Completing their third UK arena tour with a pair of electrifying, sold-out shows at the 02 London, Irish band The Script solidified their position as the perfect pop-rock outfit. Fronted by Danny O’Donoghue, a former judge on TV’s The Voice UK, the trio performed an unstoppable blend of hits, with anthems pulled from their latest full-length release No Sound Without Silence. TPi reports from behind the scenes of the tour’s all-encompassing show design led by LD Jamie Thompson.
The Script’s current tour opened in Tokyo in January and arrived in Britain a month later led by Bob O’Brien, the band’s Production Manager since 2011 who was asked on board by the band’s Tour Manager, Ian ‘Quinner’ Quinn. “I’ve known him years but we hadn’t toured together in quite a while when he called to ask if I’d step in. I loved it straight away - the whole setup with The Script,” he said. “It’s definitely like a family, so it’s a very nice tour to look after.”
There were a lot of suppliers already in place when O’Brien got to the band’s camp, something which he didn’t feel the need to change: “It’s all about the band, not about my existing relationships with companies. If the band has a good relationship going on then I have no reason to change that. All of our suppliers are doing an amazing job,” he added.
For audio Adlib take the reigns, while PRG Lighting and PRG Nocturne handle visuals alongside a laser show from BPM SFX. LS-Live is the staging company of choice for the third time in three arena tours, Stardes supplied trucking and Coach Services has supplied the tour buses. The Tour Company handle travel booking needs,Horizon Entertainment Cargo are responsible for freighting duties and Snakatak are feeding the crew.
The tour has been a pretty smooth run for O’Brien and his team, starting out with the service they received at rehearsal stage from LH2 Studios. “LH2 were absolutely fantastic, they were perfect actually. They look after us really well and the facilities are second to none. They’ve really got it right,” he said. This tour has had a re-vamp in terms of what The Script’s shows offer on both a visual and interactive level. For example, this is the first time the band has encorporated a B Stage into their production. “They wanted to lend a more intimate feel to the performance and get in amongst the audience, which is hard thing to do in an arena. I’d seen the new V-Thru product from PRG Nocturne out with Nine Inch Nails without knowing exactly what it was, so when we were looking at B Stage design options regarding video, it fit in really well with Jamie and band’s ideas.
“The result works on two levels; you have the band playing inside the sheer screen on the smaller stage but because it’s layered you can put content on it. Jamie does a really clever thing where he lights it from the top as well and there are lasers going on inside too, so you could say that the B Stage becomes a show in itself. PRG Nocturne’s package with the lighting and video and all their prep really suited our needs. Their V-Thru product was a major part of that.”
As far as moving the tour goes, O’Brien’s crew requires four tour buses - three for the crew and one for the band - and 11 trucks in order to get the tour on the road. There are 46 crew personnel and 15 drivers, plus the double drivers when needed. He continued: “You’ll find a lot of the crew on this particular run are all repeat crew who have been here for quite a while and I think that’s a good sign, when people come back and want to tour with you again!” In the production office, O’Brien is ably assisted by Production Coordinator Jane Woolfenden.
Out front post sound check is Richy Nicholson, who like the rest of sound supplier Adlib Audio’s crew, is working with a smile on his face. “It’s a pretty slick production, isn’t it?” he asked, rhetorically, from behind his DiGiCo SD7 mixing console, a desk that was widely recommended to him. “Everyone was telling me how good the SD7 was and how fantastic it sounded but until you actually get onto something and get your own thing flowing, you can’t make that decision. Now I can say the SD7 is great; it’s got a duel-engine so it has redundancy built into it so, it got tonnes of faders, it’s easy to find your way around too and the thrill is that it sounds great, technologically it’s a step up from what I’ve used previously.”
“We’re pretty involved with DiGiCo as all our Adlib crew have been trained up for console servicing,” added System Tech Tony Szabo. “I actually went to DiGiCo for two days before the tour, basically ripping the console apart and pulling things in and out so I know how to really support Richy out here.” Talk about teamwork! There is also an SD11 on the road for triple protection. It’s all connected in the loop so should there be a major failure for any reason, Nicholson can still run the show from the smaller desk. “It’s pretty impressive for a console of that size,” he enthused. “It has 14 inputs and 14 outputs, but with it existing on this loop, it can pick up any number of inputs… it’s a powerful little thing,” added Szabo.
