Entec co-ordinates a complete production service at London’s O2 for a unique pairing of iconic Neo-Soul artists.

British connoisseurs of Neo-Soul had the rare opportunity of seeing the “first lady” of the genre, Erykah Badu, perform live at the O2 Arena on June 9th at an eagerly anticipated show co-headlined by Jhené Aiko. A UK exclusive, Badu X Aiko saw Entec co-ordinate a 360° production solution encompassing sound, lighting, video, backline, crew and more, at the request of NeoLuv, the event promoter established in 2017 by John Junior and Simon Charles.

NeoLuv was first introduced to Entec when Badu played Hammersmith Apollo two years ago and was impressed with the supplier’s standard of service and attention to detail. A spokesperson said: “Although we had successfully organised fashion shows, travel expos and parties, we were new to the concert market and Noreen [O’Riordan, Entec MD & head of lighting] was extremely supportive from the start. What impressed us most was that she identified some items on the Badu rider that could be replicated more affordably with quality alternatives. It wasn’t all about taking our money – it was about providing the most sensible options, and we really appreciated that.”

This time around, a number of practical challenges led the promoter to fully harness Entec’s experience in delivering a complete production, as a NeoLuv’s rep explained: “The Badu entourage were going to be arriving late on show day direct from headlining the NOS Primavera Sound festival in Portugal. Compacted with the nature of the technical requests from the artists’ management, this led [Entec head of sound] Jonny Clark to strongly suggest that we bring someone onboard specifically to co-ordinate the production on-site.”

Jonny’s recommendation was Fraser ‘Stumpy’ McAvoy, production manager of Editors, with whom Entec toured throughout 2018. “Stumpy was an inspired choice,” said NeoLuv’s rep. “We were over the moon with the way he handled our requirements and dealt with the artists’ teams, and the crew was incredible. Jhené Aiko’s management could not have been more complimentary. They were no less than ecstatic about the production, the quality of the sound and visual elements, and the helping hand they received from Entec’s personnel that enabled her to deliver the standards to which she aspires.”

“EXCEPTIONALLY TIGHT” AUDIO

A familiar face who has been involved in many Entec projects over the years, Matt Grounds headed Entec’s audio crew consisting of PA techs Colin Woodward, Lewis Wareham and Tom Olorenshaw, patch engineer Diego Ternavisio and monitor tech Jake Brennan. Matt was also instrumental in designing the system for the O2 show, which included 22 d&b audiotechnik J-Series cabinets, 20 V-Series and eight J-SUBs flown per side of the stage, along with 24 B22s deployed in a sub array. Point source loudspeakers – eight d&b Y10Ps and a pair of V10Ps – were also chosen as fills across the stage.

Badu’s FOH engineer for the last 10 years, Kenneth H. Williams piloted the mix with a DiGiCo SD7, making much use of the internal Waves plugin library. To the right of the SD7 was an Avid S6L as specified for Aiko’s engineer Anthony Hunter. “Ken structured a sub-rich sound that one might expect with the musical style… and it never sounded muddy,” observed Matt. “The interaction between the flown and ground subs was clear, punchy and exceptionally tight. He did a superb job.”

The ArrayProcessed system included d&b DS10 audio network bridges – one at FOH and two per side of the stage – that interfaced between the D80 amplifiers and the Dante audio transport protocol. “We tend to keep this side of the job pretty simple,” commented Matt. “While the DiGiCo SD11 console at FOH contained the MCs and the DJ between acts, it also matrixed the SD7 and S6L via AES, sending the pairing out into R1 processing. Overall, the signal chain was kept very clean and uncomplicated.”

Evan Wineberry and Jonathan Hogue mixed monitors for Badu and Aiko respectively, each using a separate Avid Venue Profile desk provided by Entec. On stage, there was a combination of d&b M2 and M4 wedges, with Shure PSM 1000 in-ear monitoring systems. Shure’s Axient Digital wireless equipment was also present with AD4Q four-channel receivers and AD2 handheld microphones in use throughout the evening. Meanwhile, the mic package included a Shure KSM9 condenser for Badu’s vocals and a Beta 58A for Aiko.

