With technical support from Entec Sound & Light, a timeless Mod classic was given an exciting, new twist by AEG Live UK at the Eventim Apollo in February…

Throughout its colourful, 84-year history, Hammersmith’s Eventim Apollo, as it has been known since 2013, has hosted a rich and varied array of live entertainment, but it had never witnessed an event quite like ‘Quadrophenia: The Immersive Cinematic Experience’.

Staged for one night only on February 11th by the venue’s co-owner AEG Live, this multi-media presentation of The Who’s ‘mod opera’ follow-up to ’Tommy’ combined a screening of the original 1979 film with synchronous acting and dancing from a live cast, a Q+A session with director Franc Roddam and stars from the film, including Phil Daniels, Toyah Willcox, John Altman and Mark Wingett, and climaxed with an exciting live performance by internationally renowned tribute band, Who’s Who.

The ‘immersive’ concept was created and produced by AEG Live UK’s Director of Events Sarah Greene, Event Manager Jenny Hamada and Jim King, Senior Vice President of Live Events, with Allen Spriggs brought in as Head of Production to wrangle the technical ingredients. “This is very much an in-house production for AEG Live UK and it’s been an enjoyable challenge all the way through,” Spriggs commented, backstage at the Apollo.

Alistair ‘Ally’ Parley, the venue’s technical manager since October 2010, was personally very keen to see the Apollo extending its reputation as a film house. “Although the Apollo [as the Odeon] ended its life as a commercial cinema in 1984, it remains active with special screenings such as the world gala premiere of ‘The Infidel’ and presentations of recent concert films by Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and Take That. So this was a great opportunity to remind everyone that we continue to have the facilities here to present movies.”

Parley was involved with the selection of Entec Sound & Light as the main production supplier for the event and the technical discussions that followed. He said: “Entec has been a preferred supplier at the venue for many years; the company has a tremendous amount of experience here and the staff know our people very well, so it was a natural decision to ask Entec to quote.”

Based around the time of the famous Mods and Rockers riot in Brighton during a bank holiday weekend in 1964, the story of ‘Quadrophenia’ focuses on Jimmy Cooper, a pill-popping London Mod whose teenage life spirals out of control as he fights against his parents and the establishment. Released six years apart, both the album and the film feature some of Pete Townshend’s finest songwriting achievements including ‘The Real Me’, ‘5:15’, ‘I’ve Had Enough’ and ‘Love Reign O’er Me’. These numbers came alive on screen and within the auditorium when the director of the immersive acting, Edmund Harcourt of Hogarth Productions, led the live cast through a variety of lively scene re-enactments at the front of the stalls and on the stage itself.

Played by Phil Daniels in the film and resurrected for this event by actor Adam Dougal, Jimmy’s character was seen several times onstage in an intimate bedroom scenario with a life-size replica set designed by Hattie Spice. One of the film’s most memorable scenes showed a pharmaceutically enhanced Jimmy diving into a crowd of dancers from a ballroom balcony – a scene brilliantly recreated by stuntman Chris Pollard, whose leap took the audience by complete surprise. The delivery was in no small way aided by lighting designer Simon Tutchener, whose diverse career has conveniently included working on a number of the stunt scenes during the filming of ’80s blockbuster ‘The Jewel Of The Nile’.

Having witnessed the amount of preparation demanded by stunts, Tutchener was determined to reserve as much quality time as possible with the stuntman to ensure that every corner was covered. Tutchener explained: “During rehearsal, I showed Chris my proposed lighting plot and deleted any lights that gave him a problem. The last thing a stunt guy needs is a beam staring him in the face but he also needs to see his target and be lit all the way down. That scene received a standing ovation on the night, so we did well.

“This was a relatively cost-effective stunt that didn’t require huge amounts of rigging. The house built a kind of diving board up on the balcony and allocated a couple of security people, while Allen Spriggs arranged a chaperone for Chris.”

LIGHT & VISION

Tutchener, who worked on the ‘Quadrophenia’ event in between tours with another Entec client, The Bootleg Beatles, ensured that the Apollo’s external facade was fully branded in advance of the audience’s arrival. “Allen Spriggs had the idea of projecting Union Jacks across the front of the venue, and Entec already had some Union Jack gobos for the Philips Vari-Lite VL2000 Spots that had been specified, so we put one at each end,” said Tutchener. “The Spots were housed inside transparent outdoor domes which are such a brilliantly simple invention. I programmed a colour chase on my show console – it was the last thing we did on the night before the event – and stored it on a memory stick. I love stuff like that.”

