With the eyes of the world focused on Abu Dhabi last month as the UAE capital staged the country’s first ever Formula 1 race, leading event production companies headed by Flash took the opportunity to showcase the industry’s collective talents by staging the region’s biggest ever concert series, Yasalam. Aaron Greenwood reports.
Big names, landmark venue, cutting-edge tech. Three key factors that combined to generate the significant hype surrounding Yasalam, the Middle East’s biggest ever concert series staged in conjunction with the inaugural Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix.
But behind the scenes, the success of the massive production, which was headlined by Beyonce, Jamiroquai, Kings of Leon and Aerosmith, relied on the cooperation of a bevy of UAE-based event production technology and service suppliers, technicians and crewing companies.
Abu Dhabi-based event promoter Flash recruited a veritable who’s-who of the UAE production services industry to stage the concert series. Dubai-based equipment rental companies Protec, Creative Technology (CT), Delta Sound and Techno Pro supplied pro audio, lighting and AV technologies; Al Laith Scaffolding, CEM, Byrne Rentals, WTF Rentals and Harlequin supplied venue and staging infrastructure; while safety, security and catering personnel requirements were met by Spark Security Services, Gulf Crewing and The Event Safety Shop. At least seven other companies combined to provide an assortment of associated services.
“The driving force for us in putting together these events was showcasing the talent and professionalism of the local production industry,” says Flash operations director Lee Charteris, who assumed the role of event director for Yasalam.
“From the outset, I was determined to use local suppliers, not only because it meant I could get more for my dirham, but I also wanted to prove to the bands and their crew that the technology available in this region is world-class. To put on shows of that stature four days running is proof of our capabilities as an industry. Part of our remit at Flash is about encouraging its development at a grassroots level.
“I’ve worked with Protec many times before, not to mention Al Laith, CT and Delta. Andy [Jackson, Delta Sound Dubai director] is the most experienced sound technician working in the UAE. We had a meeting in the months prior to the show where I explained what we were trying to achieve, and everybody was very supportive of our vision.
“I’m really thankful to all the suppliers – I said to them this was the best opportunity all of us would ever have to showcase our talents to the world, and they all chipped-in in that respect.”
Planning for the massive event commenced in July, when the construction of the Yas Marina Circuit and Ferrari World theme park – the site of the concert venue – was still in full swing. In fact, the racetrack itself wasn’t officially completed until the beginning of October, while the theme park was still under construction just weeks before the concert.
“Three or four months ago when I first visited the site it was pretty much a construction zone and I was really concerned about how we would pull it together,” says Charteris. “But once we got access to the site in October, everything came together fairly quickly and painlessly.”
Ferrari World’s imposing structure provided the perfect backdrop for the outdoor venue. The design of the stage was unique compared to anything else previously constructed in the UAE. While the building’s southern wing span provided overhead coverage, two thrusts, located left and right of stage and mirroring the shape of the roofline, expanded the central stage area considerably.
“We had this spider design in mind. I wanted to construct a stage that all the artists would be impressed by and happy to perform on,” says Charteris. “The stature of the acts performing meant we faced the likelihood of each them coming to us with separate demands if the venue wasn’t up to scratch. So, we had to ensure any doubts they may have had were dispelled by the design we presented to them.”
The design of the stage and venue itself fell to production designer Steve Shipman, a partner in Dubai-based CleanEdge Events. Shipman says the initial brief from Charteris specifically stated the design should be “unconventional”.
“Lee didn’t want a roof or a front truss – he was specific in that he wanted a massive stage and backdrop equipped with loads of LEDs,” says Shipman.
“Because it was Flash’s event, it was my first real opportunity to get involved in designing the venue, which is something I have been involved in at many shows in the past,” adds Charteris.
“When you look at some of the really big shows by the likes of Genesis, U2 or the Rolling Stones, they don’t really use conventional boxed roofs anymore.
“Steve was a great person to get involved in the design process. That was probably the most satisfying thing about this particular event – the fact Steve and I drew this design on a piece of paper and three months later there it was for all the world to see.”
Following his initial discussions with Charteris, Shipman contacted Dubai-based Digilight, which took his initial designs and developed them further “to include the funky shape of the wings and stage thrusts”, he says.
“The guys at Digilight do a lot of really clever work in regards to visual mapping and projecting images on to odd shapes,” Shipman explains. “Many of the design elements changed as and when we began installing the PA and taking into account some of the other design elements.”
The end result incorporated more performance technology than any other temporary venue previously constructed in the Middle East.
“We committed to installing a massive amount of video tech, more lights than any previous gig we’ve ever staged, delay stacks and delay LEDs towards the rear of the amphitheatre,” says Charteris.
“However, for me personally, the stage thrusts were the highlight, given how they mirrored the overall design of the Ferrari World awning. The best vantage point probably would have been from one of the helicopters that hovered over the venue before and during the event.
