Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation.”
Nelson Mandela, 2005

On Saturday July 2, more than one million fans packed into nine concert venues across four continents for the Live 8 concerts. Another estimated two billion people watched the event on television or via the Internet. Live 8, the brainchild of Bob Geldof, U2's Bono, and filmmaker Richard Curtis, was a music marathon designed to put pressure on world leaders to take forceful measures to eradicate African poverty at the G8 summit that was held the following week in Scotland.

Free concerts were held in London, Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Rome, Philadelphia, Tokyo, Johannesburg, and Toronto. A tenth concert was held four days later in Scotland in conjunction with the G8 Summit. This monumental effort was made possible not only by Geldof, Bono and the artists who lent their time and support, but by the huge team of production crew around the world who worked to put on the biggest pop concert witnessed to date. These events were also made possible with the aid from manufacturers, rental and hire companies, designers, and technicians all on an unheard-of scale. The entire event was assembled in just six weeks, coming off without any major hitch. What follows is a brief overview and highlight of some of the participants and their challenges.

NOWHERE TO HYDE

London's Hyde Park was the epicenter around which this huge affair turned with over 200,000 fans packed in to see an amazing array of talent, including the reunion of Pink Floyd who have not performed together since 1981.

The production was coordinated by Clear Channel Entertainment Group under the guidance of production director John Probyn and his team: event coordinator Hannah Blake and site manager Andy Pearson. “Hyde Park is a special venue because it's effectively the Queen's back garden,” comments Probyn. “We have a great relationship with the park's management team, but you have to take into account their requirements. And one thing you really have to remember is that there are thousands of people using the park who have absolutely nothing to do with this event, so that makes the logistics very interesting. I can honestly say, hand on heart, that if we hadn't had the usual bunch of contractors we have for Hyde Park, we couldn't have done this. We've had to rely so much on Templine, Creative Technology, Star Events, and the rest of the companies here who know the park as well as I do to just get on with it.”

With 26 major artists, a scheduled turn around time between bands of less than five minutes, and an audience exceeding 200,000, Britannia Row Productions, who provided the full PA system for the Live 8 Hyde Park show, had their work cut out for them. Eighteen technicians and 25 sound engineers operated the PA system comprising 200 Electro-Voice X-Line loudspeaker cabinets, all powered by EV's Precision Series P3000RL remote controlled amplifiers. Six towers of EV X-Line, also powered by EV's Precision Series P3000RL, were used as delays with additional L-Acoustic V DOSC towers to ensure full coverage for the crowd. The entire sound system was controlled by IRIS (Intelligent Remote Integrated Supervision), the software program remotely controlling the P3000RL amplifiers from FOH.

“The sound department wouldn't have worked without a lot of preparation for the event,” says Bryan Grant, Britannia Row's managing director who was responsible for overseeing the event's live sound. “John Gibbon, as our crew chief, coordinated the bands' details and relayed the ever changing information on the show to the relevant departments. He also dealt with the numerous issues that cropped up each day leading up to the show.”

Preparation was the key: prior to show day, rehearsals took place at studios across London. “During the week leading up to load in, myself and Amanda Thomson from Brit Row programmed the bands' sessions onto the DiGiCos as they came in,” explains Robbie Williams' FOH engineer Dave Bracey. “This saved time and confusion when the engineers turned up on site.” Such a move was facilitated by backup from the DiGiCo team. “There were bands that didn't have the chance to rehearse,” according to DiGiCo's Roger Wood. “Dave Bracey created generic sessions, so that it was quick and easy for the engineers to just walk up to the desk and go.”

Three DiGiCo D5 Live digital mixing consoles were positioned at front of house, with a further three D5s at the monitor position. At front of house, one console was used for prepping, while the other two sat at the mix positions with the same arrangement for monitors. A Midas H3000 operated by Britannia Row's Chris Coxhead also sat at front of house dedicated to VT and announcer's playback, while Andy “Baggy” Robinson and Mark Ballard made sure the D5 consoles were ready for each set.

Alternate mix positions were used to allow for the incredibly short turn around time between bands and during the show. Without the agility and transparency of the D5, the planned timings couldn't have taken place. “Because of the obvious quick changeovers it would have been impossible to reset an analog console,” adds Jon Lemon, who was engineering Pink Floyd. “For those of us lucky enough to have rehearsed, it was just a case of taking our setting with us on a USB key and for those that hadn't, the consoles were set up with Dave's great presets for vocals, drums, etc.”