“Most of the magic is done inside the console, but I’ve got an XTA Electronics D2 and Empirical Labs Distressor chained together on each of the vocals, and I’ve also got a pair of Yamaha SPX2000 units for a few different effect cues in the show. The support I get from Tim Shaxson, Dan Page and Dave Bigg at DiGiCo has been excellent,” continued Nicholson.
For vocal needs, a Sennheiser 9235 dynamic head on a 2000 Series handheld is the toy of choice. Marc Peers, Crew Chief for Adlib Audio noted: “The band’s background is in production as they produce themselves in the studio. They keep us on our toes for sure! They know what they’re talking about and can tell us in clear, technical terms which is brilliant. Danny is very particular about his microphone.”
The 9235 is working out great as Nicholson furthered: “We’re two weeks into the tour and Danny has developed a habit of using his microphone as a drumstick at the end of the gig. You could say that’s not ideal but those Sennheisers take such a beating, they’re not just made for the road, they’re made for drumming, haha!”
The Sennheiser theme continues with the in-ear package which needed special attention due to the B Stage set up. Peers explained: “We’ve had to take a bit more care with the radio, transmission, research and reception this time. I’ve had a lot of advice from Mark Saunders at Sennheiser, who recommended that we upgrade. We’ve gone from G3’s to the 2000 Series. They have a higher power transmitter and to be fair, they’ve been absolutely flawless!”
In Monitor World, Paul ‘Mini’ Moore, is mixing on a Soundcraft Vi6, a desk he practically stumbled upon. “I actually fell into using this desk, we were doing a show in London where we couldn’t bring any production in and they had one of these consoles. I brought it into our rehearsal and immediately fell in love with it. I thought it sounded amazing so I did one show with this desk and the band actually noticed a difference - they were all asking me what it was. I think it’s fair to say I’m a bit of a Soundcraft boy now!” he said.
The band listens to a full range of mixes with various bits a little louder depending on the preference. Although Mini differs from the majority of the sound crew because he works directly for the band and not the sound provider, he’s full of praise for the company. “Adlib are brilliant; the crew are really on top of their game and the gear is great, very high quality.”
FOH Engineer Nicholson agreed: “Our guys have been outstanding. The gear has been packaged really well, allowing us to be super flexible when less than ideal situations have called for it!”
THE CONSISTENT PA
Adlib Audio has also has supplied an L-Acoustics K1 PA system for the tour, a decision that was met with approval. “Before we started this tour we did a few shows in South Africa and a show in Dubai, so we’ve been able to mix it up in terms of the PAs but it’s always nice to come back and get onto a K1 system, because it’s consistently good,” Nicholson continued. “I found that too,” agreed Szabo, who views the system as a home comfort. “When you come back to a K1 it’s like coming home to a warm bowl of soup in the middle of winter; it’s so soothing.’”
In the air, the main L-R hangs consist of 14 boxes of K1 and four KARAs while eight K1SBs are flown directly behind each of the main hangs. Side hangs L-R comprised 12 boxes of K2 and there was an additional upstage L-R hang of nine KARA cabinets. On the ground, Szabo has designed a (top secret!) arrangement of subs which included 19 SB28’s in total with a pair of KARA cabinets on brackets for centre fill and L-R stacks of four ARC2 cabinets for front fill. On the stage, 2B15’s and SB28’s were utilised.
Front end EQ and PA distribution is done with a mixture of Lake LM 44 and LM 26 processors at both FOH and on the stage, connected using Dante over Fibre. Everything from the microphone inputs to the mixers all the way to the output of the amplifiers themselves is running at 96k. “I actually only just found this out!” commented Nicholson. “I’m very impressed!”
“We’re trying out some new Lab.gruppen PLM 20,000K+ amplifiers this time around and they’re doing really well. I’m hoping that we’ll move to them soon if they continue like this. They’re very, very powerful not just in power but in the DSP involved is a lot more than I thought. They’re great utility amplifiers, the Swiss army knife of amplification,” Szabo added.
