Jerry Seinfeld Live
July 2012 Issue 155
Jerry Seinfeld is debatably New York’s most famous comic. Having co-written TV phenomenon Seinfeld with fellow cynic Larry David, the popular TV show ran from 1989-1998, and made Jerry Seinfeld’s streetwise observational humour known the world over. Following a sell out gig in London’s O2 last year, he returned to the UK in May for two very special arena shows. TPi’s Kelly Murray joined the tour.
Andy Grey is the UK Production Manager for Jerry Seinfeld’s live dates at the NIA in Birmingham and Manchester Arena. The freelance PM has been put in charge of running both UK dates as a result of the success at London’s 02 the previous year, a move which has again been a smoothly ran operation.
“The production values that Jerry and his team have are very, very specific and essentially what we are trying to do is build a theatre stage within a arena. We thought it would be a good idea to keep the same suppliers on board as they have the knowledge and we have kept mostly the same crew. They were able to refine the design from last year to the point where Jerry’s guys walked in today and said ‘perfect’,” explained Grey backstage at the NIA. “We tried to keep as many of the personnel this time that we had in London last year as they can obviously bring a certain depth of knowledge to his production.”
The Birmingham date saw Seinfeld come straight from Norway, proving that his East Coast gags translate all the way to the Nordics. Promoted by Live Nation, the UK dates are the first the comedian has ever played outside of the UK capital.
Grey himself has previously worked with the likes of Lee Evans and Michael McIntyre, before that, rock ‘n’ roll was his forte. He continued: “There’s a lot of crossover now with the venues that comedians and rock stars use, comedy is getting bigger; you’re just as likely to see a comedian in an arena as you are a band but people are always surprised in comedy by the amount of PA we have, but you need full coverage – you have to hit every seat. You have to hear the gag; if you can’t hear it, you may as well not be there.
“The stage is very simple but very exact. We’re trying to create a dark, intimate club. Its essentially just one man and a mic on the stage so it can be difficult to make something that simple look good, but we have,” added Grey. There isn’t a single monitor on stage, as even though Seinfeld reached arena status many years ago, his live comedy background is very much comfortable club based.
Sound and lighting for the two-day tour was supplied by Adlib, video by Oglehog, additional rigging by KRS, trucks by KB Event and bussing by Jumbo Cruiser. No pre-production happened as such, just prep at Adlib’s HQ. For Seinfeld Live, there was a touring crew of 19, needing two trucks and one bus. Said Grey: “Adlib always come up with the goods for us, they’re a top quality audio and lighting supplier. It makes one good point of contact and logistically it makes sense to have it all in one warehouse. Adlib also have a track record for working on these kinds of comedy shows and they supplied Jerry’s 02 show. The lighting department is also responsible for the stage dressing and they brought back the knowledge from the last visit.
“Oglehog’s MD, Chris Saunders [ex XL video] started his own company and he’s someone with a wealth of experience, so we’re in safe hands. The Video Director, engineer and projectionist are also the same as Jerry’s last UK gigs. They’ve brought in the requirements we need to do these shows for Jerry and his team.
“I have a history of using KB Event, they’ve always provided a good service. A trucking company is only as good as its drivers and KB has very good drivers so we get the right service.”
KRS – Knight Rigging Services – were also on hand and sent a rigger to each venue to help with any specific rigging needs the Adlib crew might have had.
Adlib’s James Neale was Seinfeld’s FOH engineer for the mini UK tour. His past clients include an array of well-respected comedians including Lee Mac, Mickey Flanagan, Frankie Boyle and Jimmy Carr. London based Neale also worked on the 2011 London 02 show. He commented: “Obviously I’ve done a lot of comedy gigs, and Adlib try to place people where they have experience so that it’s consistent. I’ve just finished the Professor Green tour and tend to flip between rock ‘n’ roll and comedy.”
After the Seinfeld gig Neale would join Tom Petty’s tour and explained the different challenges between a musical and spoken word performance: “Comedy is harder in some ways, I know there’s only one vocal but there’s no band to hide behind, so it has to sound right throughout the whole venue from the word go, you can’t miss the end of a joke; the sound has to be crystal clear.”
To gain a crystal clear outcome, Neale used a Soundcraft Vi1 console. “We use the Vi1’s as it’s one of the smaller format consoles that we own. It sounds really good. We’re then using a Soundcraft Vi6 stage box at the stage end for all the inputs and then using fibres to connect to the Vi1 surface and we’re doing that because the analogue Vi6 input sounds a bit better than the internal analogue inputs on the Vi1 surface.”
Seinfeld doesn’t use any monitors by choice, he prefers not to have any as if playing a smaller theatre show. Neale continued: “Sometimes it can be more awkward having monitors as you have to tailor them to the person’s exact tastes. Jerry likes to hear the sound bouncing off the back wall of the room, whilst other comedians prefer the comfort that the sound is coming from the stage. Jerry is a great professional in that he comes on, does his thing on stage and leaves.”
“We’re using a main and spare vocal mic for Jerry and an announcer mic backstage plus CD channels for walk on music. We chose the Shure SM58 UC models which do a great job,” he added.
Leading the PA crew was System Tech, Tony Szabo, who worked closely alongside George Puttock and Sam Proctor, all of whom are Adlib employees.