Sennheiser was the official microphone sponsor for Live 8, providing manpower and equipment to the concerts in London, Philadelphia, Berlin, Paris, Rome and Barrie, Canada. More than 300 channels of Sennheiser wireless and well over 1,000 wired microphones were distributed around the planet for the Live 8 concerts.

Sennheiser UK supported Live 8 London with over 500 Sennheiser Evolution 900 Series and Neumann microphones, 5 miles (8km) of microphone cable and more than 100 channels of wireless mikes, guitar and personal monitoring systems. Sennheiser's tour support included frequency planning and on-site technical support for the show, as well as a sound engineers' lounge with a high speed wireless data network used by all of the engineers for up-to-date show and DiGiCo mixer patches. Sennheiser UK even designed and built a unique wireless monitoring antenna system to handle the hostile RF environment of central London.

Some artists stayed with their usual choice of microphones such as U2, where Bono took to the stage using a Shure U24D/Beta 58 UHF wireless system. Showing no signs of slowing down, Roger Daltrey performed at Live 8 London with the rest of The Who using his microphone of choice, a hardwired Shure SM58.

Even though most of the London show was in daylight, lighting designer Peter Barnes created visuals for both the cameras and the live audience. “This type of outdoor stage, while looking great at night, can tend to look like a building site during the day,” he says. “For this reason, I paid a lot of attention to the positioning of the LED video screens and used LED battens facing forward on the trusses to give some eye candy to the cameras. While there was a large audience in Hyde Park, many of them had to watch the show on screens so it was very important that the show looked good for TV, which is how I designed it.”

“Above all, we needed lighting which worked well in daylight,” Barnes notes. “We filled the space between the roof and stage with lighting and [James Thomas Engineering] PixelLines; everything was layered, rather than being on one plane, so the front truss was higher than the back truss, which was just above the LED screens.” He chose 120 PixelLine 1044s and 14 of the new PixelLine 110ecs. Barnes created zigzagged LED borders to the onstage trusses, using 72 Pixelline 1044s, and then added another 40 around the PA wings in a U-shape. The 110s were used at the bottom of the PA scrims firing out into the audience. Barnes also used PixelDrive for controlling the content running through the Pixel fixtures.

“I had no idea what each band would be doing,” Barnes adds. “Sometimes one of their crew would approach me shortly before they were on, and give me some guidance as to what they wanted, and most of the time I was left to get on with it. But I was at the desk all the time, and lit what I saw on the fly.”

Barnes also had to deal with the passage of day into night as the concert progressed and had to take the cameras into account once again. “The cameras were white balanced to daylight, so the white key light from the followspots and the trusses were corrected to daylight color temperature, so as night fell the cameras did not need to adjust.” Falling darkness would also create an issue with the crowds, so Barnes provided another solution. “Originally the show was scheduled to finish at 8:00pm. When this was extended to 9:30, consideration had to be given to lighting the audience. So the day before, we got a team to rig six VARI*LITE VL2416s on each of 16 delay towers in the park. Not only did they provide light on the crowd at night, but during the day they gave a sparkle for the cameras when they filmed from the back of the stage.”

Designed to go with Peter Bingemann's set, Barnes' lighting plot was sent to the other countries holding Live 8 concerts, for them to follow the design to a greater or lesser extent. “Harvey Goldsmith, the organizer, wanted all the venues to look similar; my design was adapted in Paris to locally available equipment.” Barnes did some visualization work with the Artlantis render program from his original VectorWorks CAD drawing.

All lighting equipment for the Hyde Park concert was supplied by PRG London. PRG supplied a 30-person crew as well as 47 tons of equipment that had been onsite since June 22 in preparation for the event, including some 250 moving lights — VARI*LITE VL3000s, VL2416s, 85 Martin MAC 2000s; 20 Martin Atomic strobes with Atomic Colors; 200 James Thomas PixelLines; 120 conventionals; and eight followspots; controlled by two Flying Pig Systems Wholehog® 2 consoles with wings. “This is a huge lighting rig by any standards, and PRG has done a great job of making such a large amount of equipment available at short notice,” Barnes notes.

When asked for a highlight of the day, Barnes does not hesitate. “Arriving on the morning of the show to hear U2 sound checking with ‘It's a Beautiful Day’ set the day up to be something special. It will be a show I will always remember, a very special day. Having the opportunity to light so many great stars was fantastic.”

With most of the Live 8 concert performed in daylight and to such a large crowd, the production was always going to rely heavily on large screen video technology. It's unsurprising that the show saw the biggest ever concentration of screens for an outdoor concert anywhere in Europe, with the equipment for both front and backstage supplied by Avesco plc companies Creative Technology and MCL.