A LEADING LIGHTING DESIGN
PRG is helping Show and Lighting Designer Jamie Thompson along the way to another touring victory. Over the last 10 years, Thompson has been earning a formidable reputation with The Script and a number of other top acts including Bastille and Joss Stone. Just over two years ago, he co-founded the design partnership Mirrad with Bryan Leitch and Dave Cohen in a move to pool their experience and resources.
“As an individual designer, it’s very hard to push forward, so it made sense to team up, and benefit from each other’s knowledge. It’s an on going process for all of us,” Thompson said. “PRG has been very involved with Mirrad since we started and it’s been very helpful to tour alongside such a prestigious company. They worked really hard the last time we went out, on the #3 World Tour, and in the intervening two years we’ve gone to PRG for a number of our other tours with acts like Bastille, so it’s become a very strong relationship.”
A long-time fan of the Philips Vari-Lite range, Thompson’s lighting kit includes six VL3000 Washes and 10 VL100s on this tour. He also becomes very animated when discussing PRG’s proprietary fixtures. “I’ve found PRG’s lighting products to be very optically beautiful,” he commented. “On our last tour we used the Bad Boys as well as Best Boys which were then new. This time, I’ve chosen 27 Bad Boy Spots because the colour mixing and quality of the beam is just phenomenal - even better than a lot of the VLs out there at the moment.
When you have so much LED at the back, you need a good profile fixture that’s going to cut through it. I spent a lot of time playing around with them and looking at the effects, and I think they are very bright [48,000 lumens], punchy, robust fixtures. You can use a gobo from one end of an arena to the other and it still looks as crisp as it does at the source. For that alone, it’s a very beautiful light.”
Four of the Bad Boy Spots are deployed as on-stage truss spots, using the Bad Boy Followspot Controller. “This is a new idea for us,” explained Thompson. “Danny, the lead singer, hates front light and it’s been a bone of contention since we started with follow spots but it’s very difficult to not have front key light. On this tour, he made me promise to do our best to put in side spots.
“Meanwhile, PRG’s Scottie Sanderson told me that they’d developed a new method whereby the Bad Boy Spot could be supplied with a handle for a spot operator, and that was a very good move. It gives us a great source of light; it’s bright and I also have the advantage of controlling it from the desk. We also have 18 Best Boy Wash fixtures and they’ve been great for us, too.”
As well as Thompson’s own Avolites Sapphire Touch consoles, Clay Paky products feature heavily in his specification. “After initially choosing the Super Sharpy beam, we went with a huge amount of Mythos fixtures in the end because I think it’s more versatile,” he explained. “It’s a spot and a beam, and if anything I think the Super Sharpy is too bright. Clay Paky’s [A.LEDA] B-Eye LEDs have also been very useful. We have 68 of them and they add another layer that you can’t necessarily achieve with a spot or a wash.”
Thompson’s system runs with the aid of four Super Nodes, the powerful and convenient networking interface from PRG. “The Super Nodes are mainly used at front of house for a lot of the splitting out to the B Stage,” Thompson explained. “It’s great for checking on the status of the DMX and making sure everything is working correctly, so it’s been a very useful tool for us. My involvement with that side amounts to very little, however, it’s fortunate that Matt Morris, our dimmer technician, is an absolute genius when it comes to networking.”
Other lighting equipment provided by PRG includes eight Chauvet Professional Nexus 4x4 LED units, 10 Martin by Harman Atomic 3000 strobes, 11 Chromlech Jarag-L 5-cell PAR30’s, 24 Chromlech Jarag-5 25-cell PAR30s, 24 GLP impression 120rz LED bridge lights, 12 Thomas 8-Lite PAR36’s, two Strong Xenon Gladiator III front of house spots and four Reel EFX DF-50 haze machines.
In addition to dimmers / system tech Morris, the lighting crew included crew chief Aidan McCabe, moving Light Technicians Jonty Rivers and Stephen Bliss, and lighting technicians Tom Comrie and Neil Smith.