“We tailored the venue every day slightly for each act on the bill, just to keep things fresh. For example, some bands brought along their own monitors, while others were precise in terms of where they wanted the LEDs to be set up on stage. But within reason, everyone was happy with the basic set-up.”
Delta Sound Dubai supplied a full-scale L’Acoustics V-Dosc line-array to the event, complemented by Yamaha desks, despite each act discounting Jamiroquai bringing along their own control systems.
Protec chipped in a number of its own brand new L’Acoustics stacks, which were located in delay towers positioned to the rear of the venue providing fill.
Despite the seemingly hectic surrounds, ever laidback Delta Sound Dubai director Andy Jackson described the load-in and preproduction as “quite relaxed”.
“It was relatively fuss-free,” he says. “Once the boundary fencing went up we were pretty much self-contained.”
Jackson also says his team’s task was made easier by the fact that the assembled international production crews were entirely happy to use the V-Dosc installation.
“It’s a world-class system and it sounded amazing in the venue, particularly with the delay stacks,” he says. “All the crews were happy with it.”
Charteris agrees with this assessment. “I did have a few concerns prior to the event in terms of the sound quality, given the size of the venue and the shape of the roof, but all the engineers were really happy with it,” he adds.
Events manager for rigging contractor Al Laith Scaffolding, Jaco ‘JJ’ Trichardt, said his team’s job was aided by Ferrari World’s high-quality design and construction.
“We had all the scaffolding installed within three or four days,” he explains. “It was a relatively simple process. The Ferrari World building itself is beautifully constructed and exact in terms of the dimensions we were provided by [Ferrari World master developer] Aldar. The calculations we made prior to the concert series proved spot-on.”
While the event marked the first major outing for Protec’s L’Acoustics system, it also represented one of the first significant applications of the company’s new all-black trussing, manufactured by UK-based Total Fabrications.
“It made such a difference in terms of the stage’s overall visual impact,” says Protec operations director Rick Wade. “It also ensured the audience’s attention remained largely focused on the LED backdrop, and of course the artists themselves.”
The vast majority of the LED display technology used during the concert series was supplied by Creative Technology.The sheer scale of the LED installation was memorable for more reasons than one, says CT general manager Damien McGurn.
“While it wasn’t a particularly challenging install for us, it’s important to note that up until a year or so ago, most of the LED display technology used at the event would have had to have been flown in.
“However, in the past 12 months we’ve invested a great deal in expanding our LED inventory locally, and a lot of it has been used in this production.
“Having the kit based in Dubai has been working really well for us. Effectively, in the past two months, we’ve had 600 sq metres of LED screen located in the emirate.”
Ultimately, Yasalam’s success was evidenced by the overwhelmingly positive response of the 150,000+ punters who attended the concert series.
“The event’s lasting success is testament to the commitment of all those who were involved in making it a reality,” says Charteris. “That even applies to the guys at Aldar. Many months ago, [Aldar Retail and Theme Park development director] Phil Richardson suggested to me what a great place [Ferrari World] would be for a concert. He’s a visionary, for sure, because at that point in time there was nothing here.”
“In the end, it was a brilliant success, but even after 30 years in the business, I look back on each gig and think I could have done something differently. But that’s what keeps the job interesting for me.”
Importantly, Charteris believes the concert series’ lasting legacy will be to change perceptions internationally of Abu Dhabi and Dubai as cashed-up one-off destinations for major Western artists.
“Historically, most shows here have been destination concerts, and many of these guys have come here solely for the money, but things are changing,” he says.
“Now, we’re finding a lot of acts who are on their way to Australia or Asia are looking to put on shows here, and if this trend increases all promoters and their production partners in the UAE will benefit.”
Charteris is also cautiously optimistic about the opportunities available in the market through 2010 and beyond.
“Looking forward, I’m optimistic we’ll soon be producing major events monthly in the capital, and who knows where we’ll go from there,” he says. “There’s been a lot of talk about building an arena in Abu Dhabi, and I’m confident that will happen sooner rather than later. There’s definitely room for the market to grow in the UAE particularly during the summer months.”