FLUID LIGHTING

For the last five years, L.A.-based Darrius Medina has had the honour of working as Badu’s creative director and lighting designer, and at the O2 he appeared to be enjoying the ride. “Erykah’s show is as live as it gets,” he said. “There’s no time-code or pre-programming involved; there’s not even a set list. The band have been with her a long time and they follow her lead, reacting instantly to certain impromptu looks from her, so it’s a very fluid show. Not being kept to a rigid script means that we enjoy a lot of real-time creative freedom and, therefore, no two shows look the same.”

Honouring the technical rider to the letter, Entec’s equipment included 26 Martin MAC Viper profiles, 32 MAC Aura XB and 13 Chauvet Nexus 4×4 LED Matrix. The equipment also included hazers, Thomas trussing, CM LodeStar and Outboard motors and control, and draping.

Darrius explained his choices: “Erykah’s touring habits in recent years have mostly been confined to a number of one-offs, so I tend to specify very standard fixtures that I can source all around the world, and Entec came good for us in that respect.

“We wanted a clean look; it’s not a pop show so it doesn’t have to be super-bright or ‘beamy’, but it’s important to have rich colour saturation and using the Vipers and the Aura XB washes this time gave us everything we needed. We also had the Nexus 4×4 cells on all three trusses to give us some cool eye candy as well as providing washes.”

Watch the whole day in a timelapse video:

Badu X Aiko O2 2019

Lighting operator for both acts was Marcus Jessup, a member of the team at Darrius’ design company Lit Creative, who ran a grandMA2 full-size lighting console, provided by Entec along with a light version for back-up. “The full-size MA2 was an important choice for us because so many options for different looks have to be available as we are constantly creating on the fly,” commented Darrius. “It also needed to accommodate a laser system [sourced from specialist ER Productions] that created a variety of effects throughout the set.”

The designer, who also works with Major Lazer and Diplo, was aided at the O2 by Entec’s four-person lighting crew: Simon ‘Boff’ Howarth, Dave Brierley, Vitalijus Kybartas and Ellis Canwell. He added: “It was great to find that all the gear was in perfect working condition and the crew ensured I didn’t want for anything.”

MARRIAGE OF RESOURCES

Supplying video services was Entec’s regular go-to company, Transition, whose 10-person crew – headed by LED crew chief Carl Stage – included camera director Laurence Delany and operators Pru Fowler, Neil Trierweiler and Tim Moses.

Transition’s crew built a 10.2m wide x 6m high upstage LED screen from 70 panels of ROE MC7 and rigged a pair of Panasonic PT-DZ21K projectors which fired IMAG to soft screens either side of the stage. Three cameras were deployed – one at FOH and two in the pit – with Laurence cutting the images for the IMAG inside an OB truck on hire from Zest4 TV.

For the Badu set, the IMAG mix was also sent to VJ Gavin Gamboa who treated the images with effects and colourisation with Resolume software on a MacBook Pro, adding it to graphical content before delivering it to the upstage screen. Dominique Weaver controlled Aiko’s video output with the same infrastructure.

Carl Stage was pleased with the results: “In recent years, Transition has done a lot of one-offs and a few tours with Entec, like the Hollywood Vampires and numerous shows at Wembley, Hammersmith Apollo and Shepherds Bush, and it’s proven to be a very successful marriage of skills and resources.”

The full production package also included backline and risers from John Henry’s, a local crew of 24 from Stage Miracles, trucking from R. Jameson and KB Event, and catering provided by Eat To The Beat with a team managed by Michelle Bearsby-Lewis.

After Jhené Aiko thrilled the crowd with cuts from her albums Souled Out and Trip, the fans had a long wait for Erykah Badu, who had discovered that her son had been involved in a car crash. An hour and 20 minutes later than scheduled, Badu hit the stage at 10.10pm and overran the Sunday curfew of 10.30pm. NeoLuv’s spokesperson commented: “We obviously received a lot of comments, but I think her delay was understandable and I respect the fact that she showed up at all. Her performance was certainly worth the wait.”

While NeoLuv praised Stumpy for “pulling a brilliant show out of the bag”, the production manager himself was very forthcoming about the crucial roles played by the teams assembled by Entec. He said: “Going way past curfew obviously impacted on our load-out which was finally completed by 2.15am. Despite this, every crew member played out their part with a cheery disposition and great professionalism. You can’t ask for more than that.”

Photos © Joe Okpako / projoe.photography, Mark Cunningham / entecLIVE.com & Mark Saunders

https://www.neoluv.co.uk

http://erykah-badu.com

http://www.jheneaiko.com

http://www.transitionvideo.com