As a Video Director, Paul ‘Eggy’ Eggerton’s work has spanned a vast array of tours and events, with Oasis, Stereophonics, Biffy Clyro, Kasabian and Kylie Minogue among his many clients. A regular fixture of The Script’s tour entourage for the last four years, Eggy is currently directing the band’s show with the aid of PRG Nocturne’s high-definition Flypack - the product of an ongoing collaboration between PRG and Grass Valley, the leading producer of broadcast video equipment.
The second of its kind built so far this year, the new Flypack comprises some of the latest hardware from Grass Valley as well as Ross Video’s NK Series 64 by 64 3G Multiformat Video Router. PRG Nocturne is scheduled to produce 10 of the new HD Flypacks for video directors and engineers to use on the road.
“This is my third tour with The Script,” said Eggy, “and this time I’m using the Karrera K-Frame control desk from Grass Valley. The Flypack is a full-on, all-singing, all-dancing system that is packaged very well, and the Karrera is more than adequate for what is required of the production. You can do pretty much anything you want to do with it. There are whistles and bells but we’re not shaking or whistling! For this tour we’ve taken a very simplistic approach. It’s a very straightforward, no frills camera cut without any effects, keying or overlays.”
Also included in the Flypack system are five of Grass Valley’s LDX 80 Première cameras - two with Fujinon 99:1 long lenses, two with standard lenses and a fifth with a wide angle lens. “The LDX 80 is a very good, compact camera and I’ve been getting lovely, high quality pictures from them every night,” Eggy commented. The camera package also includes two fixed Panasonic cameras for POV content and a pair of Panasonic robocams for remote close-ups of the band.”
On and around The Script’s stage, video is a dominant force. The main screen behind the band comprises 480 tiles of the PRG Nocturne V18 LED modules and measures a commanding 14.3m wide by 6.72 metres high. Further displays come in the form of LED banners constructed from PRG Nocturne V28 modules of varied lengths. Three are positioned at stage left, three at stage right, one is downstage top, another is upstage and a further three banners are embedded in the actual stage itself.
At FOH, Jeff Brown is operating two Avolites Media Ai S8 media servers that run the video content designed by creative agencies Blinkin LAB, The Light Surgeons and TwoSevenTwo under Mirrad’s management. “This time, we outsourced a team of video artists to produce the kind of material we wanted instead of putting everything in the hands of another company,” said Thompson. “Ultimately, despite putting more stress on ourselves, it’s worked in our favour.”
Eggy is very complimentary of the behind the scenes support provided by Mark O’Herlihy. He told TPi: “Mark and I have worked with each other for quite a while now, and I always get good back-up. If ever there’s a problem, I call him and it’s always dealt with very smoothly.”
His video team mates include Crew Chief Kez Thornley, Video Engineer Nick Keiser, lead LED technician Stevie Marr, Camera Operator Dan Ormerod and John O’Brien and Jake Black who both have the twin roles of LED Tech and Camera Operator.
“Since I’ve been onboard with the band, PRG has serviced a wide range of concerts and one-off events for us, including their #3 World Tour two years ago.” said O’Brien, who previously toured with PRG when he served as Franz Ferdinand’s PM. “When Nocturne became PRG Nocturne, that sealed it for me. They were able to offer us a complete package and even if we were doing smaller dates, it became a project for them rather than another job or band. That’s what interested me.”
Apart from a one-off event for the iTunes Festival in London, this is the first time The Script has incorporated laser technology into their productions. For the laser display, O’Brien has entrusted BPM SFX with the responsibility with Laser Technician Nick Lloyd is heading up the operation. “I’ve got six lasers on the stage projecting laser effects both above the audience and onto the stage and 60 blue beam lasers along the back of the stage which creates a web of lasers over the top of the audience,” he told TPi. The lasers are used on several songs including Superheroes, the blue beams are used in Man On A Wire and the stage lasers are used again in No Good In Goodbye.
“BPM are very good at what they do. I’m a freelancer but I know that everything is taken care of properly, especially in terms of H&S. It’s very strict with lasers at the moment from both the venue and local council POV. That’s because unfortunately lasers can be pretty dangerous if used in the wrong hands. I’m here because of my experience and my knowledge of the products; I know exactly how to use them safely,” he added. An independent company called LVR - Laser Visuals Research - was assigned to sign off all the necessary H&S requirements for the tour.
