Simple Minds – Solotech’s 360 Solution

2024
Solution
Live Productions
Company

Solotech has supplied a full 360 package of audio lighting and video for the UK and European legs of Simple Minds ‘Global Tour 2024’

Simple Minds are one of rock and roll’s most enduring bands having first formed back in 1977, with singer Jim Kerr and guitarist Charlie Burchill ever-present throughout that time. Perhaps best known for ‘Don’t You’ the band have had twenty four top 40 singles and twenty three top 40 albums in the UK alone.

Planning for the band’s Global Tour 2024 started twelve months ago. Solotech’s Senior Hire Manager, Dave Shepherd, along with UK Director Global Touring and Special Projects, Ian ‘Woody’ Woodall, put together a plan for Solotech to supply a full 360 production of audio, lighting and video.

“It’s not something their production team had opted for in the past, nor had they used Solotech for any of the elements,” explained Dave. “However, once we explained the benefits of a ‘one-stop-shop’ they were impressed – so impressed in fact that they awarded us the contract.”

The global tour kicked off in Australasia back in January. For these dates Solotech shipped an audio control package from the UK, with lighting, video and audio racks and stacks supplied locally. Following Australasia Simple Minds headed to the UK, where the full 360 package was unveiled for the first time.

Production Manager, Steve Reeve, commented, “Having one supplier simplifies everything for us as a client. Audio, lighting and video work together to solve any issues – often without the need to even consult production. Financially there’s no difference in cost, but it saves a heck of a lot of time as it’s much simpler from an administration perspective.”

Just one example of how a single supplier works well came from Steve Percy, lighting tech on the tour: “Part of the show design requires lamps  to be hung from the bottom of a video wall. Being part of the same team enabled us to ensure all our looms were the right length way before we got to show day.”

ROE LED Walls

Central to designer Mark Wynn-Edwards show are five flown video pods of ROE CB5 LED screen, complete with lighting flown above them across the back of the stage. ROE CB5 was also used for the main left and right screens with the tiles configured in a stepped design rather than the more standard landscape or portrait approach.

On stage Solotech Technical Manager Cy Dodimead designed custom carts to ground stack ROE Vanish 8T LED tiles. The Vanish 8T tiles are 50% transparent allowing lighting fixtures to be mounted and shine through the tiles from behind.

In terms of content, Video Director, John Minton, used a mixture of bespoke assets along with live camera feeds. Then, during the show he would cut the mix as video director, while Wynn-Edwards triggered the content via cues off his lighting console.

Asked of the move to a single 360 supplier, John Minton saw it as a positive experience: “It’s definitely been an improvement. While I wasn’t responsible for choosing the kit, it’s all been great. For example, Solotech supplied a Ross Carbonite video switcher, which is a high end broadcast quality unit and the content resides on a Resolume Media Server which Mark (Wynn-Edwards) can control out front.”

Lighting from Robe

As well as his role as creative designer, Mark Wynn Edwards also takes on the role of lighting director during the shows.

Mark liaised with crew chief Steve Percy to ensure the show would go in and out of venues quickly and not break people in the process. Solotech built custom dollies to accommodate both lighting and video, with a design that was both agile enough to be wheeled into a TV studio whilst also being robust enough to be pushed across the cobbled streets of Verona.

The flown lighting rig primarily comprised Robe BMFL wash and beam fixtures, while the floor package included Robe iFortes. Three additional iFortes are flown high in the rig as Robo Spots to offset the band’s career long dislike of followspots.

Mark Wynn-Edwards opted to use his own Hog4 lighting console for show control. “It just feels like there are less buttons to press to get something done,” he explained.

d&b audiotechnik SL Arena Solution

Solotech supplied a d&b audiotechnik SL series PA for the arena venues across Europe. Up to 15 GSL cabinets were flown left and right for the main hangs with 10 KSL making up each outhang. Front fill was Y Series point source with 16 x SL subs providing the low frequencies. Additional KSL was shipped in for the larger UK arenas where required.

The system was looked after by freelance System Tech, Joachim Dewulf, while at FOH was Oliver ‘GG’ Gerard – a role he has performed for the band since 2012. GG was pleased with how the d&b had performed.

‘If you do festivals you’ll come up with a poor system occasionally, but it never seems to be the case with d&b. That’s testimony to d&b’s System Techs but also the fact that the boxes just naturally sound good.”

Gerard opted for an SSL Live L200 console at FOH, while over in monitor world Jac Nott was residing behind a DiGiCo Quantum 338. With the exception of guitarist Charlie Burchill the band all used In Ear Monitor (IEM) systems so the only monitors on stage are a pair of d&b M2s for guitars and a single M2 for the bass player.

“The stage is relatively quiet,” explained Jac. “The guitars are all on Kempers, and you get very little coming back off the d&b SL boxes so all you have to deal with is the kit and what the room throws back at you.”

Summing up, Steve Reeve said, “Anyone can supply the equipment. What sets Solotech apart is the service and the crew.”

This was a view shared John Minton, “The service we have received from Solotech has been first rate, with the crew absolutely on it from start to finish.”

“It’s been a pleasure to work with the Simple Minds Production team,’ said Dave Shepherd, “and I believe we have added value in supplying the 360 solution. I look forward to working with them again on future projects.”

Some elements of this text are taken from an original article by Steve Moles in LSI Magazine May 2024