Taking over the du Arena in Abu Dhabi recently, Robbie Williams rocked fans with a string of hits and the powerful stage persona for which he is known. Following the ‘Let Me Entertain You’ Tour stop-off in the capital, Sound & Stage caught up with FLASH Entertainment’s Haidar Shukry to find out more ...
As the concert season tails off towards its usual summer shutdown, it seems almost a lifetime ago since music lovers in the region were putting their lighters in the air for Ed Sheeran or taking selfies with Michael Bublé.
However, as one of the final big-name acts to head across to the Gulf before the annual respite rears its head, FLASH Entertainment certainly promised to pull out all the stops with none other than former Take That bad-boy and king of on-stage swag, Robbie Williams.
With a crowd of over 20,000 gathered in Yas Island’s du Arena, the atmosphere was electric ahead of Williams’ second appearance in the emirates.
And, as a video message kicked in, it wasn’t just the late April weather getting the crowd warmed up. As the very name of the tour promised, those who had travelled to the capital city to attend the one-off evening with the seasoned showman were certainly ready to let Robbie Williams entertain them.
With such an expansive venue there was certainly no risk of Williams’ personality not being big enough to fill it. However, the production team were tasked with ensuring that the concert itself also fitted the larger-than-life theme that appears to run parallel with the world of Robbie Williams.
Haidar Shukry, senior operations manager at FLASH, explains: “The build took six days, with an aggregate of 880 pax spread across the six days (average of 146/day). The number of people working on show day was 950.
We had a to construct a very large VIP standing and table platform, which had to be built according to a very strict schedule to minimise the time it spent covering the grass in order to minimise damage. We also had to build the Thrust and B-stage, which extended 18m from the centre of the stage outward onto the paved area in front of the stage.
This obviously cut the access from one side of the venue to the other, and so had to be delayed as much as possible to allow the free flow of equipment and supplies to the bars and concessions, which extend down stage left and stage right of the venue. It was all a matter of very careful planning.”
And it was during this careful planning that the concert in fact saw a date change announced. Even given the last-minute nature of the UAE and the way in which things are often subject to change, to shift the date of an event completely can often cause backlash from a variety of parties involved — especially fans who have already shelled out cash for their tickets.
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Luckily, for the Abu Dhabi appearance of the Let Me Entertain You Tour this was not the case, and the new date did, in fact, prove to be beneficial for many — changing from Sunday 26th April to Saturday 25th April and henceforth allowing more flexibility for those travelling from across the emirates.
Reflecting on the change of schedule, Lee Charteris, VP Operations at FLASH, revealed to Sound & Stage: “Originally the Saturday date was not available to us and — when the opportunity arose to move the date into the weekend — we worked with all stakeholders to minimise any challenges. The date change had a positive impact
With tickets sales looking strong and the du Arena to play with, the size of the production was — luckily — not put under the usual pressures of touring shows, which often have to adapt in order to fit the GCC venue restrictions. Shukry tells us: “The show was the complete touring show and had no adaptations.
The RW tour travelled with their own monitor and FOH audio consoles complete with wedges and wireless mics and IEMs. They also carried all their Backline and 10 x ER Productions Burst Light Projectors (laser effect) and 8 x ER Production GLP Burst moving heads (laser effect) along with all the control equipment for those.”
Shukry continues: “There were also a few set pieces that were brought in, such as the riser mirrored fascias and, lastly, they also carried 45 Motorola two-way radios that the tour used for communication. All other aspects of the production such as staging, lighting, audio and video was sourced locally.”
So, even with the unexpected date change along the way, a full touring production and one of pop’s biggest egos to accommodate into the du Arena, the concert proved to be a fitting finale to the star-filled season that has swept the emirates over the past few months.
While Robbie Williams may have offered to bring the entertainment, FLASH provided more than satisfactory means for him to do so and proved that — although Dubai may have the lion’s share of the big gigs — Abu Dhabi can certainly deliver the goods.
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Sound of success
For its inaugural Robbie Williams experience, Abu Dhabi was treated to quality audio courtesy of the entertainer’s Sennheiser tour kit, which primarily includes SKM5200 MkII handheld microphones with 5235-J capsules and SR2050 dual channel in-ear transmitters.
For the show, all consoles, line systems, microphones, RF kit and other related equipment where supplied by Britannia Row Productions in the UK, supported by Delta Sound. While setting up for the massive production, the team expected interference from external factors such as the show’s massive video wall.
However, leveraging a customised version of Sennheiser’s Wireless Systems Manager (WSM) software solution, the team managed to set up and coordinate frequencies for the wireless microphones and personal monitors.
Joshua Lloyd, system engineer at Britannia Row Productions, said: “Robbie spends a lot of time in front of the PA system and the 5235 capsule has a modified low/mid presence in the upper mic which is very good at rejecting noise flow when he is in front.
He also monitors his own voice and, after testing lots of capsules, we found that the 5235 has far less bleed in the ear. The engineers prefer the sound and his mic technique works a lot better with this.”
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