The lead up to Christmas 2011 saw mega-band, Coldplay, undertake a twelve-date European arena tour with their album Mylo Xyloto, taking with them a set designed by Misty Buckley and Paul Normandale which featured specialist pieces by UK-based, Brilliant Stages.
Chris Martin’s inspiration was of the tour as a ball of energy with a warm nucleus reaching out into the audience to provide an inclusive, intimate atmosphere despite the size of the arenas toured.
The design incorporated a crescent stage which spanned the main stage, and a cross-shaped B stage both of which were built by Brilliant Stages and delivered to Park Royal’s LH2 studios for rehearsals prior to the tour’s launch. The arc’d stage was low enough for Martin to run across and not obscure the sightlines of audience seated behind it, yet angled enough for those at ground-level to gain clear sight of the stunning artwork on its surface.
Buckley also worked closely with the band and with street artist, Paris, to create the striking artwork which covered the stage, set and instruments with graffiti, inspired by the works of Basquiat and Picasso. Intensive workshops involved all parties in the creation of a visual representation of the lyrics, through what Buckley describes as “a process of real and gritty evolution” which continued into the performances themselves with Martin frequently adding to the images on stage.
“The completely unpredictable, transient nature of the art was a vital part of the show’s concept which kept every part of tour fresh,” explains Buckley.
Providing the solid basis to this activity was Brilliant Stages engineering.
“Brilliant Stages were, as always, just a treat to work with,” says Buckley.
“Mel and Tony are so accommodating and, from presenting them with the first visual and design, I know they are on my wavelength. They just get on with it, leaving me to focus on the creative aspect knowing all the technicalities are being taken care of.”
Regular Brilliant sub-contractor, Andy Russell, currently helping Brilliant through its busy period, was able to take the show’s production team through the assembly process. Support was also provided by Brilliant Stages’ Luke Johnson, Ian Blunt and Wayne Croft who visited during the rehearsal period to carry out the fine-tuning necessary when putting a set together for the first time.
“The work was done without any fuss, and they enjoyed a good lunch with us!” says Head Carpenter for the tour, Mike Humeniuk.
“I had the pleasure of working on this set design with Mel Welch, who heads Brilliant’s CAD department, and whom I have known for quite a few years,” continues Humeniuk. “Between our production manager, Wob Roberts, Mel and myself, we have got ourselves a very nice package of the half donut and the “X” stage.”
The crescent shaped stage, measures 18.2m wide by 8.5m deep and rakes to a height of 1.5m at the upstage edge. Brilliant manufactured it from 39 decks of standard 18mm plywood, with each deck laid inside a special aluminium extrusion that protects the edge of the deck from damage. The decks are fixed together using coffin locks – half turn claw style devices that use an 8mm hexagon socket with a T-handled tool to lock and unlock for rapid set up and breakdown.
The decks are set onto an aluminium framework which is held together using Brilliant’s ‘Hook and Channel’ system.
“The ‘Hook and Channel’ system designed some years ago by Brilliant is such a fast way of constructing the framework of the stage set, and enables precise placement of this sub-frame,” says Humeniuk. “A slight taper within the mating of the hook to the channel ensure rigidity and, as near as dammit, squareness,”
The cross-shaped B-stage has a 7.3m span and rises 1.55m from the ground in front of the main stage. It is built from standard staging on a framework of interconnecting beams and aligned using custom made fittings secured with pins. Like the main stage, the edges of the outer risers are fitted with Velcro strips for attaching drapes and carry a number of cantilevered lighting brackets and shelves for laser fittings.
Contained within the B-stage is a manually operated, hydraulic piano lift. A piano parking riser allows the piano to be moved easily on and off the lift, which is mounted on a dolly and wheeled into position before being secured and levelled on legs.
Brilliant’s design process incorporated the mating of the All Access main stage and catwalk to the custom pieces supplied by Brilliant via a series of aluminium plates that formed intersections with the mainstage. “Mel was marvellous, I kept throwing bits at him and he handled it beautifully, getting the CAD team to produce drawings for approval almost by return of email!” says Humeniuk. “All those involved in this project have been nothing other than positive throughout.
“Of course, I would not be having such an enjoyable time on this tour if it was not for the fact that I have a couple of the best carps - Toby Pitts and Hobson (Andrew Pearson) - in the business covering my bottom!
“Tony Bowern runs a great company that manufactures some of the biggest ‘Wow’ factors that the ‘rock n roll’ industry has ever seen. It is a pleasure working with them again, as you know exactly what you are going to get.
“Brilliant Stages; it’s all in the name. Brilliant…… are!”