Laser Animation manufacture the lasers in use. Lloyd has also specified a Pangolin Live PRO system to run the show. “It’s quite versatile and I can program very quickly which is always a bonus,” he added.
STAGING, AUTOMATION AND BEYOND
Halfway through the show, the band relocate to the centre of the arena to perform two numbers on a specially constructed B Stage directly above LD Thompson at FOH - a move encouraged by a wish to minimise the impact on audience numbers. The pinnacle B Stage was originally going to be eight ft tall but when staging provider LS-Live were looking at the application with the band - who wanted to put more instruments on it, including an upright piano, a drum set and amplification for the guitars - it grew to a 16 ft circularised top that was 10 ft in height. “Because of that decision, the access to the B Stage grew as well. This meant we also made some custom access treads and a landing stage half way up,” explained LS-Live’s MD, Mark Blount.
“It did turn into quite a roomy old B Stage in the end! It also gave the engineers underneath more room to work in as well.” The B Stage was positioned above the FOH pit, creating a roof for the tech out front. The stage is custom manufactured from H30V truss, it’s got four legs, a circular top and Litestructures LiteDeck decking on the top. “All of our staging is certified by an independent external structural engineering company,” added Blount.
On the main A Stage, LS-Live implemented further video elements into the main body of its standard rolling stage. PRG’s LED tiles enabled a mirror effect of the nerve-tingling graphics happening on the B Stage. The 56ft wide rolling stage also has two 18ft tech wings. Head Carpenter Ashley Groom, known as ‘Big Lad’ - if you ever meet him, you’ll understand why - explained: “Essentially we’ve got a 92ft wide stage, which is much larger than you would typically get on any arena gig, however when everybody has the same vision for the end goal, that’s when it all comes together.
“I’ve always had a really good working relationship with LS-Live too. It’s the sort of company where if you ring them up with a problem, a solution is sorted very swiftly. That’s exactly what you need when building a show like this.” The four-man carpentry department is completed by Ray Whelan, Phil ‘Spider’ Stewart and Josh Perry.
Surrounding the band on the B Stage is the aforementioned PRG Nocturne V-Thru modular LED display product. It offers an unprecedented 66% transparency and virtually limitless show design potential. Each panel is 4.5 ft tall and six ft wide. For The Script, V-Thru is constructed in the form of a nine-sided [nonagon] display, measuring around 18 ft tall with 12 PRG Best Boy 4000 Spot luminaires in place to highlight the band members.
The No Sound Wthout Silence tour is visual feast, with content featuring themes connected to the album artwork. The scientific depictions within seen on the sheer V-Thru serve as a poinient reminder that the band wants to feel connected to their fans, and this product not only allows it but encorporates the show design into to. To ensure the B Stage gag runs smoothly, a Kinesys K2 motion control system provides automation during this portion of the show, operator by Automation Technician Adrian ‘Paddy’ Neilly. He said: “There is no second fiddle with automation and the Kinesys K2 motion control system is amazing. It’s so user-friendly. Any tour can present it’s own challenges every day, but Kinesys take the challenges away.” Neilly is also running the Kinesys Vector software. PRG’s Sanderson explained the challenge of incorporating the Kinesys automation into the B Stage video design: “The main hurdle was keeping the neatness and aesthetic of the show, and managing to keep the cable runs out of eye shot.”
PM O’Brien discussed his choice of product: “After seeing a demo and realising that V-Thru is nearly 70% transparent, Jamie came up with the idea of having the V-Thru wrapped around the band. It’s been used very creatively in many formats although I believe this is the first time that V-Thru has been deployed in this way. It’s also very effective for I-Mag as another form of display. So we have the screen on the main stage, the side I-Mag screens, the whole main stage and, when it’s flown out to trim above the B Stage, there’s the V-Thru providing an extra dimension throughout the show. When the band saw it for the first time in soundcheck, they loved it.”
