When it comes to putting on an after-race concert that fuels the adrenaline and excitement of Formula One enthusiasts, Abu Dhabi does it like no other. As part of the wider city festival, Yasalam, which is now in its eighth edition, the 2016 Formula 1 After-Race Concerts organised by FLASH Entertainment showcased an impressive line-up of international artists who performed over the span of four days at the du Arena.
Day one saw American rapper, Pitbull, open the festivities, while on day two, EDM fans were given a dose of The Chemical Brothers. The celebrations went into top gear on day three when music legend Lionel Richie took centre stage and closing the final day of the races, Rihanna proved to be the ultimate show stopper.
“By putting on this event, the main objective was to spread the excitement of the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix across the city and the UAE,” said Haidar Shukry, senior operations manager at FLASH Entertainment. “We wanted to ensure that tourists and residents alike get engaged and feel part of the biggest event in Abu Dhabi’s annual calendar. It was also about bringing the community together to celebrate and showcase the best of Abu Dhabi to the world.”
Considering that these after-race concerts are an annual feature and are scheduled back to back, FLASH Entertainment had to ensure that the event design was not only specialised but complemented the diverse line-up of artists that were due to perform at the event.
Additionally, while the design over the four days had to have a different and fresh look every night, it also had to incorporate as many of the individual requirements of the artists as possible with minimal changes between acts, and this required intense planning and coordination between FLASH Entertainment and its selected partners.
The setup for the Yasalam 2016 After-Race Concerts took six days in total which included the production load in time, the setup of the extended wing structures from Stageco GMBH, the follow spot and the delay towers.
To do this, a core crew of 120 people were involved while on show days the crew numbers doubled.
“The first night required quite a detailed riser setup which occupied majority of the performance area,” says Shukry. “This had to be struck down for the second show so as to make way for the tour provided riser setup that came with The Chemical Brothers.
“For Lionel Richie, the crew could breathe in a bit as the set up only entailed two (3.6m x 3.6m) rolling risers which carried some backline. Then for the last night, it was full force again so as to strike down the massive (15m x 9m) USC LED wall and build a stage-wide riser setup that was three layers high and covered in white Marely.”
With lighting being a key element for all the concerts, FLASH Entertainment chose to work with PRG Gearhouse, who successfully designed an overhead lighting rig that incorporated the individual requirements for all the acts whilst ensuring minimal work between shows.
In fact, two of the acts, Pitbull and Rihanna, had very specific requirements in terms of having an extensive riser setup which had to be built overnight for each of the shows.
“The Rihanna setup involved a lot of rigging for the Foam Gag which the tour provided and all the suspended white scrim that was integral to the overall white show design.” says Shukry.
“Meanwhile, The Chemical Brothers’ setup also involved plenty of specific rigging elements which made the dramatic appearance of the two large moving robots for the last track possible.”
In addition to the rigging and lighting requirements, each of the acts also had a specific set of floor lighting packages which were locked in in the early stages in advance and these were laid out overnight for each of the shows during each tour’s load in. Besides this, Shukry says that the extended wing structures carried a large amount of lighting which added to the magnitude of the overall stage look for each of the shows.
Along with the lighting setup, FLASH Entertainment worked with PRG Gearhouse on the video element for the concerts as well. For this, one large upstage centre LED wall was incorporated for the first three nights which was an 18mm (15m x9m) screen. This worked for all three productions and gave the team the time required to set up the massive riser requirements and the floor lighting packages needed for the first three artists.
However, Shukry points out that for the Rihanna concert, the video wall was struck down and replaced with a stage-wide white scrim that completely wrapped all three sides of the stage. Eight 31 K Panasonic projectors were then placed in four positions and projected onto the sides and the deck of the stage, while two Barco 40K projectors shooting from FOH took care of the projection on the back wall of the stage.
To take control of the audio requirements, Deltasound was engaged to design a system for all the performances. This had to incorporate the minimal need to change anything other than the front-of-house (FOH) control, monitor control and the wedge set-up required for each act.
To do this, Robert Eatock, project manager at Deltasound explains that while each production had its own requirements, the K1/ K2 PA system installed remained common through all the concerts.
Besides this, and based on the RFP sent to them from FLASH Entertainment, Deltasound supplied all audio elements for the Pitbull and Lionel Ritchie concerts, while The Chemical Brothers and Rihanna travelled with their own control and backline elements.
“The choice of equipment was based primarily on the artist’s technical information that we received in advance to the event.,” says Eatock. “The PA system remained the same throughout with slight changes made to the system equalisation, while the control and mic systems varied somewhat for each evening.
“Additionally, Deltasound kept a common local control and monitor package in place for when it was required, along with additional consoles for Pitbull and Lionel Ritchie.”
Special effects played a key role at each of this year’s after-race concerts. For the Pitbull show, Shukry says that a large amount of SFX was sourced locally from Stage FX. This came in the form of eight Magic FX CO2 Jets with sixteen 30kg CO2 Cylinders, six Magic FX Super Blaster XL Confetti Machines with 60kgs of white confetti and 60kgs of red confetti, and six 30kg CO2 cylinders to power them up. The lasers came in the form of four 30w RYGB PHAENON Laser projectors. Meanwhile, Shukry says that The Chemical Brothers’ show was self-contained with respect to special effects.
“They provided the two large robots which were each suspended on two Kinesys hoists that allowed them to move fluidly during the show. They also provided two Arctos lasers, three 21w RGB Lasers, one 18w green laser, four beam bursts (in the robots), one laser flipper and one laser reflector.
“The screen wide lighting grid that was suspended directly behind the USC LED wall was also provided and was shining through the blow through screen throughout the show. This gave way to a spectacular set of video images that were enhanced and contoured with lighting sequences behind the screen that added to the splendour of the show visuals.”
For the Lionel Richie show, four Flamaniac Flame machines and an 18m 30-second waterfall pyro-effect was provided by Stage FX. Lastly, for the Rihanna concert, the tour carried their own foam machine gag which was set up inside the back and diagonal trusses of the set and set off during the show to spill onto the white scrim that engulfed the whole stage.
As with any event, challenges were present but both Eatock and Shukry agree that since there was proper and careful planning, there was nothing that couldn’t be managed.
“We have a pool of 60 qualified and experienced staff and FLASH has eight years in the field,” says Shukry. “Our team is highly prepared so we were able to anticipate and calculate most of the risks that could potentially arise and have a number of contingency plans for any occasion.”
Eatock echoes the sentiment saying that no real issues were encountered by them either considering Deltasound’s experience with the F1 concerts.
As a whole, the Yasalam 2016 After-Race Concerts ended seamlessly and created a memorable experience. Thus, it’s safe to say that fans are already looking forward to what next year’s line-up will have to offer.