24 minute read

Take That


From conception to the road, Mark Cunningham uncovers the story behind Take That’s 30th anniversary Greatest Hits Live tour – a production that finally witnesses the birth of 3D concert video.

Even back in 1994, when I first documented a Take That show, there were hints of a vision far beyond that of your average chart-topping boy band. Fast-forward a quarter of a century and the group’s no-filler live set list of 25 songs perfectly encapsulates their glittering journey as an 11m revolving Odyssey Sphere dominates the stage. Covered with 2,750 LED panels emitting super rich content from Luke Halls Studio, this curious orb has introduced concert audiences to their first-ever truly threedimensional video experience, according to its designers.

Featuring Take That on tour as a trio (Gary Barlow, Mark Owen and Howard Donald) for the third time, Greatest Hits Live has seen Tour Director, Chris Vaughan and PM, Richard ‘Wez’ Wearing wrangle a formidable cast of vendors, including Brilliant Stages, Video Design, Skan PA, Neg Earth, Fly By Nite, Phoenix Bussing and Popcorn Catering.

WINDING BACK THE CLOCK The Greatest Hits Live story began in Stufish’s St. Pancras studio in London, a serene, Zen-like workplace that contrasts sharply with the noise and fury of the arena concert. Design ephemera from its history as the world’s leading firm of entertainment architects is randomly distributed around workstations – a miniature Pink Floyd dome here, a U2 claw there – and all under the watchful eye of its founding father, the late Mark Fisher, whose caricature smiles down from a wall.

Here, past glories nestle comfortably with victories of the present, not least Take That’s latest tour design – one that grabs the bawdy ’90s by the throat and drags it screaming into 2019. Stufish CEO Ray Winkler explained how he, TT’s Creative Director, Kim Gavin and Mark Owen came together on the project. He said: “Kim asked me what I’d like to do that hadn’t been

done before. That’s a very seductive way to start a dialogue because no pre-burdened ideas force us down a particular route. My sketched ideas were coming by the dozen but the band, specifically Mark, had other thoughts.”

Owen’s bold vision for the Sphere, based on a segmented tennis ball, formed the logo that first appeared on Take That’s greatest hits album, Odyssey, released last November, later to be brought to life for the tour. Winkler: “They’d been talking to their graphics team about the album logo and, in parallel, I experimented with slicing a 90° chunk out of an apple. We then explored how the orientation would impact on sight lines and by shifting the cutout 45° forward, we achieved the perfect appearance.

“Kim’s input at this stage was crucial because he took an abstract idea at one end and a very concrete structural proposition at the other, then marry them together as a springboard for evolving the show’s narrative with the three principals, the musicians, 16 dancers and all the props and costumes.”

A SPHERE IS BORN The physical creation of the Sphere was handled by Brilliant Stages, a frequent Take That supplier, at its Production Park premises in Wakefield and the stats are impressive. Weighing 43,000kg, it’s as high as a threestorey building. Sitting on a 3m neck and base, it can rotate a full 360° with a 1,400mm slew ring driving its automation.

Its neck contains all the data and power cables, and ventilation, along with a spiral staircase that takes the band and techs to two different levels. Its base pad is an array of six outrigger prongs that give the Sphere a wide footprint. At the end of each of these outriggers are a further three smaller

prongs, creating an elegant load-bearing web that is an advantage in arenas with limited roof capacities.

The Sphere is built from 14 main parts, each containing a steel main structure. Each Sphere core was designed to fit in a curtain-sided trailer, 13 of which, plus an additional three mega cube trailers, transport the entire system on the road.

“Everybody wanted the show to be incredibly clean with the minimum of superfluous fuss, so the Sphere retained focus and had room to breathe,” commented Winkler, before explaining how this larger than life logo – nicknamed the ‘Pac-Man’ by crew – is divided into extremely versatile Upper and Lower D-shaped sections.