Once inside the building, the audience was greeted by displays of artwork and memorabilia including an original Parka from ‘Quadrophenia’, and replicas of the lead characters’ scooters. To reinforce the theme even further, several members of the Apollo staff dressed up for the night as Bell Boys in honour of Sting’s movie role.

The film itself, a standard DCP [Digital Cinema Package] file, was beamed into the auditorium by London-based specialist Future Projections from a Doremi Dolby Showvault 4 playback server. Projection was manned by the company’s chief engineer James Tremayne, who looked after a Christie CP2000 projector and a Barco DP2K-10s as back-up, while Entec supplied the 40’ x 20’ Rosco projection screen.

One of Tutchener’s concerns was how to light the acting scenes without affecting the projection. He said: “There were some moments in rehearsals when I had problems with light bouncing off the floor and on to the screen, but I’m pleased to say that I managed to avoid it on the night.

“The front three rows of the stalls were removed to accommodate the live action and that was the main one of five distinct working areas in the auditorium. Row Four became Row One but that was full of live cast members between scenes. We had the area on the stage directly in front of the screen, then the aisles and the cross aisle, and finally the stunt area on and beneath the balcony. All of those needed focusing which is why I opted to bring the advance truss quite a way into the theatre, above the cross aisle. I believe it’s the furthest into the audience that you can hang anything but it also made building it very easy because we could use all the space of the aisle way.”

After watching their younger selves on screen, Phil Daniels and his fellow members of the original film cast – Toyah Willcox (Monkey), Mark Wingett (Dave), John Altman (Johnny Fagin), Phil Davis (Chalky), Trevor Laird (Ferdy), Daniel Peacock (Danny), Jeremy Child (the Agency Man) – and the film’s celebrated director, Franc Roddam, formed a panel for a Q&A session hosted by comedian Ian Moore, revealing some of the stories behind the making of the now-classic movie.

“The Q+A session was arranged on stage as a café scene with the original movie cast members occupying tables and chairs,” said Tutchener, who worked with Entec’s lighting crew members Peter ‘Pepper’ Schofield, Will Wright and Mark Wood. “I lit this with Clay Paky Sharpy Wash 330s rigged on House Bar 3 which, for the purposes of this part of the event, became the front truss. We also used Thomas 4-lite Molefays which were introduced to allow the panel and Ian Moore to see the audience who were firing questions from all around the room.”

A ‘Best Threads Awards’ prize-giving for the snappiest dressers amongst the audience was followed by one of the big highlights of the evening: a seismic live set by the celebrated Who’s Who, the tribute act that possesses all the hard-hitting bluster of the mid-’70s Who, if not a similar bank balance. The band performed a full-on selection of their heroes’ greatest hits including highlights from ‘Quadrophenia’, ending with the evergreen rock classic ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ amidst raucous cheers of approval from the crowd.

“Show day was non-stop and it left little time for me to discuss with the band a plan of action for the lighting, so I leaned on my rock’n’roll experience to pull some exciting looks together on the spot, and that was immense fun,” commented Tutchener. “If I had gone the conventional, classic ’70s/’80s route, it would have been lots of narrow PARs and ACLs, but I had put 14 Clay Paky QWO 800 Alpha Spots on three different theatre pipes and staggered them so that the sum looked a lot bigger than the parts. I also relied on the Molefays for the band, notably for the scream in ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’. It would’ve been rude not to!”

Three years ago, at Tutchener’s request, Entec’s lighting manager and operations director Noreen O’Riordan invested in a stock of 38 QWO 800s and 20 Sharpy Washes for Mark Knopfler’s Privateering tour, and the LD still rates them as highly as ever. “For their size and weight, they really deliver and – along with a few Molefays – that’s basically what the ‘Quadrophenia’ rig consisted of. My faith was once again justified and although I look forward to other options, I’ll always be very happy about using those Clay Paky units.”

Tutchener worked closely with “outstanding” show caller Amelia Price, communicating with her and his two follow spot operators, David Bunn and Marc Thornton [piloting Robert Juliat Victor 1800w spots], by juggling two headsets. “It was a bit intense at times!” he quipped.

