Magic Soul Live celebrated the genre’s greatest hits at Hammersmith’s Eventim Apollo with a host of stars and lighting from Entec.

Hosted by Lemar and fellow Magic Radio presenter Angie Greaves, Magic Soul Live had all the ingredients of an unforgettable party: a soul music jamboree graced with some of history’s best-loved songs, performed by such stellar artists as Motown diva Martha Reeves, Rose Royce’s Gwen Dickey, Gabrielle, Kenny Thomas, Jaki Graham, Acid Jazz pioneers the Brand New Heavies, ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ vocalist Tommy Blaize, ‘The Voice’ finalist Michelle John, and Andrew Strong, star of ‘The Commitments’.

Staged at the Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith on February 23rd with lighting designed by Dan Street of Street Light and supplied by Entec, Magic Soul Live 2019 was the second annual show produced by event production agency TBI Media.

For the last few years, Craig Greaves has been helming TBI’s technical production for broadcast shows and other live events, hiring the best services and ensuring delivery on budget. Craig, who runs Maidenhead-based CSG Events, said: “Last February’s show at the London Palladium [with Alexander O’Neal, Heather Small, Mica Paris and Andrew Roachford] sold out so easily that we knew a larger venue would be needed this time. With its 3,500+ capacity, the Apollo is an ideal platform for a stepped-up production in 2019.

“TBI’s appointment of Dan Street as LD was a great choice. After Dan prepared his design in WYSIWYG, I looked it over from a practical standpoint, then liaised with Adam Stevenson at Entec to get the best possible package.”

Craig explained that Entec won the contract following a recommendation by the Apollo’s management. He said: “Moving into a new venue can sometimes be daunting but Entec have made it very simple and painless. Their long experience of the Apollo means they have a reliable understanding of the best and most time-efficient load-in methods. When you only have four hours to load in, that counts for an awful lot. There’s no window for delays – you have to know that the kit is prepped correctly and ready to go. Fortunately, Entec’s crew on this, Lee Stennett and Andy Emmerson, give the impression they are working at home, and the company’s suggestion of hiring local crew from Stage Miracles has been a real benefit.”

Lee reported that an intense period followed the 8am ‘get-in’, with R. Jameson Transport tipping a single 45’ truck. “Almost everything was in the air by 10.30; it’s just been a case of finessing since then,” he commented in the middle of the afternoon. “Dan’s had his nose to the grindstone. He really knows his craft and is a very amiable guy.”

BOLD & COLOURFUL

After a busy rehearsal schedule ended just before doors, Dan discussed his work on this year’s event. In heavy demand as a designer and programmer across television, events and theatre, with regular clients including the Royal Albert Hall and the BBC, he first worked with TBI Media on a live orchestral performance marking the release of Disney’s new version of ‘Beauty & The Beast’ at the Leicester Square Odeon.

Having been invited to light Magic Soul Live last year, Dan was delighted to return for its follow-up. He said: “We used the extensive house rig at the Palladium, but staging the event at the Apollo meant designing something to ensure a wide pool of options for over 25 numbers across the evening. It was a pleasure to work directly with the team at Entec. Having access to their varied stock of rental equipment, coupled with their extensive knowledge of the Apollo, made the process from design to delivery extremely smooth and worry free.”

Notably, Dan was not handed a specific design brief, however, the very nature of the music suggested a bold and colourful approach. “As with any event there are budget restrictions to consider and with a full complement of musicians and performers, every inch of the stage was being used. I was keen to ensure I had enough equipment. Being a musician myself, aside from the visual looks, I always like to include the band and backing vocalists in each piece, rather than let them fade into the overall picture. I like the challenge of creating something that looks bigger than it actually is. I trimmed the rig quite low – we’re using the house fly bars rather than multiple trusses, and staggering the lights has helped create an angular, slightly 3D look.”

BLAZING A TRAIL

While Dan rolled out generic stylings with 28 2-Lite Moles, 10 Claypaky Sharpy fixtures were used for some creative beam work on the floor and 28 Martin MAC Aura XBs provided an arsenal of wash sources. Entec’s package also included 14 MAC Viper Profiles and, looking for additional dressing to open the second half, Dan employed Entec’s recently purchased stock of the Showtec Vintage Blaze ’55, a retro-styled product that combines a tungsten lamp with an RGB LED background effect, with strobe function and colour macros.

“The ’55 is a great looking piece of kit… an alternative to the Robe Patt 2013,” said Lee, Entec’s senior lighting technician. “The ‘filament bulb in a big reflector’ is a classic that suits this old school kind of soul gig. What’s unique about the Vintage Blaze, however, is the strip of RGB LED tape around the outside, so you can light the reflector itself in different colours as well as having the incandescent bulb in the middle.”

Dan commented: “I booked four Vintage Blazes to add some shape to Gabrielle’s set. Adding them in along the edge of the stage risers was enough to pull some eye candy to a different part of the rig. This is my first time with the Vintage Blaze and I’m impressed – the LED back engine has an even dimmer curve and gives access to a good range of solid colours. They’re also lightweight and easy to carry.”

For control, Dan piloted two grandMA2 light consoles. He explained his choice: “I started using the MA platform at the Royal Albert Hall, where I am employed regularly on a variety of shows. The physical capabilities and software are so solid and flexible for this kind of show where you sometimes don’t know what’s coming next, so at this level it’s become my standard. Having a varied work base, I also use other consoles according to the specifics of each show.”

Along with haze, 50cm mirror balls, followspots, risers and the rigging kit also included in the Entec package, the company supplied a classic pea light star cloth. “Running it in multichannel mode gave the opportunity to add some subtle ripples in the background,” said Dan. “Soul music and star cloths… has there ever been a better match?!”

The LD’s ‘wing man’ was Laurence Russell who Dan trained alongside at The Guildhall School of Music & Drama, studying Stage Management & Technical Theatre where Dan earned a First Class BA (Hons) degree. He summarised: “Designing this show has been a thrill and everyone at Entec, from Adam in the office to Lee and Andy on the gig, has been brilliant to work with.”

Photography by Rakiya Shehu/Magic Soul Live & Mark Cunningham