“The Upper D is able to tilt backwards and forwards [actuated by two Serapid push/pull chain drives], and accommodates three revolving doors for the band to make their grand entrance. The Lower D platform can tilt 45° horizontally and Serapid telescopic lifts enable them to rise and descend.” At the start of the show, the Sphere’s cutout faces a 450m 2 upstage screen, away from the audience. Wearing uniform tracksuits, Barlow, Owen and Donald are inside, strapped to a protective harness, but hidden, when the sphere turns 180° to face the crowd. A beautiful, pulsating graphic vibrates across the Sphere, projecting a real sense of motion, before the ‘TT’ logo appears and a revolving platform swings around to reveal the three principals standing at around 12m from the stage deck.

The Lower D then turns from a slanted angle to horizontal and rises up so that the band can step on to it and perform the first number, Greatest Day. The D then drops and a scissor lift rises out of the stage deck to take them to stage level.

“After the mechanics of the Sphere were considered, we came up with the main elliptical stage for the three principals and two smaller, raised ellipses for the musicians, situated above a technical bunker and

quick-change areas,” said Winkler. “The main ellipse incorporates three 6m travelators on which the band walk and run on the spot.”

VISUAL PROGRESS If the Sphere existed on its own, this in itself would have been an outstanding achievement for TT’s creatives and the Brilliant team, including Senior Project Manager, Martin Radmall, Lee and Ben Brooks, and Toby Van-Hay. But this is just part of the story, as Wearing detailed: “After Brilliant built the Sphere, pulled it apart and reassembled it several times very successfully, it went off to Video Design in Bedford to be populated with 2,750 individual LED tiles.

“From the first design meeting up to rehearsals at LH2, it took Brilliant 20 weeks to fabricate, assemble, test and deliver the final working product. The first time we all saw it fully loaded was a stunning moment. Brilliant and Video Design worked tirelessly to make this all happen, bringing a new meaning to the word ‘dedication’.”

Galaxia WV12 modules cover the outer surface and Uniview BO-6.2 floor tiles adorn its interior, including lifts and doors. The tiles are fitted in large sections and linked by a series of removeable ones. Once the content saturates the pixels, this 11m diameter globe awakens with a surreal vitality that fulfils a long-held Stufish aspiration. “We’ve been playing around with the idea of 3D video for some time but finding an opportunity to embrace it within a touring concert production had proven elusive,” informed Winkler. “Video technology has now reached a point where it is so ubiquitous and affordable. It is often the plaster that fixes all the creative problems and everyone is doing it. Consequently, the impact isn’t what it once was so one needs to look beyond the state of the art in order to cultivate surprise. We asked ourselves how one could take what is quintessentially the twodimensional world of the digital interface and turn it into something that is

much more architectural and sculptural.

“When it came to this opportunity to create the Sphere, we were all over it with excitement. This is a platonic shape with very balanced geometry but very unusual for an arena rock show. In order to transmit our thoughts about video content, we worked long and hard with lots of rendering, and it gave Kim Gavin and the band confidence that this was a very good narrative tool.

“The physical, motorised rotation of the sphere is one thing but then you have the digital rotation – the mapping that moves the video imagery around of its own accord. There are times when you think the sphere is moving but it’s actually the image.”

Even though safety harnesses were a given, one problem to overcome was how to install confidence in the band that standing on the steep slope of the Lower D was not going to as scary as it might have seemed. The solution saw Stufish create a Virtual Reality presentation designed to give the band as near a realistic feel as possible for what being on that stage would be like.

Winkler commented: “Intellectually, you know that you’re standing on terra firma, but every other sense is telling you that you’re up in the air, feeling quite uncomfortable. Our design had already been signed off by this stage and what it did was reconfirm to the band that we were entering exciting, new territory.”

REINFORCING THE FLAIR For many years, each new Take That production has featured a B-stage and although the band were not the first in the world to install this device, they most certainly helped to turn it into an art form as the outer orbit of the performance. On this occasion, production took the decision to move FOH control from its usual central point to left and right of centre, allowing the B-stage to assume a ‘floating’ location in between.

