Pollstar’s 2017 In Review: Production – Expanding The Fan Experience

Concert production continues to evolve with an emphasis on interactive fan experiences via the latest technology and a lot of brainstorming.

That’s what Tait Towers Chief Creative Officer Adam Davis calls the race for the greatest “spectacular” in production values.

Metallica continues to push technical boundaries with its “Worldwired Tour” through the use of 120 autonomous micro drones during the song “Moth Into Flames.” The drones come out of the main-stage prop lifts and swarm into different formations above the band.
The production also includes 52 kinetic LED cubes that show video content and move in time to the music thanks to control software and winches provided by Tait.

Tony Woolliscroft/WireImage/Getty Images

Metallica performs at Genting Arena in Birmingham, England, Oct. 30.

“It’s a world’s first, a real pioneering project to try to take that technology and tour it around the world because it’s such uncharted territory. Both from an artistic standpoint and a technology standpoint it’s a very exciting project,” Davis told Pollstar. “I think it’s actually monumental. If you look at the lighting industry, we started with candles and then fixed lights. Then there was a revolution in the 80’s, I guess, with moving lights. This is the first flying light that I’ve ever seen so I believe we’ve really done something that’s pioneering for Metallica.”

Jay-Z’s “4:44 Tour” features an in-the-round configuration with eight massive screens that will hang above the performer and a center stage that inclines and flattens, putting Jay-Z near his fans.

“If you look at the common theme between all of these projects you’re going to see a real embracing of kinetics and media intersecting to increase the fan experience. We believe that when you put the two together, you end up with something that really changes the energy in the room,” Davis said. “To take Jay-Z as an example, by being able to take this huge video sculpture from the center of the stage and transform it to something that’s overhead, it actually shifts the energy of the entire room, which we can then do in correlation with the music.”

The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “The Getaway Tour” production also focuses on an immersive fan experience with what is described by provider Tait as “the largest, automated, kinetic light installation in concert touring history.”

Gabriel OLsen/Getty Images

Red Hot Chili Peppers play Staples Center in Los Angeles March 7.

The kinetic display used more than 1,000 Tait Nano Winches to place LED fixtures above the crowd that create rhythmic shapes. Fixture movements are accented with videos displayed on a massive screen behind the band.

“That, to me, is a real transforming moment as well in what a rock show is. We’ve taken the sculpture of a show, which is traditionally associated with where the artist is on the stage, and extended it over the entire arena floor.,’ Davis said. “The sculptural canvas that we’re playing with becomes much larger and turns the entire environment into the show.”

Katy Perry’s “Witness: The Tour” production provided by Tait features a large main runway stage with a 130-foot, eye-shaped video wall, a teardrop-shaped adjacent stage, automated rigging, a performer flying system and LED performer lifts that move into staircase-like shapes that raise above the stage.

 “We’re always fascinated with these large shows and how we change the energy in the room, which translates to us changing the environment. In the old school, you had this kind of Shakespearean story where you establish the characters and have conflict resolution,” Davis explained. “Today, we’re able to do it by combining media and motion control and program the energy in the room. The current state of live production, from my point of view, is absolutely pushing those boundaries and how we can continue to use technology to embrace the ‘spectacular’ race.”

Katy Perry
Kevin Winter/Getty Images
– Katy Perry
Katy Perry takes over Staples Center in Los Angeles Nov. 7.

Ed Sheeran’s “Divide Tour” has a simple but large-scale production that expands the visual landscape and gives his audience plenty to remember along with his performance.

As Sheeran performs with his guitar and custom loop pedal, a bank of 20 large video screens 42’ wide extend up in the shape of a goblet behind him, lighting cued to the flow of the show and more keeps his fans engaged.

And Roger Waters’ “Us + Them Tour” continues his otherworldly style of storytelling with a large-scale production including a 74-feet-wide stage, flying elements, multidimensional laser effects, overhead rigging across the entire length of an arena and more. 

“We did a reconstruction of Roger Waters’ ‘The Wall’ about five years ago but for his tour this year,  he’ll continue to push it out next year with an updated show that’s incredibly dynamic. The entire arena is cut in half length-wise utilizing projection and new technology we call a Rollio drop, where we’re able to suspend projection screens of any height anywhere in the space. The motion is fully synchronized with the video and creates a really dynamic effect,” Davis said.

Electronic musician Flying Lotus made a splash this year by incorporating 3D into his fall tour via 3D Live, visual arts and engineering specialists based in Los Angeles.
Company founder/COO Ryan Pardeiro previously told Pollstar the only word he could use to describe Flying Lotus’ production is “indescribable. Concertgoers wear free standard 3D glasses but feel fully immersed in the experience like virtual reality.

Flying Lotus 3D
– Flying Lotus 3D
Debuting his 3D set at the FYF Fest in Los Angeles in July.

“It’s such a unique technology that you have to be there in person to see it. It’s a holographic-type of 3D, and the type of imagery is so present, with the space around the artist, that it feels like it’s in the same space there with him.”

Davis and his team are working on incorporating even more 3D effects into future productions

 “We’re doing a lot in the space with augmented reality and virtual reality that I think, as we get more comfortable with it, will go more into the live space. If 2018 isn’t the year that mixed reality hits live events, it will be 2019 or 2020 for sure.

“The other big challenge for us … is how can we make it bigger and lighter – utilizing high-pressure, inflatable technology with motion controls to make things that are larger and crazier than people have ever seen in an arena environment before. We’re constantly pushing the boundaries of production technology one show at a time.”