Saturday, October 25th, 2014

More BBs on the Bloc at Olympia

Lighting designer Leggy (Jonathan Armstrong) upped his count of i-Pix BB7 LED wash lights from 19 to 35 for Bloc Party’s 2 sold out shows at London Olympia, the latest on a world tour that kicked off in January.

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Bloc Party’s “Intimacy” tour is the first time that Leggy had incorporated BB7s into his rig – a move prompted by wanting a very bright, soft edged source with fabulously smooth colour mixing to produce the main over-stage washes.

On the first section of the tour he used four BB7s a side for front and side-stage washes, plus 4 on the floor behind each musician, for silhouetting and other contrasty style effects. The other nine BB7s were arranged on an inverted triangle on 3 back trusses – typically a main truss with 2 sub hangs – dependent on the venue and available space, etc.

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At Olympia, the triangle was expanded to 4 trusses – mid and back with 2 sub hangs from the upstage truss – accommodating 22 BB7s, configured as four rows of 7-6-5 and 4 respectively, front to back. This architecturally shaped the stage with a clean geometric twist, the petal like appearance of the BB7s juxtaposed against the straight horizontals of the trussing.

The rest of the rig remained exactly the same as per the tour – with 15 BB4s positioned on the floor in a straight run across the back of stage making a high-impact wall-of-light effect, plus another 4 in footlights positions across the front of stage, giving him the option of lighting entire songs just with LEDs.

The rig also contains Studio Beam moving lights – which rarely visibly move – Source Four profiles, 4-lites, strobes and 4 floor PARs, but the BBs are easily the most noticeable and hard-working fixtures of the visual picture.

Leggy has now had a proper chance to play with the BB7s (since January), and has developed some very subtle effects. The ability to control each individual cell of the BB7 adds enormous scope to any creative palette. For the song “Signs” the stage is washed in a steel blue on the overhead BB7s, with a fast white chase on one cell per unit twinkling through them. In other parts of the show he uses the chasing cells to make pattern effects and introduce a totally different mode of movement to the show.

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“We all love the BB7s,” he declares enthusiastically, reporting that they received a huge amount of attention from the local crews on the US section of the tour – the majority of whom had not seen them before, and a fair proportion of whom didn’t realise they were LED fixtures!

 

Bandit Lites in Nashville supplied lighting for the US leg of the tour, with the BB7s from Bandit UK.

The power saving was also a major bonus in the US, which was primarily a club tour, with many venues offering limited power supplies. With the BBs drawing so little current, they could use all their ‘specials’ without compromising the look of the show.

“The homogenized lightsource is one of the many great things about i-Pix fixtures,” Leggy declares – a view shared by all those now using the brand. The units really resemble an incandescent fixture, offering similar dimming characteristics and response times as well as being able to produce a richly genuine tungsten glow.

He also loves the colour range, specially the pastels and more idiosyncratic shades and hues, which suit Bloc Party’s rocky urban sound perfectly. He uses them mainly for stunning stark, pure single colour looks, or very simple colour combinations.

Lighting equipment including all the BBs for the Olympia shows was supplied by Neg Earth, who also looked after the UK and European tours, with sound from Wigwam. For Olympia, IMAG projection was added, directed by Jon Shrimpton with kit supplied by XL Video. CMT came in to do lasers – operated by Gino Malocca – for the final two numbers of the set, ensuring that these shows finished on one of many unique visual high notes!

Bloc Party will be playing festivals throughout the summer and continue touring until the end of the year.

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