Kim Gavin also needed one extra device to satisfy the arc of events surrounding the choreography by Adrian Gas, and settled on a Grand Staircase. With Brilliant busy on other projects, the responsibility for the

B-stage and Staircase was offered to The Next Stage, the Bedfordshire company founded in January 2018 by Wayne Croft, Luke Johnson, Ollie Laight, Mel Welch and the tour’s Head Set Carpenter, Jason Slaney-Welch. “It’s our first major rock ’n’ roll job and it was fantastic to be given the chance to prove ourselves,” said a proud Croft .

Featured on four songs, the Staircase comes in two halves and folds down to left and right base of the Sphere on a catwalk extension going upstage. Appearing on-stage as if from nowhere, it is largely assembled and wheeled on air castors into different configurations by the dancers. It primarily exists for a big moment in Shine but also plays a major role as a cross-stage ‘pyramid’ when Barlow sings Giants before splitting to create an oratory platform. As if by magic, it then suddenly disappears.

Deploying the 6m diameter B-stage, said Croft, is similar to a kitchen table in the way it springs out and flips over. It consists of three hinged carts that sit underneath a deck that is topped with Harlequin Floors’s durable, mirror finish Hi-Shine black flooring. Also used on the Staircase, over 300m 2 of the product was required in total by both The Next Stage and Brilliant for their varied staging applications.

A delighted Wearing commented: “Our turnaround time for the B-stage and the Shine Stairs was pretty unforgiving. Jason was already on our team and it made a lot of sense to bring in The Next Stage. There are very few companies out there that can be relied on to produce great work at this level, and meet an uncomfortable deadline, so I think The Next Stage should do very well.”

AUTOMATION Way over at stage right, Brilliant’s Tom Darby and Kinesys Operator, Ross Maynard formed the automation duo behind a significant amount of onstage movement, prioritising safe practice at every point.

Due to the nature of a number of show scenes, an above average level of detailed safety procedures are in place to secure the performers, the crew and the Sphere.

Said Darby: “As a result of the Sphere’s movement, we have the issue

Tour Director, Chris Vaughan and Production Manager, Richard ‘Wez’ Wearing; Brilliant Stages’ Tom Darby and Kinesys Operator, Ross Maynard; FOH Engineer, Gary Bradshaw; Show Caller, Gemma Thomas; Set Carpenter, Jason Slaney-Welch and Stephen ‘Spaf’ Jeffrey; Pyro Crew Chief, James ‘Jim Bob’ Barwick.

of some machines moving that Ross can’t always see. Our solution was to have cameras inside it – as well as around the stage – to ensure that any potential hazards involving moving pieces are picked up before they become a real threat. We are definitely going to see bigger leaps in automation and safety has to become an even bigger focus.”

While Brilliant provided the lion’s share of motors, a notable gag for the song Spin sees the band mount three Harley Davidson motorcycle props that are moved via Kinesys with Neg Earth providing the hoists and control. Maynard explained: “The boys have great fun on those bikes. These Harleys do wheelies, the lights flash and a lot of smoke comes out the back of them. It’s a brilliant highlight.”

Canadian firms are behind Brilliant’s motion control system, with the console manufactured by Niscon and software developed by Raynok. Darby: “They’re not very common on this side of the Atlantic and I believe that Brilliant is the only UK company using these products. Ensuring that it’s safety compliant for Europe is the clever bit.”

STALWART PARTNERS Vaughan and Wearing have been working together on concert tours for just over 25 years. Their combined roll call of credits, from Muse, New Order and the Manic Street Preachers, to Kanye West, Beyoncé, Jeff Lynne’s ELO and Iron Maiden reads like an encyclopaedia of rock and pop. Together, they have been behind the evolution of Take That’s eye-popping productions since their halcyon days as Britain’s top boy band, and on this 35-truck tour, they have worked closely with technical coordinator Nick Evans to ensure that every detail has passed a strenuous ‘road-friendliness’ check.