KIT LIST, YASALAM F1 CONCERT SERIES, ABU DHABI
Delta Sound supplied
- 46 x L’Acoustics V-Dosc
- 18 x L’Acoustics DV Dosc
- 40 x L’Acoustics 218 Subs
- 4 x L’Acoustics ARCs
- 12 x L’Acoustics XT112
- 14 x Audio Analyst 12FR
- 80 x L’Acoustics LA48a Amps
- 4 x L’Acoustics La4 Amps
- 12 x Crown 1202 Macrotech Amps
- 2 x XTA DP448
- 8 x XTA DP226
- 1 x Yamaha PM4D RH
- 1 x Yamaha M7CL V2
- 4 x Yamaha PW8000 PSU
- 1 x Digidesign Profile x/w Protools 8
- 1 x Yamaha O1V Mixer
- 2 x Denon CD players
- 4 x BSS160 Blu Soundwebs
- 1 x JBL Smaart system c/w DBX Analyser
- 30m x 16m Layher stage at 2.2m high
- 2 x thrusts 10m long each at 1.2m high
- 50 x 1 tonne lodestars
- 52 x 3m Total Fabrications Serious Medium Duty black truss
- 10 x 2m Total Fabrications Serious Medium Duty black truss
- 2 x 1m Total Fabrications Serious Medium Duty black truss
- 16 x 3m Total Fabrications Extra Heavy Duty black truss
- 4 x 2m Total Fabrications Extra Heavy Duty black truss
- 2 x 1m Total Fabrications Extra Heavy Duty black truss
- 32 x 3m Total Fabrications 18” tower section black
- 8 x Total Fabrications sleeve blocks black
- 12 x 2m Total Fabrications 18” tower truss
- 4 x 1m Total Fabrications 18” tower truss
- 14 x 0.5m Total Fabrications 18” tower truss
- 10 x 6 way 18” corner block
Main stage lighting
- 46 x Clay Paky Alpha spot HPE 1200 watt
- 44 x Clay Paky Alpha wash 1200 watt
- 52 x Diversatronics 3K strobe
- 20 x 7K space canon
- 20 x Clay Paky Alpha beam 300 watt
- 34 x 8 lite Thomas Molefay
- 22 x 1044 Thomas pixelline 4’ battens
- 308 x Par 64 long nose black par cans
- 20 x 2500 watt city colour
- 264 x Par 64 long nose par cans
- 24 x 2500 watt city colour
- 2 x Strong Super Trouper 2
- 4 x Strong Gladiator 3
- 1 x Grand MA full size console
- 1 x WYSIWYG software
- 2 x Grand MA full size lighting console
- 3 x Grand MA Media server
CREATIVE TECHNOLOGY SUPPLIED
- Centre-stage LED screen: 12 x 9 Lighthouse R7ER panel
- Front of house: 6 x 5 Lighthouse R7 ER panel
- Grass Valley digital PPU
- BAL Prisim 8-input multiviewer SDI/composite
- RTS BP325 & Beyer DT108/109
- RTS PS15 wired comms PSU
- Sony DXC D50 camera channel
- Sony BVP-E30 digital camera channel
- Vinten Vector 750 tripod
- Canon J70 x 9.5 telephoto zoom
- GVG Turbo iDDR disk recorder system (HD)
- GVG Turbo clip recall box
- Samsung 203B 20” 14500x1050 TFT monitor DVI/D
- Zandar DX 16 multiviewer
- Barco/Folsom image PRO c/w SDI (HD)
- Procon six-way 400MHz RGBHV
- CSI 3150 HDSDI fibre transmitters
- CSI 3151 HDSDI fibre receiver
- 150m 2 core fibre optic cable
- Kramer 4-way DVI DA
- Snell & Wilcox six-way comp VDA
- Toshiba IK UM51H miniature camera system
- Panasonic WV-CD 130L minicam
- Mains distro kit 63a 1ph
- MDU 63a 3ph to 3 x 63a 1ph mains converter
- 63a - 63a mains 1ph (15m)
- 125a - 125a mains 3ph (10m)
YASALAM F1 CREW CREDITS
Event Director: Lee Charteris
- Production Manager – Malcolm McInnes
- Production Designer – Steve Shipman
- (Cleanedge Design)
- Site Coordinator & Stage Manager – Nigel Beaton
- Backstage Manager & Artist Liaison – Jane Martinez
- Production Coordinator – Katie Maddison
- Site Assistant – Gavin Johnston
- Site Assistant - Gordon Vaz
- Assistant Stage Manager – Candice Diezel
- Production Runner – Mohammed Asif, Forth Dimension
- Ground Transport Assistant – Matt Lecuyer
Production & Site contractors
- Staging & Lights – Protec
- Video – High res – Creative Technology
- Video – Low res – Techno Pro
- Sound – Delta Sound Dubai
- Power – CEM
- Scaffolding/Fencing/Plant hire – Al Laith
- Cabins/Stage Barrier – Byrne Rentals
- Stage Barrier / Buggies – WTF Rentals
- Tents – Harlequin
- Furniture – Catertainment
- Signage – Col Arts
- Concert Banners – Thin Red Line
- Ground Transport – Travel Tec
- Backstage Catering ADNEC – Kate Lee
- Production & Site crew – Gulf Crewing Company
- Security – Spark Security Services
- Ushers & Merchandise Sellers – Vibes
- Health & Safety – The Event Saffety Shop – Tim Roberts
- Freight / Logistics – EFM – Chris Lumb