Five LED screens were positioned on stage. The main screen comprised 8×6 modules of Lighthouse 19mm in 16×9 format measuring 32'×17' (9.76×5.25m). Flanking it were two 21'×16' (6.4×4.8m) 25mm Unitek screens in 4×3 aspect ratio, which were divided into four equal columns and arranged in a 90° arc either side of the main screen to visually wrap around the performers. On each of the PA wings was a 28'×21' (8.54×6.44m) Lighthouse 19mm screen, configured in 4×3 ratio.

Two delay screens sat 328' (100m) from the stage. These were 137.7 sq.ft. CT/Screenco mobiles with Saco 15mm screens in 4×3 aspect ratio. Towards the back of the Hyde Park arena were three further mobiles, two 131 sq.ft. Lighthouse 25mm and one 98 sq.ft. Panasonic, sub-contracted by CT from Sweden's Massteknik. All the mobile screens were fed via digital video delays, allowing the timing on the video signal to be adjusted, to sync with the sound. “Doing that makes a major difference on a site as big as this,” noted Avesco's business development director Dave Crump.

Across the top of the stage, 25mm Unitek modules were deployed as a giant 4'×115' (1.2×35m) LED banner panel. Driven by a dedicated text system, it was used to display slogans from Comic Relief, which provided much of the supporting visual material. The control system was operated by scoreboard specialists Technographics.

Kevin Williams directed the overall screen program. “My brief from Steve Allen (event production manager) was that the theme had to be very strong throughout the video presentation,” he says. “We needed to get the message across, but not ram it down people's throats. However, it also had to be a rock-n-roll show, whose format wasn't dictated to by the demands of the television coverage. We were in charge of the live feeds to the BBC, not the other way round.”

Hyde Park, London may have been used as the blueprint of the LIVE 8 event but other venues put there own mark on the design as well.

OUT OF AFRICA

South Africa was included in Live 8 very late in the planning. Gearhouse South Africa provided a complete package: lighting, sound, stage, and power. Former president Nelson Mandela was met with thunderous applause from those at the Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown, Johannesburg.

This venue's lighting was designed by Hugh Turner, who specified the lighting rig, including 18 Martin MAC 2000 Profiles, 18 MAC 2000 Washes, and 12 Atomic Strobes, all provided by Gearhouse through Electrosonic. Turner staggered six trusses, complemented with lighting units, which served as a backdrop. “The 2Ks are fabulous units, very versatile and bright enough to read on camera during daylight,” comments Turner. “It was a very relaxed music event, with a wealth of talent from across the African continent.”

WHEN IN ROME

The Circus Maximus in Rome was packed with 200,000 people who saw performances from Duran Duran, Faith Hill, Laura Pausini, and Tim McGraw. Rome's Limelite s.r.l. — the contractor for the production — supplied the lighting and the audio. Of the 32 musical acts, 26 sang with Sennheiser microphones, most of them with the wireless SKM5000-N. Exhibo, Sennheiser's partner in Italy, was responsible for the frequency planning, equipment and on-site support of the concert, providing over 30 channels of wireless mikes and monitoring systems and about 50 wired Sennheiser and Neumann microphones for vocals and instruments. Limelite also supplied Outline Professional Audio products, including 20 Outline Butterfly hi-packs and Victor Live sub bass systems for side-fill duties, in addition 24 H.A.R.D 212 SP were used for artist monitors. Outline gear was also used for the London event.

Italian lighting designer Massimo Gasbarro of Limelite had 44 Martin MAC 2000 Wash, 52 MAC 500 profile spots, 48 MAC 600 wash lights, and 28 Martin Atomic strobes as well as other automated and conventional fixtures at his disposal. French distributor Sonoss supplied the Rome event via locally based Limelite with James Thomas PixelLine 1044s and 110s. These were used downstage for framing the stage and upstage for making an arched entrance either side.

OH CANADA

In Canada, Barrie's Park Place hosted a crowd of 35,000 for the Canadian Live 8 show. Artists such as Tom Cochrane, Bryan Adams, Deep Purple, and A Simple Plan performed for the crowd. Neil Young closed the concert with the classic “Rockin' in the Free World,” along with dozens of other performers.

According to Marc Vincent of Sennheiser Canada, “We supplied about 70 wired Sennheiser and Neumann mikes, 30 channels of wireless mikes and personal monitoring systems, with additional wired Sennheiser mikes coming from the PA company, Jason Audio.”