A full day and night are reserved prior to show day for a long loadin, beginning at 10am after an advance rigging call has installed the mother grid and motors. Said Wez: “This production was designed to be constructed and dropped in around the Sphere, which starts to be

assembled after the lights are up, and is completed at around 1.30am when the stage is rolled in. It’s back to work at 7am on show day when the audio crew start working towards a 3pm line check. It’s how we split the crew that allows us to pull everything off well. Moving from Manchester to Dublin by ferry, and then taking the ferry once again on the way to London was going to be the biggest test, and we’re very happy to still be in one piece!”

VIDEO VIBE Paul ‘Eggy’ Eggerton’s first full length Take That tour as Video Director came at the “11th hour” when he was invited to relieve Matt Askem, who had played a consultancy role during rehearsals, and work in tandem with supplier Video Design. The tour sees Eggy presiding over a Ross Carbon switcher to juggle live camera feeds from manned 6 Sony HXC-100s and a Canon J21. His IMAG cut is sent to Media Server Programmer, Luke Collins for final processing and effects treatment, prior to him adding it to the time code-reliant pot of content created by Luke Halls in collaboration with Charlie Davis, Jenny Rush and a team of animators.

Collins feeds the screens directly from a pair of disguise gx2 media servers running disguise software. Only two songs are performed without content and clips have even been designed to link numbers. Collins remarked: “Many of the visuals have been designed incorporate live IMAG either in PiP [Picture-in-Picture] mode or buried within the content itself. One scene is all about driving past a series of billboards that come alive with IMAG inserts and something similar also happens with the appearance of cubes.

“Eggy’s IMAG is subject to varying degrees of processing and effects treatment prior to being delivered into the mix and it’s by no means an added extra – the marriage of the live elements with the predesigned content has been very carefully designed in advance to be a seamless end product.”

Lighting Operator, David Wolstenholme; Video Director, Paul ‘Eggy’ Eggerton; Stufish CEO, Ray Winkler; Monitor Engineer, Steve Lutley; Media Server Programmer, Luke Collins.

The Sphere, said Collins, is not a completely perfect orb, owing to the video tile sections leaving tiny gaps. Consequently, he relies on disguise’s processing power to compensate. “It’s one of the software’s great strengths and it was absolutely key to enabling the content to work as it was designed to. At my end, the Sphere is physically segmented into areas for video mapping and I made a matching 3D model so that the software knows exactly where all the tiles are. I can then splay the content as if it were on a perfect sphere, raying out from the central point.”

Led by Jack Middlebrook, the video crew also includes LED Engineers Gary King, Steve Jones, Richard Doran, Robin Toye, Darren Sager and Russell Grant, Systems Engineers Adrian Grau and Gerry Corry, and Camera Ops Rod Williams and Roger Nelson.

LIGHTING Famed for his broad experience in television as well as previous work with Take That, Al Gurdon designed the lighting with programming assistance from Tom Young. As rehearsals reached their final days at LH2, the baton was passed to David Wolstenholme to organise follow spot calls, negotiate the transition to Sheffield Arena for dress rehearsals and then operate the show on tour.

“I just turn up and make it look pretty!” said a modest Wolstenholme, adding that an element of nepotism within the ranks has long been a positive asset. “Along with the musicians, many of us are asked by Chris Vaughan to work on other projects. In fact, an identical situation happened with Tom last year where he programmed for ELO and I toured as the operator. It’s a formula that obviously works for everyone.”

Wolstenholme enjoyed the experience of partnering with Gurdon. “It’s always interesting to work with someone who has a different eye and Al’s way of dealing with design is certainly an inspiration. It’s not a big light show in the usual sense but, as our Crew Chief Antti Saari observed, it’s very rare to see a performance where everyone is lit so well in terms of follow

spots and the key light on the band and dancers.” By modern, large-scale arena standards, the lighting rig would not be classed as excessive. With Neg Earth hired as equipment provider, Gurdon’s preferences for the tour were fairly diverse and include 212 fixtures that Wolstenholme runs over 50 universes from MA Lighting’s new grandMA3 full-size console.

