17 Aug 2016
Summer Blog: The Making Of A Tour
As promised, we wanted to give you something in the summer down-time while the tour is on break. Today we have a guest blogger, a man who has seen more Who shows than even the most intense fans; Tom Kenny, who sits at our mixing/lighting/video position and runs the visual show. Each night, he directs the lighting rig cues. He also verbally directs the spotlight operators with second-by-second instructions for the changing onstage activity. Tom channels the wishes and ideas of the band into a visual presentation for the whole tour. (Aside from these other duties, he’s also the one who came up with the idea for this Backstage Blog!)
We’d asked him to describe how our behind-scenes ‘Making Of’ is done – how The Who team invents the style of each new tour. Here’s Tom, describing four parts of the show design;
The Who Hits 50! tour began with the band and I discussing the design ideas; we needed to update and refresh some of the moods and vibes. I decided to go with as much LED lighting to give us a modern look.
In the past 20 years, we’ve moved away from a big lighting look (famous with The Who) to a more video-oriented show, mainly to support specific tours like the fabulous Quadrophenia and More and the last few Who Hits tours. We also don’t use smoke/fog onstage and so the lights would not be as effective without the haze. We’ve tried every size and make of video screen but settled on the big wide palette we have now. With these bigger screens, we’re able to have some fun with colour and detail. Pete and Roger say it helps support and ‘tell a story’ for every song. I was keen to keep the content and drama of the song visuals that worked before, so we updated and restructured some of the older video pieces.
To create the new videos for this tour, we have put together a great pre-production team. We have a superb group of content producers and graphic artists, under great direction from Chris Rule and Des Murphy. Even down to the last few hours before the first show, the content artists are creating pieces with Des and Chris; that’s nothing to The Who as they love being on the edge and it gives a great dangerous vibe to the day. Those video pieces made up half the new tour’s look. Roger uses the screens as a ‘fourth wall’ in some parts of the show to increase the drama of the moment.
We also have a great touring video team Giani and Mathieu; they refresh the filming and running of the show each night with great camera shots and video effects.
Each day, Brian and Giani create a slideshow of historical factoids and anecdotes about the band’s previous performances in that city or area. The Who have extensive archives that we can pull photos, show posters, and other trivia from when needed. On the screens before the show, special charity announcements are made, or notices unique to just that night, such as a birthday of one of the band. This leads to a lot of great experiences for us all and makes the show a very intimate piece nightly for all of us all; musicians, crew and audience.
THE FOURTH EFFECT
Our fourth special effect that we have is the audience! Each crowd is different, so we react to their energy and vibe every night.
Pete, Roger and manager Bill Curbishley are forever giving me ideas that we all react to and which keep the show forever new. To me, the show grows every day and in every country, especially now that we have added a local flavour. It never stops getting tweaked as the songs and performances get richer and better each night.
Tom Kenny, The Who’s LD (Lighting Director) and tour designer.
Onward . . .