Causing the biggest stir for many years amongst audiences and industry professionals alike with the sheer scale of its design and construction is U2’s current 360° Tour.
The now-famous ‘Claw’, designed by the combined talents of Show Architect Mark Fisher and long-time U2 collaborator, Show Designer/Director, Willie Williams, forms a 28m high canopy over one of the largest stages ever toured.
Pivotal to the ‘Claw’ is a central spire or pylon, 50m high and loaded with 34 PRG Icon 2 ‘Bad Boy’ moving lights and two 600mm mirror balls, which has been developed and fabricated by UK staging company, Brilliant Stages.
“Working with Jeremy Lloyd of Stufish to Mark Fisher’s design, we devised a construction that would withstand the rigours of a 44-date, international tour of outdoor arenas and stadia, yet which would also be easy to erect and transport,” explains Brilliant Stages General Manager, Tony Bowern.
The pylon, which has a diameter at its centre of 2.4m and tapers towards each end, is composed of nineteen 2.4m high sections, constructed in high grade aluminium, with high tensile steel connections between each.
Each section has six main 9cm diameter cords welded at each end to a 10mm profiled aluminium plate, which form the roof and the floor for the section.
Within each section is an access ladder to the sections above and below, with DWE lighting battens also integrated into the structural element.
Kevin Edwards, Brilliant Stages’ CAD designer and engineer, worked on the idea of a single jig for the fabrication, which was designed to assemble each piece to an extremely high tolerance.
The jig produced up to 3 sections per week with completed sections being consigned to a local storage facility before being returned to Brilliant Stages for inspection and test fitting in the final week of production. The finished sections were then shipped to PRG for lighting installation before being finally put together with the rest of the set in technical rehearsals in Barcelona.
All structural approvals had to be checked and signed off by Neil Thomas of Atelier 1 prior to the commencement of any construction. Once in construction, Brilliant Stages used a small, highly skilled team of 2 welders, and employed Bureau Veritas to dye penetrate weld test each section before final sign off.
Working closely with Nick Evans of Live Nation, Brilliant Stages took on the challenge of erecting the massive 50m pylon into its central position. The solution was to provide 3 lifting points around the pylon on three 6-tonne chain hoists. The hoists lift the pylon from the main, Stageco-built, grid of the ‘Claw’ and, as it is raised, sections are added until a second pick up is required. At this point the pylon is secured and the pick up points lowered to the next lifting section lower down the pylon.
This operation is repeated 3 times until the pylon is in its fully extended position when it is clamped into the ‘Claw’ and permanent steels added as stabilisers.
To assist Tour Production Director, Jake Berry, and his team with the speedy install and de-rig they required, each of the sections travel on their own castors and have built in fork channels. Brilliant Stages has also supplied a removable, protective PVC panel for the orange stretched gauze cladding which covers the structure.
“Our policy is to design sets to be crew-friendly,’ says Bowern. “This is important to us and in turn leads to a happy Production Manager!”
“We all feel that Brilliant Stages really did do a brilliant job on the pylon,” confirms Jake Berry. “It is very user friendly and extremely efficient in the way it goes together, both for fit up and breakdown. We are very happy with the outcome.”
During the install, the 34 PRG ‘Bad Boys’ are attached to the outside of the pylon using custom brackets and rain hoods designed and engineered by Brilliant Stages.
Finally, the icing on the cake are two mirror balls, one at the tip and the second, on a linear actuator, mounted internally to the base section. These are composed of 40mm square mirrors which help create the bold lighting effects seen on Blackberry’s television advertising and throughout the show.
“Brilliant Stages is very proud to be involved with the biggest cutting edge tour in the world,” continues Bowern, “and that Mark, Willie and Jake have shown confidence in the Brilliant Stages team to develop and build the Pylon.”
The U2 360° Tour plays to a succession of huge audiences through 15 European cities during July and August and is followed by a North American tour in September and October 09.
Photo Credit Ralph Larmann.