Louisville, Kentucky – KFC Yum! Center
Saturday. Mar 12, 2016:
Incredible show tonight, in the most-poorly-named arena in the world. But first, a detour…
I mentioned last time we’d wanted to feature the video crew, the team that enhances the WHO shows with the big screen work. They are never seen by the audience (who might see guitar roadies or sound engineers onstage) yet their work really makes a WHO show so much more enjoyable. I recall a heated discussion the year before the Endless Wire tour (2006-7) where some people thought video distracted from a rock concert, as in “we’re the only band in the world that doesn’t NEED video to make a great show…” A fair point, as many rely on video and effects to have anything exciting happen. Others thought that video could be good, if done artfully. And since then, it has.
Entering the concert, you’d certainly notice the three large screens around the stage. The main one is a huge and bright LED screen, with great resolution and color. On the sides are two projection screens, much more like original movie screens. They are not as intense, but easier to transport and set up. The side screens also give us options; usually it’s live camera shots of the onstage action, giving people in the far back a pretty good view of the detail onstage.
Our video team is based in Montreal (although they have some help from our regular touring staff, who help out on cameras and things.) All the team share great technical knowledge and effort to rig every show, then they specialize in specific duties during the performance. We have several live cameramen: one in the pit between the front rows and the stage (most of the close-up shots of the band come from there). One camera is offstage near the audience on Pino and Simon Townshend’s side (for stage-level medium-length shots). A third large camera is out on the sound/lights platform (which we call Front of House) in the middle of the audience. This is for overall stage shots, although it can zoom in, too. Onstage we also have a number of ‘robot cameras’ which are operated from offstage. The robocams allow close-up shots where having a large camera (or cameraman) would distract from the show. You can see some of these being set up in the photographs, they usually have a clear ‘bubble’ around them to protect them while turning. Other cameras are small fixed cameras; less expensive than the robocams, but good for shots we always like to have, like the drum set or a keyboard during a solo.
Giani Fabricio is in charge of video content. His system is out in the audience, right next to the sound and light boards. Giani runs the show live, sometimes synchronizing the films to the stage audio, sometimes they are more free-running and loose. Sometimes (not very often!) the band will call out to play a song that has not been ‘prepared’ before. With video – you cannot just play a film from any other song. So Giani has to get creative and plug something in that may work. Each day he also creates custom content for the screens, such as the pre-show slides and special announcements.
Mathieu Coutu is video director. Everything the audience sees is chosen by him, and he must tell the live cameramen where they should direct their attention; he has to know the music very well, as well as anticipate the thousands of improvised movements and activity that happens during our shows. It’s a colorful and complicated-looking desk, with small monitors above showing the current main/output screens, and dozens of smaller monitors to show each camera input at that moment. On the desk, each button has a feed from various cameras all over the room. It’s an intense position as you have to ‘play’ the buttons live, choosing images for all three screens simultaneously. It’s complicated and you must know the music cues for every song (“here comes the guitar solo” or drum fill…) and also ‘play’ the parts right on beat to work with the music.
Mathieu Giroux operates the Spyder, a controller to select which images appear on the various screens overhead; this often changes between the live cameras and the pre-recorded video, or a blend of both. Like the other Mathieu, he must do things on certain beats, watching closely what is happening onstage and matching the timing of the music.
Sebastian Lamoureux is the engineer; Sebastian controls technical operation for the cameras and routing systems; he checks operation and aims our cameras during the long day of preparation. He can control the color, apertures, intensity and shading of each camera to give the best visual as the lighting and motion changes during the performance.
Carson Austin is the crew chief for video; we often need lots of local help when we’re installing or removing the equipment each day, and he can direct everyone to get it done right and safely.
Dave Kiepert is the LED screen tech and cameraman; his job is making sure the massive LED screen is installed and operates as it should. Once the screen is perfect, he moves to operate one of the main cameras for the show.
Bob ‘Gangster Bob’ Turner is in charge of the projection systems, so the screens on each side are hung and removed carefully, and the large projectors themselves are focused sharp and square. All the details that make the show strong and powerful.
Onto the show . . .
Kevin Jackson is a WHO fan with a big mohawk hair style. His mother is a talented artist and they created quite a look for Kevin, an incredible WHO logo painted on both sides! We love it; he’d been here a year ago with the red/white/blue roundel logo last time.
Tal Wilkenfeld sings and plays stunningly each night, it’s a high-quality set of music for an opening act. It’s also getting a great reception, and hopefully just an introduction for many new fans.
For some reason, Louisville was a strong one, maybe the best crowd reaction we’ve had on this leg. Rog and Pete both played with extra energy. It had taken some time to make up this show postponed from our first tour leg, long ago. Pete welcomed the crowd with “We made it, Louisville; thanks for waiting!” Roger laughed, “A little late!”
It’s good we came back as the night was just solid throughout. Pete joked about their needing injections to have the energy of Mick Jagger onstage then did a little Mick dance-around. Not to be misunderstood, he told everyone how much he LOVES the Stones, especially Mick and Keith. Pete certainly did some unusual experimental guitar tonight, using the tremolo/whammy-bar for lots of extreme note bending.
‘Join Together’ had such a rousing sing-along that Roger realized and exclaimed that they must all be singers in church, to have such enthusiastic participation in public.
Sad point of the night was when Pete introduced ‘The Rock’ and dedicated it to Keith Emerson. Just the night before Emerson had passed away in tragic circumstances, and it shocked everyone on the tour. Some of us had worked with Keith, and he used to be Roger Daltrey’s next-door neighbor in the 1970s, out in the English countryside. ‘The Rock’ was perfectly suited, as it’s one of the WHO’s more complex instrumental pieces. I’m sure Keith would have loved the dedication, and Pete played it with an intensity I’ve never seen before.
Our longtime guitar technician, Alan Rogan, noted that Pete was up to “fancy footwork onstage” tonight, which is usually an excellent sign that things are going well. If you can recall the clip of ‘Baba O’Riley’ from The Kids Are Alright film, you’ll know the energetic movements that can happen on a good day.