With touring show weights constantly on the increase, and many venue roofs not getting any stronger, for PM O’Brien to determine the actual weight of the rig, as opposed to relying on calculations, he turned to Load cell Rental’s Colin Luke. “With around 70 points on the proposed rigging plot, the production team turned to Load Cell Rental to provide the equipment from their stock of over 200 wired and wireless Load Cells. I started liaising with Bob in October 2014, and with a provisional booking ensuring availability of the cells for the rehearsal period, it was a matter of waiting for a final plot design to dictate the exact numbers required.”
Having weighed up their own requirements and after liaising with Load Cell Rental staff, the decision was made to use the Motion Labs Wired Load Cell System: “The system is simplicity itself, with a Load cell, an eight way Hub and an eight way display, with connecting cables, for long term installations or touring it is a bulletproof option” continued Luke.
In order to assist with a smooth first load in at rehearsals, O’Brien also decided to use the installation service offered by Load Cell rental. Luke explained the procedure: “We worked alongside every other department to install the cells in a timely manner and ensuring the system didn’t get in the way of the show cables. As soon as the motor was hanging we attached a Load Cell and then left the production team to attach the truss and all their own equipment, once they had finished with the truss we connected the cells to the hub on the truss and then one power data loom off the end of the truss with the show cables. Once the trusses got to trim we connected all the looms to a rack of displays and labeled the displays with the plot reference points, any changes made to the truss loadings could then be monitored to ensure safe working loads were maintained.”
The system was left in place throughout the rehearsal period and removed at the load out. O’Brien commented: “I wanted to ensure that I had done all I could to determine precise show weights, and Load Cell Rental provided a hassle free solution which enabled us to monitor the weights during rehearsals and hit the road on tour knowing we were working safely within limits.”
Load Cell Rental, now in its third year of trading is experiencing increasing demand for its services from dry hire of cells through to its weight report service. “I think the people who carry the burden for H&S compliance on their shoulders are starting to recognise the value of using Load Cells and in particular our weight report service which provides an independent report of the shows weights, compliance with the new CDM regulations is also having an impact this year,” he concluded.
Stephen ‘Knuddy’ Knudsen, Chef with Sheffield-based tour caterering service Snakatak is new to the The Script’s camp, but the company is a firm favourite with the crew. “I’ve not worked with the band before but the tour is lovely, it’s just got a really nice vibe to it,” he said. “We make quite a balanced and varied menu, making sure there’s something for everybody including any vegans or people with allergies. In terms of the day to day running of the tour, we sit down and plan a menu in advance and make sure that we take people around the world with all different cuisines from our cooking,” he explained.
O’Brien is himself an advocate: “Snakatak are something else… I can’t help myself, I must have put on a stone on in two weeks. My wife is coming out to see the tour in a couple of days and I think she’s going to have a word with the caterers! Snakatak have always been a home away from home and I know a lot of people say that about their catering companies, but for us they’re the number one choice.”
The sentiment hasn’t gone unnoticed for Knuddy: “I think the band and crew are great, they’re really nice guys and it’s been a pleasure to cook for them. What’s nice is that they’re very humble people who appreciate what we do - I can’t ask for any more than that. They always have time to speak to you and that’s the difference between this industry and a lot of others, whether you work in a restaurant or a hotel, you very rarely get the personal feedback that you get on tour. We’re a family and this is the family kitchen; the catering area is a neutral and calming zone - just the way we like it to be.”
Audio Crew Chief Marc Peers summed up the dynamic of the tour perfectly: “Everyone implicitly knows what their role is and they slip into it effortlessly, so it’s really easy to work on. We all know each other’s strengths and weaknesses inside out.”
“There has been a lot of work and thought put into this tour so that the band are happy and the audience is happy whatever is happening at the production end,” agreed O’Brien. “In a way it’s all about the band but without my crew it wouldn’t be possible. They’re a talented bunch. From our Stage Manager Sean Brady to our set builders - they’re the unsung heroes working behind the scenes who make it all come together. When you see big shows like this, it’s important to always remember the people back here.”
As 16,000 fans scream in delight from every which way imaginable, it would seem as though this tour isn’t going to be forgotten any time soon.