“Tom Young is using MA3 almost exclusively now, so when it became available in Neg Earth’s warehouse, that became the choice,” said Wolstenholme. “From a user perspective, however, it would be very unfair of me to judge the MA3 by my own application of it on this tour because I’m running it in MA2 software mode. We like having it on the tour, of course, because it’s raising a few eyebrows but it’s not really an MA3 yet! I’m getting accustomed to some new features, such as where they’ve moved certain things around in the layout. If I’m to believe what I hear, the ‘3’ promises to be yet another big step forward.” Owing to the off-centre FOH position, Wolstenholme placed an MA2 Light in the middle of the arena to finesse the rig each day.

The front truss carried Moles for audience lighting, GLP JDC-1 strobes in full pixel mode, Claypaky Scenius Unicos and Ayrton Khamsin profiles. Wolstenholme explained: “The JDC-1 is a very versatile fixture and we have them in various positions, mostly to fulfil architectural lighting requirements, as well as blinder looks and pushes, whilst providing a certain amount of colour in the rig. It’s a strobe that can easily become a tinkling feature in a slow ballad.

“Our principal overhead units are the Scenius Unicos which are also on the back truss and the 10 Kinesys-driven moving pods. They are predominately giving us some big audience looks and key light.

Wolstenholme was particularly flattering towards the Khamsin: “It’s become the flavour of the month. Here we have a big workhorse profile with a white LED engine, great colour mixing and a brightness level that compares favourably with the Unico. Gobos look fantastic all the way to the

edge. They’re mostly used for stage key light and pickups, which amounts to a huge chunk of the show, so they are working quite hard but consistency is the Khamsin’s big strength. These lights are working as well as they did when we unpacked them at LH2.”

Additional Khamsins were allocated to the B-stage. “It’s very handy that they come with internal wireless cards,” claimed Wolstenholme. “This means we can plug the units into the followspot power, then pair up W-DMX transmitters and omit the need for a separate wireless receiver. It really helps with the fluid nature of where the B-stage ends up in each venue.”

Extending from the upstage screen are six ladders per side of the stage which accommodate four pairs of Claypaky Mythos 2s and JDC-1s. “While these give us a general extension of the look, there are a few moments where they have a big gobo presence and provide a massive amount of side light. They also frame the video wall and are at the rear to backlight the Sphere very elegantly, reinforcing that whole central image rather than distracting from it.”

Other lights in service include 41 GLP impression X4 Bar 10 battens, chosen to define the edges around the front and sides of stages, adding dynamic flair without making a statement. Fitted with top hats, 10 Martin by Harman MAC Aura XBs ‘dress’ the dry ice and add to the dancers’ side lighting, and 17 TMB Solaris Flares are built around the edges the central scissor lift with 13 Robe Spikes underneath, shooting out to fill the space and accentuate the wonder of the show’s opening sequence as the lift rises.

Last but not least, 8 Robert Juliat Dalis 862 low profile footlight battens further enhance the B-stage. “These provide an ideal solution for allowing the boys to stand a foot in front of them and still be lit head to toe, when they are looking in the opposite direction to the follow spots. There are a couple of nice moments when we turn everything off and leave the Dalis to light them, and it’s quite beautiful.”

Wolstenholme’s show day crew includes Adrian John Neilly, Alan Fotheringhame, Martin Garnish, Bianca Mastroianni, Martin McLoughlin and Rob Gawler. He also name-checks show caller Gemma Thomas for her

“outstanding” contribution: “Our lighting is mostly running to time code but it’s such a technically heavy show that having Gemma call pretty much everything else, such as pyro, props, automation moves and the movement of people in the Sphere, is absolutely key to the smooth flow. She’s doing a fantastic job.”

Also earning their keep in style is a team of 12 multitasking Fly By Nite drivers who, when they are not behind the wheel, remotely operate the Robe RoboSpot system from backstage. They individually drive a dozen moving BMFL WashBeam lights that live in the arena roof, and track the performers all the way from the main stage to the B-stage.

