Scaled solutions from Entec light the way for Cage The Elephant’s 2020 tour.

 

Less than a year after gracing the U.S. rock chart’s No.2 spot with their fifth studio album, the Grammy-awarded Social Cues, Kentucky six-piece Cage The Elephant toured Europe in February and March, and returned to Entec as the provider of a versatile lighting package.

Continuing their 14-year career climb towards the premier division of contemporary American live acts, Cage The Elephant’s ace card is undoubtedly frontman Matt Shultz, a born exhibitionist who leaps, kicks and dances his way through the entire night, generating a frenetic intimacy in any size of venue.

In Europe, the band kicked off in the UK with five shows in Leeds, Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham and London, before crossing the Channel for a further six dates with support act SWMRS in tow. Supplying a floor lighting and control package throughout, Entec multiplied its equipment count when the tour reached the O2 Victoria Warehouse in Manchester and London’s Alexandra Palace, arguably the highlight of two weeks on the road.

Active on CTE’s last major European visit, Entec’s services were hired once again through the band’s regular U.S. vendor, Premier Global Productions (PGP), with whom the west London rental firm enjoys a long-standing, interactive relationship.

Headed by production manager Chris Fillery, the crew arrived in London on February 12th to advance the equipment and spend a prep day at John Henry’s while the band rehearsed in a separate studio. Originally CTE’s FOH sound engineer, Chris returned to the fold in 2016 after a seven-year absence to mix monitors for a year until taking on their production management.

Piloted by Robert Fuller (Odesza, Mew, Lifehouse), the lighting design for Europe was effectively an evolution of a show created for their North American amphitheatre tour last year – a production-heavy co-headliner with Beck that saw the band feature an automated overhead lighting pod. For 2020, Robert built on a similar theme but elected to completely redesign a large swathe of the scheme from the ground up.

Chris: “Even though this tour was on a much smaller scale to what the band are used to in the States, it was important to squeeze our budget and attempt to convey an authentic flavour of those bigger shows. That was the basis of my discussions with Entec. I needed them to provide not only a package for the main run but also help us boost the spec for the two bigger shows in the UK, and they really helped us achieve our aims.”

INTIMATE SPACE

Chris not only voiced his respect for the band and, in particular, their “incredible” frontman, he was also full of praise for the LD, claiming: “Robert is a highly talented professional who has come up with a vast range of looks that create an intimate space in a big room. He’s so committed to his work.”

For a band reportedly favouring “a movie look” over a regular concert treatment, Robert has an idyllic career history. While his diverse resume spans rock’n’roll and EDM, he earned his stripes in film and television, focusing lights and programming, and working as a rigging electrician for around 12 years.

“Many my ideas are shaped by that experience,” he commented. “The biggest part of my job is building a cinematic look with powerful accents. There’s a lot of high contrast with punchy oranges and reds, and a vivid blue, creating a feeling that’s very much dictated by the songs. There are symmetric looks but on the whole I try to steer away from fine lines, going more in the direction of a blown-out fill look.”

Originally loaded with 16 GLP X4 Bar 20 LED zoom/tilt battens per side, the rectangular lighting pod concept wheeled out for last year’s amphitheatre jaunt was reinvented as a static feature for Europe, populated instead by ChromaQ Color Force 72 battens. Said Robert: “Although they are non-zoomable, they are capable of throwing a good beam and giving us an authentic flavour of what we achieved before. It’s a go-to light for me if ever I need a good backlight wash to provide some eye candy.”

Entec’s package did, however, include 26 X4s that were applied elsewhere – on side towers – to deliver a bold statement. “I’ve used the X4 with a handful of artists and it’s one of a kind with which you can get a sheet of light or animated looks,” explained Robert. “I’m able to convey a sense of theatre when I do things like an ‘opening door’ effect on ‘Mess Around’ or a slow chase on ‘Cigarette Daydream’.”

Other fixtures selected from the Entec warehouse included Martin MAC Viper Profiles and Aura XB wash lights. “The Viper is a great all-rounder with a wide zoom and it snaps really quickly in between moves. I’m not big on moving washes. The band and I prefer them to be static. In fact, there are only three songs in the set where you see any notable movement from the lights, other than when I cue some big hits or accent drum fills. I guess I’m trying to encourage the audience to focus on the artist.

“For upstage lighting, I was looking for more of an aura than a hard-edged light for a background fill and the Solaris Flare [Q+ 36°] was perfectly suited for that purpose.”

Key to the overall presentation was the effect of the band being placed in a ‘box’, the illusion of which was created by judicious fixture placement, as Robert explained: “Without having the X4s above the stage, it was a challenge to complete that box effect but the combination of the Color Force 72s in the pod, the straight lines at the side and a dense colour wash coming from behind still gave the impression of a band trapped within a space.”

Molefay blinders were cued for some of the big crowd participation moments and Entec’s rig was completed by Lycian M2 followspots and a full complement of Slick, Thomas and TFL LAD moving light truss.

CONTROL & FX

For the past six years, the grandMA2 has been Robert’s preferred console and Entec supplied the compact MA2 light model for this four-truck European run. “When we toured with Beck and carried the same production everywhere, I was working on a Hog, but as soon as we got into the festivals, I reprogrammed everything on an MA2. I just knew it would be far easier to integrate when faced with a different rig every day and maybe only have 40-60 minutes to get our show ready.”

The ’80s retro flavour embraced by the six-piece on Social Cues, CTE’s most recent album, was mirrored by the incorporation of lasers provided by Dartford-based ER Productions, following a strong recommendation by Entec. The company also provided pyro effects that were first featured on the opening number, ‘Broken Boy’. “The idea with the lasers was to project a lo-fi/VHS feel,” said Robert. “The band have always been very receptive to left field ideas for effects that Chris and I occasionally come up with, and it’s great to have that freedom.”

Aiding Robert were Entec’s crew, namely Simon Chandler-Honnor (crew chief), Ian ‘Mac’ MacEwan and Leo Tierney, with Lee Stennett offering further assistance at the London show. “At any time, if I needed to change anything or have an issue dealt with, the Entec crew and staff were on the case very quickly, and Simon, Mac and Leo were phenomenal to work with,” said the LD. Chris Fillery was also complementary: “The crew were dedicated to getting everything up in good time and making it all go so well, especially at Alexandra Palace which was quite special.”

Cage The Elephant’s tour was due to end in Milan on March 4th, however, the looming threat of Coronavirus led to a cancellation and an early return to the States for the band. “It’s always disappointing to cancel a show and the band take this very seriously,” noted Chris, “but we’re living in a climate of uncertainty right now – one that is already impacting throughout our industry. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how this pans out.”

There is, however, much to look forward to, insisted Robert. At the end of March, the band fly to South America to begin a long run of festivals, including Lollapalooza in Chile and Argentina, as the main support to Guns N’Roses, that will see them return to the United States and Europe this summer. “Everything is escalating so fast for this band right now and after Social Cues earned them their second Grammy Award for Best Rock Album [2017’s Tell Me I’m Pretty earned the same honour], they’re on fire and most definitely in their ascendancy!”

https://www.cagetheelephant.com

Photography by Joe Okpako • https://www.projoe.photography