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BRYAN FERRY’S JAZZ AGE BRYAN FERRY’S THE JAZZ AGE TOUR SERVES AS A DELIGHTFUL, YET HUMBLING REMINDER THAT TALENT IS TALENT AND EXPERT PRODUCTION IS NOT ALWAYS ABOUT MASKING OR CHANGING WHAT’S THERE, BUT ABOUT BRINGING IT OUT INTO THE LIGHT... The Sage Gateshead was the perfect venue to catch the Bryan Ferry Jazz Age Tour. Not only is Ferry a local boy but the venue itself has wonderfully warm acoustics, perfect for the mix of music he presented. For those who grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, Ferry was one of the most enigmatic musicians on the circuit. The ideal combination of mystery man and rock star, who was coveted and embraced by those in the worlds of art, alternative music and fashion. Basically Bryan Ferry was - and remains - the absolute epitome of super-cool. Ferry, or BF as his production team likes to call him, is currently blazing through the UK on a sell out tour, trailed by a host of outstanding reviews. Impressively the 68-year-old is selling out venues in UK towns, two nights in a row. Uncluttered and unfettered, FOH Engineer Nick Warren’s crystal-clear amplification ensures that each individual, skillfully played instrument is heard with polished glass clarity. 46

Sound is complemented by Rod Clay’s flattering and restrained lighting palette, which, as the show opens conjures up the atmosphere of an intimate, smokey jazz club and then, without warning, segues beautifully into dynamic concert style lighting, bright video imagery, colour and pattern. The show is a two and a half hour journey through Ferry’s musical mind and comprises up to 35 songs (including the encores). It’s certainly a value for money ticket. For the production team this show is quite a marathon! Production Manager for the tour is Des Jabir who has been with Ferry for a good few years: “Every one of the people on this tour is chosen for their calm professionalism and skill. Many of us have worked together for years. We have a core of 13-16 crew members. The biggest challenge from the outset has been the sheer difference in sizes of venues we deal with, from London’s huge Royal Albert Hall to the very intimate Southend Cliffs Pavilion.


Opposite and below: At 68 years old, Bryan Ferry is still one of Britain’s most respected performers; The musicianship and backing performances enhanced the simple show which was designed to let the music shine through.

© David Morrell, courtesy Robe Lighting

“This means that set and lighting have to be supremely scalable. This is hinged on getting the layout of the video screen designs right, which took a bit of time. However after some tweaking by Bryan and LD Rod Clay the show will happily scale to fit any venue, give or take a screen!” New boy on this production is technical production specialist OneBigStar, which supplies lighting, rigging and video screens. According to Jabir the company has been true to its name throughout: “Rod brought OneBigStar in to supply the lighting, video and some rigging

equipment along with three technicians and they’ve all been great, really supportive. I’ve been more than happy to welcome them aboard. Sound is supplied by ML Executives, trucking is Redburns and catering is Eat to the Beat.” LIGHTING AND SHOW DESIGN Like Jabir, Show and Lighting Designer, Rod Clay, has worked with Ferry for some years now and is well versed in the singers slick production style - a mix of old-school glamour and burnished rock ‘n’ roll.

The show’s design is strikingly simple, uncluttered with some bold colour change and, as Clay puts it, ‘a few whizzes and bangs’ for the rock numbers! “Bryan is an elegant fella so the design needed to relate to his sense of style,” explained Clay. “It’s clean cut, no trusses flying around. Six Showtec Sunstrip Active DMX’s mask the six small pieces of truss we do use to support the LED screens. Apart from these we’re only using four different flavours of light, keeping the palettes clean and simple.” Clay’s palette comprises Robe MMX Spots, LEDWash 600’s and LEDBeam100’s; Philips




Below: Showtec Sunstrip battens adorned the side of the stage for subtle, classy lighting effects.

Vari-lite VLX3’s, Philips Selecon Rama fresnels and Showtec Sunstrips. For the first seven songs, performed by the Bryan Ferry Orchestra, the lighting is stripped back to Selecon Rama side lighting, some saturated backlight washes from the Robe fixtures and cross lighting from the Sunstrips rigged vertically onto the Rama lighting stands on the floor. Clay discussed: “We wanted a tungsten / jazzy feel for the opening of the show so that’s why we went with Philips Selecon Rama fresnels as side lighting. This kept it really simple and works in some old-school glamour. “We use 26 Robe 600 LEDWashes and 17 Robe MMX Spots for patterns and effects,” said Clay. “Also new for me are the 12 of the new Philips VLX3’s, which provide key, face and front light.” However, as the gig gathers pace and Ferry comes on the moving heads warm up and the show morphs into an altogether more dynamic animal. Clay’s console of choice is the MA Lighting grandMA2. He not only uses it to control the lighting but to trigger the shows video content from the Catalyst Media Server: “MA is definitely my console of choice. It’s reliable, quick, fast and easy to program, it’s been bullet 48