For the Barrie show, LD Errol Reinart also had to balance the needs of television cameras and the live audience, but he faced a different challenge. The Barrie event ended before darkness fell, so Reinart used lighting primarily for illumination and fill. But he had to create the atmosphere of a rock concert for the televised feed even though none of the lights' output would show on television. “The upstage instruments were about camera flare more than about lighting things,” Reinart explains. “We placed the fixtures where they would be seen by the cameras to create the atmosphere of a rock show.” Reinart incorporated 24 Martin MAC 2000 Wash luminaires into his design. The lighting gear was supplied by PRG Toronto and Martin Canada.

THE BERLIN WAIL

A crowd of nearly 200,000 fans filled Berlin's “Street of June 17,” where three quarters of the 22 acts who participated in the 11-hour concert used Sennheiser vocal mikes, including Die Toten Hosen, Audioslave, Herbert Grönemeyer, Brian Wilson, Söhne Mannheims, and Faithless. Wireless mikes included both the SKM5000-N and Evolution SKM935. The Evolution Series, as well as the MD and MKH Series were used for wired instrument mikes. Forty channels of wireless were used on stage, but there was also a special wireless application off-stage. Eleven delay towers used to provide sound reinforcement along the .62 mile (1km) long audience area were linked to the FOH desk using 11 Evolution wireless rack-mount receivers, with an Evolution personal monitoring transmitter at the FOH position.

Creative Technology's Dutch sister company JVR, supplied four Barco D-Lite 7 LED screens in 16×9 aspect ratio, each measuring 15'×9' (4.48×2.69m) to ScreenVisions for the Berlin production. These were used as delay screens along Berlin's “Straße der 17 Juni,” while two Barco G5 projectors with 300×225 projection screens and three 42” plasma screens were supplied to one of Dutch national television's studios for their broadcast of the event.

A FRENCH TOAST

The majestic Versailles Palace near Paris was the site for the Live 8 France concert with such artists as Andrea Bocelli, The Cure, Dido, Shakira, David Hallyday, and Youssou N'Dour and a crowd of 100,000 people.

The equipment provided by Sennheiser France included 40 wired microphones, 32 wireless microphones, and 18 wireless personal monitoring systems. Sennheiser France was also responsible for the frequency planning for the Paris event and, in close cooperation with French PA company Squelch, provided on-site support to all sound engineers.

The lighting rig for Live 8 Paris, staged in front of the majestic Palace of Versailles, also featured the distinctive look of zigzagged PixelLines from James Thomas. They utilized eighty 1044 battens, supplied by main lighting contractor Regie Lumiere. This was also run on a PixelDrive system triggered from the Flying Pig Systems Wholehog 2 console.

PHILADELPHIA FREEDOM

Philadelphia had the biggest audience of all the Live 8 concerts, with over 500,000 people attending the concert at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The majority of the performers chose Sennheiser microphones, including Destiny's Child (SKM5000-N), Josh Groban (SKM5000-N), Dave Matthews (Neumann KMS105), Sarah McLachlan (KMS150) and UK band Kaiser Chiefs (Evolution wired mikes). Those favoring the SKM935-G2 included Rob Thomas and Adam Levine, who each appeared with Stevie Wonder and with their own bands.

Lighting designer Thomas Beck had a full rig that was used two nights later for the July 4th Freedom Concert designed by LD John Featherstone. The automated rig was used as eye candy and consisted of 72 Martin MAC 2000 Washes, 44 MAC 2000 Profiles, 22 MAC Performance, 15 Martin Atomic strobes, 28 ETC Source Four® PARs and seven 8 Light Molefays. Mark Butts programmed and ran the Live 8 lighting on a MA Lighting grandMA. All the lighting gear was supplied by Light Action of Delaware. (For more on the shared lighting rig used in Philadelphia, see the September issue of Lighting Dimensions.)

There was a large 60'×28' LED screen upstage for projection. A Martin Maxedia digital server provided wallpaper and animation effects onto multiple screens in combination with IMAG and other pre-built content. Maxedia effects were controlled from a Martin Xciter off a touchscreen with 60+ songs programmed in two days. Steven Wallis and Kevin Richard, both of Media Evolutions and Mathias Heldeberck, with Martin, created imagery under the direction of Mark Argenti and Ian McDaniel of Media Evolutions.

Live 8 called upon G8 members to get serious about poverty by doubling aid, fully canceling debt, and delivering trade justice for Africa. For the Live 8 organizers, the subsequent decision by the G8 to cancel the debt of 18 of the world's poorest countries and double foreign aid to $50 billion in the next five years was a considerable victory for the “Make Poverty History” movement. That is music to their ears.