RELIGHTING THE FIRE Quantum Special Effects’ presence is evident from the opening of the show when an avalanche of snow confetti is shot into the crowd, right up until the eye-melting finale when over 100 pyro effects are fired within one minute as the night ends with Rule The World. “We certainly like to make an impression!” laughed Pyro Crew Chief James ‘Jim Bob’ Barwick.

Barwick spends the entire performance firing effects, cueing smoke and triggering fire from a Zero 88 Jester console, and is aided by Technician, Ross Deeker. “The two of us come in at 11am on show day to start setting up, beginning with loading confetti into the machines and reloading the CO 2 gas. We then see to the remainder of the effects including aerial products that are positioned on trusses, and everything is achieved with Quantum’s own equipment.”

For the fire sequences, Quantum chose two different types of flame – a liquid blue and red flame that appears during Get Ready For It, and a flame bar that was built into the stage at Brilliant ahead of rehearsals. “It’s used for an ambient effect in Relight My Fire,” explained Barwick. “This low burn flame runs the entire length of the stage and is 18-inches in height, allowing the band and the dancers to get quite close.”

Covered in a flame-retardant coating, confetti plays a big part in the show. A total of 56kg is dispersed during a single performance, including

a drop over the B-stage that is uplit by Claypaky Mythos 2 fixtures. “Take That fans always have the expectation of a full-on spectacle and that’s something at which the band and their designers excel,” Barwick commented. “What Quantum brings to the mix is a desire to constantly engineer new effects, such as a flame that can shoot up to 150ft, that can offer something fresh and exciting every time.

“The band wanted a memorable pyro statement at the end of the show and we worked with the creative team to choose the correct colours and products. A successful job is always the result of a solid partnership with the creatives, and we have certainly enjoyed the fruits of that interaction on this tour.”

TT AUDIO A Take That touring veteran with a pro career dating back to 1979, Gary Bradshaw is respected throughout the music industry as one of the leading technicians behind the evolution of modern live sound. The band’s regular FOH Engineer since their early days, Bradshaw has also been shaping Jeff Lynne’s sound since ELO’s resurrection five years ago.

There’s no “big secret” to what he does, Bradshaw humbly insists, simultaneously pointing out that the source material with which he works is arguably as good as it gets. “They are some of the best musicians you’ll ever find,” he said, referring to the line-up led by MD Mike Stevens and featuring guitarist Milton McDonald, Drummer Donavan Hepburn, Pianist Marcus Byrne and Bassist Lee Pomeroy. “Their attention to detail in rehearsals and their onstage discipline make it so easy for me out front. They play so brilliantly that they almost mix themselves. There’s nothing getting in the way – although there’s a lot going on, there is still plenty of space.”

Bradshaw is controlling 86 input channels at his SD7 from the DiGiCo brand he has been “wedded to” since its first product release. He said: “I’ve tried everything else and there are some very good desks out there, but I’ve grown so familiar with the SD7 surface and all its internal resources that it’s become second nature to get around. On a tour like this, there’s nothing better. I set up the console the same way every time, which makes life easy

and means I can find things quickly. Although we are still running at 48kHz sample rate, the sound quality is first class.”

The vocal compression is mainly handled through the SD7’s internal processing, however, Bradshaw uses the Waves plug-in suite to add compression to a number of channels. “For example, I have Waves’ version of the classic dbx 160 inserted across my drum kit audio group, a CLA-2A on acoustic guitars, a CLA-3A on bass and recently I have been trying the F6 Floating-Band Dynamic EQ on vocals with great results.”

All of the main vocals are on RF SKM5200 (5235) microphones. The remaining mics include Shure SM57s (snare top & bottom), a Beta 91A (kick), B52 (gong drum), Neumann KM184 (hi-hat & ride cymbal), Sennheiser e904s (toms) and AKG C414s as overheads. Pomeroy’s bass guitar is a direct out from his bass amp and his bass synth is also DI’d. McDonald’s electric and acoustic guitar outputs come directly from his Kemper rack system, and all other acoustic guitars, piano and keys go through Radial J48 DI boxes.