proof throughout.” The challenge for Clay is that Ferry is partial to changing the set list without warning. “The MA has allowed me to program a lighting-state ‘page’ for each song,” added Clay. “All together there are now 58 pages. If Bryan suddenly changes something I can simply bring up that particular page in the system, and quickly, without fuss, cue it in.”

considerable investment in Robe and Vari-Lite kit to keep me happy!” said Clay. From OneBigStar’s perspective, the new Robe and Vari-Lite equipment are welcome additions to its inventory. Operations Director, Steve Yeardsley said: “What drives the decisions we make when it comes to buying new kit is the diversity of the projects we work on everything from corporate launchesand events

“We wanted a tungsten / jazzy feel for the opening of the show so that’s why we went with Philips Selecon Rama fresnels.”

When Clay first joined the tour he began with just a floor package from his local suppliers, OneBigStar. This then segued into a slightly larger festival version and, for this autumn / winter tour, the full production package. “OneBigStar has been with me all the way. In fact the company has made quite a

to rock ‘n’ roll touring. The kit we buy has to be as useful on one as it is on the other. We made a conscious decision to have Robe as our primary moving light stock. The LEDWash 600 is a staple element on many of our lighting projects and with plenty available in the rental market, they’re also ideal for cross hiring.


Below: The show TPi saw took place at the Sage in Gateshead, a town local to where the Roxy Music legend grew up.

“In terms of the Vari-Lite VLX3’s these are also relatively small for a moving head, they have fantastic output and the colour rendering is so good that they can be used for front face and key light. They’re LED, but super bright and touring them means less dimmers, less power used and less cabling and weight so they are a win, win all round,” added Yeardsley. Indeed, the smaller dimensions and weight of all the fixtures Clay uses means lighting fits into half a truck. All of this is great news for Jabir as the production easily fits into two trucks. VIDEO In keeping with the theme of sophisticated simplicity, the productions video element is relatively modest yet a sharply chic affair. Six Chauvet Professional 7mm PVP LED screens are used to show some eye popping, yet stylish visual content, designed and created by Anna Boburg. “The screens are each made up of six modular LED panels. All are carefully numbered, which saves re-mapping them at each new 50

venue,” explained Video Tech for OneBigStar, Tom Edwards. “Mostly the tour is visiting medium sized venues,” continued Simon Taylor, Commercial Director of OneBigStar. “In many of the venues the technological elements on stage are in close

The content design works really well: “Anna Boburg has worked it so the resolution of the content matches that of the LED screen,” added Edwards. “This has reduced the amount of data we’re processing and also given us a great, bespoke picture.

“Every one of the people on this tour is chosen for their calm professionalism and skill.”

proximity to the front row of the audience at many there can be just eight-metres between them and the video screens. That’s why we suggested the 7mm pitch Chauvet screens, as even in a really tight space the image is still super-crisp. At times I have been amazed, Rod puts a lot of light across them but the image still comes out crisp and bright.”

“Powering the visuals is a Catalyst Media Server, triggered by Rod’s grandMA2. “In terms of video mapping, I decided to map it all as a single layer image then split up across the six individual screens, he explained. “This makes it much easier for Rod to tweak the show visuals using Catalyst on his laptop.” Trim heights have also proved to be a


Below: Rod Clay and the OneBigStar crew; ML Executives provided the audio rental for the tour; For vocals, Ferry uses an Audio-Technica microphone.

challenge for the video team: “We have used special steels so that height can be adjusted venue to venue explained Steve Yeardsley, Operations Director at OneBigStar. “For example in somewhere like the Royal Albert Hall trim heights are not a problem but we’re also touring places like the Lowry and Southend Cliffs Pavilion, which are considerably smaller. Then trim can drop by five meters. Sometimes this means loosing the bottom screen but most of the time it’s just about good positioning.” FOH FOH Engineer Nick Warren is a man who likes to keep things simple. Using an Avid Venue 48 channel package with Venue Pack PRO and Waves 9, he discussed his part in the show: “I have been using the Avid for a long time now, probably about 10 years. For Bryan every show has to be archived and the Avid’s HD Native box means we can pop a thunderbolt cable out of the desk and straight in to the laptop and record all 64 channels at our leisure.” In terms of the show, the audio is split in to two sections. “In the first the Bryan Ferry Orchestra do their Jazz numbers and I keep the level at around 88dB,” explained Warren. 52