Australian born Szabo has had a varied career in live production. Having moved to Canada and been in the UK for 14 years now, he described Britain as “a very busy production circuit,” Szabo has worked with Britannia Row, Wigwam, and toured with Bryan Adams and David Bowie, but his home is with Liverpool based Adlib. “They’re a good bunch of people to work with!” he said.
Szabo and co used an L-Acoustics K1 for Seinfeld’s PA with L-Acoustics LA8 amps. A choice that has proven itself many times before. “The L- Acoustics PA is great, you turn it on and it sounds great right out of the box. It sounds great for a vocal too; we’ve done a lot of comedy over the last few years and it’s so much easier to get a single mic and get good clear sound for the punch line from the K1 specifically. We can move this PA further upstage than we would dare with any other PA, knowing that it won’t feed back into the microphones. We’ve done gigs for CBBC and Doctor Who Live and moved the PA upstage which makes better sightlines for the PA and so on,” Szabo confirmed. “That’s the thing with the K1, it’s so fast it’s just great.”
A total of six SB28 subs were placed on stage with six KARA sat on top on them for front fill. Side fill comprised 10 KUDOs. Szabo continued: “We use Lake Processing to make it all happen; time align, EQ etc. LM 44’s at FOH and LM26’s on stage and Dante to get the signal digitally out of the console down to the amps so we keep it digitally as long as possible. It gets converted once the mic hits the Soundcraft stage box and stays digital up till FOH and the Lake rack and then goes back to analogue only when it goes back into the amplifiers.
“Lakes are the best around, they’re very fast and easy to use, you get real control and lots of power; it’s hard to do a gig without them! We have a large stock of Lake and Lab.gruppen products, we’re very happy with them and we’re buying more whenever we can,” concluded Szabo.
Now a full time employee with Adlib, Lighting Technician, Charlie Rushton, started in the business as a student, to supplement his studies. Preferring it to his course, he left and got into pro lighting. Rushton also worked on Seinfeld’s 02 show. Alongside the audio gear, Adlib’s return has seen the company supply truss, lighting, and drapes. Said Rushton: “We were given a brief of the plot, the colours and positions, by Jerry’s team and have created a spec to match that.”
With just five different cues stored in the desk, Rushton described it as “quite a simple show, but it’s very theatrical; there’s a lot of drapes and the lights are there to light both the drapes and Jerry from multiple angles so it looks more three-dimensional.
“It’s a subtle effect, the lights can’t be visible so we have big borders to mask the stage, turning the arena into theatre style,” he added.
For Seinfeld’s specific lighting requirements, a High End Systems Full Boar Road Hog was chosen. “We feel the Road Hog is the most appropriate desk for this show due to the way you can program the cues in, stack your show and Andy, who is operating, is very familiar with this, it’s the desk he works best on,” Rushton explained.
Andy Rowe, the Lighting Operator added: “Comedy isn’t typically the most technically demanding show, and we do have a strict cue list for this, so it’s not a creative gig in that respect, but I like the Full Boar because it’s small and so easy to program.”
Working alongside Rushton and Rowe was Mike Summerfield on dimmers and Chris Neary and Neil Holloway on followspot duties.
The rig comprised solely Martin Professional lights. Rushton said: “We stock a lot of Martin products because of their reliability and popularity for the rental market - a lot of people request Martin products from us.”
The fixtures, which sat on A type Tomcat and Prolyte S52F trusses included 10 Martin MAC 700 Washes and four Martin MAC Profiles on the back truss, seven Martin MAC 700 Washes and four Martin MAC 700 Profiles on the mid truss, whilst the downstage truss held six MAC 700 Washes and seven MAC 700 Profiles. Additionally, on the floor was a further two Martin MAC 700 Washes.
Video Director, Ray ‘Moose’ Shaw, has been freelancing for 12 years, directing tours, rock shows, comedy gigs, and enjoying festival stints at V Fest and Glastonbury. Generally Moose too works with a rock ‘n’ roll criteria but also tours with comedy productions. Moose was again one of Seinfeld’s original 02 crew in 2011 and has impressive comedic shows under his belt with the likes of Frankie Boyle and Alan Carr.
Working for Oglehog, Moose opted for a Panasonic AV-H5450 16 channel mixer for video control. Four Barco R12 screens were also used within the arena to reach the entire room despite it being a dark, one-man show.
Said Moose: “Jerry likes one tight shot on his facial expressions, to capture his comedy and he works the entire stage, left to right. It’s simple but it works, there’s no need to complicate this. It’s a nice and clean looking show. It’s a black stage so it’s good to just be able to concentrate on him and nothing else, that’s always good.”
There was a single graphic used for the show, a holding slide for Seinfeld to walk in on and to greet the audience with a clear visual. Moose continued: “Obviously rock ‘n’ roll is more involved, it has faster pace and faster cuts where as for comedy you’re not lead by music, you’re waiting for that one facial expression that makes the shot, or to be able to emphasise a joke, so you go into the shot on a tight angle. It is a dark stage but it works, this is purely concentrated on Jerry and it works in any size venue.”
Ron Conly and Dan Ormerod were Camera Ops, Ed Moore handled projection and Andrew Powell was on board as the Video Engineer.
It may have been more than a decade since the TV show Seinfeld ended, but the star and namesake has proven to still be very popular as a live performer. The tour will continue throughout North America over the summer. Catch it if you can!
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