His lighting design was fulfilled via his current console of choice, MA Lighting’s grandMA2 light. “I discovered the MA series about eight years ago when I was lighting the ‘Oh What A Night’ theatre show in Hamburg, and immediately saw that this was basically a Hog that I could use. In fact, I loved it so much that I bought a grandMA full-size two years later, touring with it for quite some time. I sold it for a profit just as MA Lighting brought out the grandMA2 and once I found my way around that, it became a struggle to work on anything else simply because alternatives either behave differently or don’t give you what you need.

“The ‘light’ version I used on ‘Quadrophenia’ – and also on the recent Bootleg Beatles tours – has two screens and 15 immediately accessible faders, and if you add another bank of faders and an extra screen, it becomes an MA2 full-size. But, like me, most people go for a ‘light’ because it’s the same system with identical software, and operation is very comfortable.”

FRONT OF HOUSE SOUND

“This was a very interesting event for me,” said FOH engineer Matt Butcher, who was assisted by sound technician Robert Maynard. “From a technical perspective, the audio demands were quite standard but the range of content was very different to what I’m used to and I found it refreshing.”

Taking advantage of the Apollo’s permanently installed L’Acoustics K2 system, Butcher mixed each element of the event on a Yamaha CL5 desk, supplied by Entec as part of the kit trucked to the Apollo by R Jameson Event Transport. Part of the CL5’s choice, explained Butcher, was influenced by the decision to run a Dante network and take audio from the projection booth via the Ethercon.

“Entec has a very well-designed Dante system for returns and comms,” he said, “and this was the first time I’d come across it because I usually live in the world of MADI. However, the sheer amount of network management you can achieve with Dante – from inputs and outputs to sample rates – is seriously impressive and quite easy to handle. It was Entec’s system technician Liam Halpin who encouraged the use of Dante on this project and after a few hours spent messing around with it in the Northolt warehouse I realised that it made perfect sense.”

A regular DiGiCo SD10 user, Butcher was also looking forward to his first hands-on experience with a CL5. “It’s a very good desk that is easy to control because it’s based on Yamaha’s M7 surface. With this design, they have introduced a number of improvements to the audio quality with the Rupert Neve pre-amps. I also found the user fader bank layers to be brilliant and they are exactly what was needed.”

Butcher continued: “Coming from an analogue background, I’m a big fan of tactile design on consoles and the faders on the CL5 have a hollowed shape that allows you to see from side-on exactly where the line is pointing. Now, that may be quite a basic requirement but it seems to be absent from a number of other modern consoles.

“The other onboard feature that I really like is the Dan Dugan Sound Design automatic mixer. I thought the Dugan system would be perfect for the Q+A session because you just insert the processor over eight channels and it prioritises whichever mic has audio going through it at any one time, reducing the gain of the others. It’s one of those things that make the job a little easier. So, overall, I think Yamaha really paid attention to detail with the CL5.”

Up in the projection booth, James Tremayne sent the film’s Left, Centre, Right and Sub-Low audio channels to Butcher from a Dolby CP750 processor as well as a USL JSD-80 back-up feed. The engineer elected to add subtle compression to the soundtrack due to its dynamic nature. “The Brighton Beach riot scene, particularly, is quite loud and it needed to be evened out without me resorting to riding the master fader,” he explained.

Butcher, whose association with Entec dates back to 1988 when he worked at the Marquee Club in Charing Cross Road, made his name as Blur’s touring engineer. He joined the band’s crew in 1994, just prior to the release of their ear-defining album Parklife, and has since worked with Entec on all of Blur’s tours as well as front man Damon Albarn’s projects including Gorillaz, The Good, The Bad & The Queen, Heavy Seas and his ‘Monkey: Journey To The West’ opera.

“Yes, it all happened in my BritPop ’90s,” laughed Butcher, who is also credited with mixing several Blur live recordings. “They were great times and, of course, that was when I first met Phil Daniels [the voice of ‘Parklife’] so it’s been good to work with him again on this event.”

The engineer’s impeccable live band experience came into its own when approaching how best to control the sound of renowned tribute act Who’s Who. “As show day was so heavily focused on rehearsing the theatrical element of the programme, we fully expected that the band would pretty much only get a line check just before the doors opened, so although I was prepared for that it didn’t prepare me for how absolutely brilliant they are.”