“When the show goes to the rock part there’s this huge shift in the sound and it goes up to about 102dB. The jazz stuff obviously has no bass, electric guitars or drums - so when they kick in it really hits the audience.” For Warren the focus of the audio is not to wow with overly clever processing but to simply amplify what’s there: “We have about 15 musicians, two drum kits, a five piece brass section and two guitars, all on around 30 open microphones, which as you can imagine is a challenge,” laughed Warren. “There is a lot of mixing going on, bringing microphones up and dipping them down at exactly the right time. It can quite easily go mad, there is a lot of people on the stage and a lot of instruments.” And then there is Bryan himself: “His attention to detail is second to none,” explained Warren. “He spends a lot of time changing songs around, asking if I can change the BPM by a notch or two, it’s fantastic being around someone who’s that creative and who cares so much about what he is giving people.” The show’s PA is supplied long-term supporter of the Ferry and Roxy Music machine, ML Executives. “The PA is d&b audiotechnik V-Series and comprises a main hang of V8’s and

V12’s,” explained system tech Mike Hackman. “J-SUBs are also flown, taking the energy away from the floor.” “The V-Series sounds fantastic,” enthused Warren. “I can fly more PA it’s a great mid-size box and I can get more distance between it and the audience. This means every person in every venue, regardless of size or how it is split up, is getting the same sound, which is excellent.” MONITORS Steve May has been Monitor Engineer for Bryan Ferry since 1999 and despite living in Australia makes sure it’s the one gig he makes time to do “Bryan is incredible,” smiled May. “He is 68 years old and he never stops getting involved. Because he still cares so much about what he does it makes us all care.” Controlling the productions on-stage acoustic is a precision job, May furthered: “This is not a production that relies on effect. I did the PA for the Roxy 2001 reunion tour and I remember starting with gates, compressors and a lot of reverb. By the time I had finished setting it up I was down to one reverb and three gates. On this tour there is not even any gates, it really is a show that’s all about the music, about the


Below: FOH Engineer, Nick Warren with his Avid Venue desk; Lighting Designer, Rod Clay with his MA Lighting grandMA2; Monitor Engineer, Steve May, has been with Bryan Ferry for 14 years, despite living in Australia.

quality of sound these musicians make and about tuning in to that.” Like Warren, May doesn’t use any plugins or effects. “We can’t give the musicians a false sense of what they are playing. They have to hear precisely what they are doing in order to get it right. If I had loads of plugins on everything it would make it harder for Nick FOH, as the musicians wouldn’t be able to work to the correct levels. It’s basic, I control the foldback and they sort out their own levels.” In terms of the man himself Bryan, unsurprisingly, likes to have his sound delivered old-school and that means no IEMs: “I have been taking care of Bryan for 14 years and trust me when I say, you will not get that man on in-ears,” laughed May. “Bryan likes to see the 54

wires, the speakers, the boxes, he likes the fact it looks like a gig, because at the end of the day that is exactly what it is.” In terms of the onstage equipment the wedges are L-Acoustics: “They are the original 115FM wedges complemented by some L-Acoustic ARCS sidefills. We have Lab.gurppen amplifiers and XTA processing. Bryan owns eight of the 115FMs himself and with better amplification and better crossover settings we’ve got them sounding pretty good.” The advantage of using the wedges over the in ear system is that Bryan can have control over his own sound simply by positioning himself strategically on stage. “The way I have mixed it is to only feed the vocal through the back wedges and have the full band mix in the front.

So if there is not enough vocal in the front he will just move backwards and blend it himself. The man has been doing it for so long he likes it a certain way,” said May. For vocals, Ferry uses an Audio-Technica microphone. Of course the result has been a hugely successful show that has garnered excellent reviews and sell out audiences everywhere it has been. This perhaps serves as a poignant reminder to us all that sometimes less really can be so much more and that by stripping something right back to it’s natural state, we can reveal something quite wonderful. TPi Photography: Sarah Rushton-Read

Bryan Ferry's 'Jazz Age'  
Bryan Ferry's 'Jazz Age'  

The Sage Gateshead was the perfect venue to catch the Bryan Ferry 'Jazz Age' tour. Not only is Ferry a local boy but the venue itself has wo...