Designed for the tour by Matt Vickers with assistance from Audio Crew Chief Toby Donovan, the PA system, part of the package supplied by Skan, majors in d&b audiotechnik’s KSL8 and KSL12 loudspeaker cabinets, the latest from its new generation SL-Series.

With Take That, the configuration consists of main hangs of 18 KSL8/12s per side, side hangs of 16 KSL8s per side and 220˚ hangs of 12 d&b V12s per side. A pit array of 10 J-SUBs and 12 Y10P front fills complete the rig, with power from 48 d&b D80 amplifiers. The drive system includes Lake LM44s with Teqsas Cybertec devices linked by fibre to provide a Dante backbone.

The powerful feature set, which relies on Array Processing software for its results, has made a positive difference to Take That’s sound, Bradshaw insists. “In my opinion anything with the d&b badge on it is going to sound good. I think we have used just about every variant of the d&b range over the years and had great results out of all of them. This KSL system we are currently using is performing really well. Very little comes off the back of the cabs and on to the stage, so there is considerably less bleed down the mics. Also, the bass response from the hangs means we don’t need to fly subs. On a tour like this it’s a valuable bonus for production.”

STAGE MIX Below the stage, Monitor Engineer, Steve Lutley conducts the band’s mixes on another DiGiCo SD7, preferring it for all same reasons. Choosing to use only the console’s onboard processing, rather than plug-ins, Lutley, another Take That long-timer, oversees a 96-channel line system, providing full communication resources between the band and crew.

He creates individually prepared stereo mixes for each band member, a mono mix for the drum throne ‘thumper’ and five mixes for the crew’s communication system. “It’s important to make communication as simple and intelligible as possible, especially during the show,” he said.

There are no monitor wedge speakers on this tour. All of the band members employ IEMs, using a combination of Jerry Harvey Audio and Ultimate Ears equipment, with Sennheiser 2000 Series wireless IEM hardware.

“The beauty of working with these guys for so long is that everything becomes second nature,” said Lutley, who is assisted by Glen Fuller and Stage Tech, Alvin Russ. “It’s a two-way street. I’m accustomed to their mix preferences and they know exactly how to communicate any changes to me in a way that produces an instant result.”

SAID IT ALL Providing the essential communication system and walkie talkies for the tour was Surfhire. “There were a few challenges on this tour, mainly the breadth of both venue size and crew,” commented Surfhire’s Simon Hodge. “While we would normally deploy in larger boxes of between 48 to 80 it was suggested that we split in to 24 ways so it could be divided easily between legs.” He continued: “Wez chose the XPR3500e as it is compact and rugged but also supports multiple zones for their travels. We can also re-program remotely if needed if for example licensing information is updated once the tour has left.”

GOING OUTDOORS After 29 sold-out indoor shows, the band jumped straight into their ninedate outdoor leg, up and down the UK, boosting the production with a wider palette of lighting, expanded sound and additional structures from Stageco, including four cantilevers for the PA, upstage video wall support and reinforced decking for the Sphere.

As final preparations were being made for this next leg, Ray Winkler summarised the long-term impact that he believes Greatest Hits Live will have: “This is a significant move forward for show design that, for once, isn’t measured by being bigger, wider, lighter or brighter. Audiences have developed a yearning to get closer to the heart of the show and the live industry is increasingly moving towards delivering an immersive experience. I think we have achieved precisely that with Take That and the entire process has been hugely exciting.” TPi Photos: Stufish, Sarah Womack, Mark Cunningham and David Wolstenholme, www.takethat.com www.stufish.com www.brilliantstages.com www.thenextstage-uk.com www.video-design.co.uk www.q-sfx.com www.negearth.com www.skanpa.co.uk www.flybynite.co.uk www.uk.harlequinfloors.com www.phoenix-bussing.co.uk www.popcorncatering.com www.stageco.com www.surfhire.net