So brilliant, in fact, that the The Who’s sound is fastidiously replicated not just musically but also in terms of SPL. Said Butcher: “They’re bloody loud, that’s for sure! Mixing the drummer [Paul Kemp] must surely rate as the nearest anyone in my position could get to mixing Keith Moon because his style and general demeanour on stage is so uncannily like the man himself.

“I took a wide open approach to his kit with no gates or any of the usual things that one might normally use. I used a flat EQ technique and high-pass filters, and mixed without trying to make his kit sound like a bunch of samples. The only EQ adjustment was on the double kick drums and I also compressed the overhead mics, but for the most part the audience heard a very natural-sounding kit that was just amplified.”

Butcher’s microphone choices were Shure Beta 52s in the kick drums, Beyer M201s on each side of the snare, Sennheiser e904s around the toms and AKG C414s for overhead mics. Other mics on stage included a Sennheiser MD409 paired with a Shure 57 on guitarist Pete Dixon’s 4 x 12” cabinets. For Terry Wyatt’s bass, a pre-effects DI was used to achieve a clean bottom end while a Beyer M88 miked one of his bass cabs to capture the classic John Entwistle-style overdriven sound. Singer Gary O’Donnell used his own Shure SM58 on a cable that enabled him to faithfully reproduce Roger Daltrey’s trademark microphone swinging technique.

PLENTY OF WEDGE

In the wings at stage left, monitor engineer Maurizio ‘Mo’ Schiavi described his job as “monitoring lite”, adding that his duties were “fairly minimal up until the band performance in the final half hour when it really kicked off.”

Due to much of the backstage space being consumed by set building and actors’ make-up and preparation areas, Schiavi needed a compact console solution and the Midas Pro2C digital desk was given pride of place along with a Midas DL251 I/O rack processor. “The Pro2C was a fine choice,” he commented. “It has that typical Midas gain structure and while it gives you all the facilities of the Pro2, such as its 64 input channels, the physical size of the user interface is smaller. I’m 42 so I pretty much learned on analogue gear and then applied my knowledge to digital. What I like about the Pro2C is that you can come to it with a kind of analogue mind because of its similarities to the classic XL4.”

Dormant throughout the film, stage monitoring made its first appearance for the Q+A session which employed eight channels of Shure UHF-R, various UR2 handheld microphones and UR1s with DPA d:fine bodyworn mics, controlled from Wireless Workbench 6 using a Shure Axient AXT600 scanner. So that the panel could hear the questions being asked by members of the audience, feeds from the microphones in the auditorium were routed into d&b M4 front wedges as well as d&b two-way Y7P cross-stage fills (driven by a D12 amplifier) to aid the panel members on the extreme sides of the stage.

The live band set that followed the Q+A was, Schiavi said, was a dramatic contrast. “I agree with Matt about Who’s Who – they really were fantastic although their excessively loud backline, which I know was all part of achieving an authentic sound, was a shock. The sheer power coming from the drummer alone was quite stunning. Usually for a loud rock band of this nature, d&b’s large M2 wedges would be a natural choice but for practical reasons we went for 10 of the smaller M4s, running in bi-amped mode and powered by D12s, so there was plenty of level coming out of those monitors. Gary, the singer, was surrounded by a typical arc of three M4s while the remainder of the wedges were distributed evenly between the other three members.”

“I was concerned that there was too much stage volume for Matt to deal with because in a venue such as the Apollo, it can be a struggle to control the FOH sound when so much level is pouring into the microphones, hence the popularity of in-ear monitors today. But Matt did a great job.”

An Italian whose career developed through work for native PA companies, Schiavi’s biggest projects of recent years have included major sporting tournaments in Baku, Sochi, London and Glasgow – you can probably guess which ones – but it was his past experience on music festivals that came into play on the ‘Quadrophenia’ event. “Festivals are all about being able to respond quickly with band changeovers and to short notice requests, so it felt like old times when we had the fairly rapid change from the Q+A scene into the live band set, and having everything ready in time.”

Talking after the success of the February 11th event, Allen Spriggs said that AEG Live’s long-term aim is to take ‘Quadrophenia: The Immersive Cinematic Experience’ on the road. “This was effectively the pilot and I think we’ve set ourselves a good example,” he commented. “We all agree that we have a very viable concept and we are already plotting ways to make the most of it.”

Photography © Tim Jobling (courtesy AEG Live UK) & Mark Cunningham