Manchester,” he says. “He made the stage look and feel like a pinball table — very impressive. The band asked him to look after the lighting in 2016, and he has integrated seamlessly into the team. He has a very sympathetic touch and has pulled off some astonishing looks, given some of the restrictions the video places on him. The blow-through looks were very important to get right, given we have transparent LED walls.

“Hunter has done some great work as well, working the dark and light into every corner,” Wilson-Wright continues. “The track, ‘Mezzanine,’ is a masterpiece. The collaboration between the filmmaker/journalist Adam Curtis and Rob Del Naja has been the most interesting part of this project for me. We had to make the show subordinate to the narrative they wanted to present in the films. This has been a ‘less is more’ brief — but if you want your lighting team to get more out of less, Paul and Hunter were the perfect choice.”

Upstaging provide lighting for the tour. Photo by Steve Jennings

Massive Attack Mezzanine XXI North American Tour

Crew

  • Lighting Designer: Paul Normandale
  • Lighting Director & Programmer: Hunter Frith
  • Lighting Co: Upstaging
  • Lighting Crew Chief: Mike Green
  • Lighting Techs: Brendan Langord, Matthew Partch, Rauno Emil Vuorijarvi
  • Video Director: Icarus Wilson-Wright
  • Video Content Creators: Adam Curtis, Rob del Naja
  • Video Co: Universal Pixels
  • Video Crew Chief: Connor Canwell
  • Video Techs: Dylan Wilson-Wright, Peter Tilling
  • Tour Manager: David Lawrence
  • Production Manager: Chris Kansy
  • Production Assistant: Julie Cotton
  • Stage Manager: Eric Fox
  • Riggers: Hector Mimoso
  • Trucking Co: Upstaging

 

Gear

Lighting:

  • 1       grandMA3 Light console
  • 8       ProLights Arena COB4Halo fixtures
  • 18     Ayrton MagicPanel 602 fixtures
  • 42     GLP impression X4 Bar 20’s
  • 28     Solaris Flare RGBW fixtures
  • 22     Martin MAC Aura XB fixtures
  • 5       Super Nova Flower 2K fixtures
  • 13     Sodium High Bay fixtures
  • 6       Vari-Lite VL3500 Wash FX fixtures
  • 4       Atomic 3000 LED strobes
  • 4       DF50 hazers
  • 4       JEM ZR44 Hi-Mass units

 

Video:

  • 1       Glux CLM10 10mm LED screen (8m x 6m, upstage center)
  • 2       Glux 10mm LED screens (3.5m x 6m each, upstage L&R)
  • 2       ROE Visual Vanish 18 LED screens (4.8m x 6m each, downstage L&R)
  • 2       disguise gx2 media servers plus Brompton processors

 

More Massive Attack 2019 tour photos by Steve Jennings:

 

Leave a Comment:

The Latest News and Gear in Your Inbox - Sign Up Today!