By the time the Spice Girls arrived at Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield September 11, they had brought the Spiceworld tour to 10 European countries as well as the United States. Despite sacking their manager last year and bidding farewell to one of their number in May, the Girls carried on and triumphantly returned to the UK for four final stadium shows.
LD Pete Barnes, who is also credited as the show's producer, has overseen the tour's design since its first live concert in Istanbul last October. Barnes was originally hired to do only the show's lighting design but as plans progressed he eventually became involved in the set and video design as well. "The Girls wanted space to be an integral theme for the whole tour, so I came up with a concept for the opening segment," Barnes says. "We use computer animation to have a spaceship flying through the galaxy up on the screen and then I called William Shatner to do the dialogue on it: 'Spice, the final frontier.' He didn't come to the show in LA though, so I guess he's not a fan."
Plenty of other celebrities did show up, especially those with kids, the group's devoted core audience. The two-hour show is by turns flashy, glamorous, dynamic, and even funny--it's clear that the touring party has worked very hard in every area to entertain all of its audience members from starry-eyed little girls to their chaperones and everyone in between.
In keeping with the space theme, the set is mostly chrome-colored, but the dominant visual forms have a distinctly feminine, curvy touch. Barnes also designed the set in conjunction with Alan Chesters of Hangman. "I had certain ideas and the Girls had certain ideas, so Alan and I would fax sketches back and forth until we came up with something we were both happy with," Barnes says. "I would tell him what I wanted and he then handled the design side of it and really brought it to life."
Once the design was complete, the plans were sent to Brilliant Stages, which built the set. For the curved trusses, Barnes went to Light & Sound Design (the tour's main lighting contractor) who had them in stock from a previous Smash Hits TV show. Barnes is also partial to LSD's Icon(R) console from which he runs the entire show. "For me it's the only desk that's capable of running this type of show," says the LD. "I like running and programming everything myself rather than getting in another operator. Like many things, it's just easier to do it yourself rather than explain to someone what you want. Then you can be as picky as you want without bothering anyone else. I call spots as well, so it is quite difficult sometimes, but it has worked out all right."
Lighting equipment included 35 Vari*Lite(R) VL5 Arc(TM) automated wash luminaires, 40 LSD Icon(R) automated luminaires, 25 Martin MAC 600 luminaires and 25 Martin MAC 500 luminaires, 30 bars of six PAR-64s, five Strong Super Trouper followspots, four Reel EFX DF-50 Diffusion hazers, four High End Systems F100 smoke machines, and one Icon lighting console.
Barnes originally began programming the show in Cannes last September for the Girls' one-off show in October in Istanbul. "Then the whole set got completely changed, but I kept the basics in and then modified it with all the additional lights and added to the cues," he explains. "They're actually doing songs now that they haven't been doing, but they did in Istanbul. So I've still got part of the program in the board. In January we did technical rehearsals at Three Mills, Edwin Shirley Studios in London, and then we moved to the Point Theatre in Dublin, Ireland, for the first three weeks in February, and we had our first show the 24th of February there.
"The various lighting companies were all very cooperative about supplying equipment for the tour," Barnes says. "When we did rehearsals in Cannes, France, I had picked up some straight trusses and PAR cans from Cote Scene, a local company there. They were quite keen for me to look at some Martin equipment they had bought and liked, so I did, and ended up using it. I'm quite happy with it. I particularly like the MAC 600, because it's a good washlight and I like the fact that it's got a nice strobe effect that we use occasionally in the show."
The tour's lighting crew included crew chief Simon Arch, lighting technicians Roger Nelson, Patrick Barakrok, Scott Sanderson, Paul Solino, and Blaine Dracup. Blue Leach was the tour's video director; the video supplier was PSL. Belgium-based XL Video supplied the LED screen. The tour ended with the September 20 pay-per-view broadcast, which may be picked up by HBO for a later broadcast.