Entec Lighting supplied LD Tony Austin with production for PJ Harvey, who is currently on tour in the UK and Ireland for her Uh Huh Her album, the raw and dark follow up to her award-winning 2002 release Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea. In August, PJ Harvey finished her recent festival tour–with stops like the Glastonbury Festival–with a sold out show at London’s Brixton Academy.
Austin's lighting brief for Harvey was challenging–and in character with the sometimes ironic, seductive rock artist–almost the antithesis of what you’d expect from a rock-n-roll tour. There would be no flashing lights, no smoke, no visible moving lights, no follow spots, and no gobo projections.
After a few performances, Austin was able to create a design in keeping with Harvey’s style and her vision: getting people to concentrate fully on her music rather than any potential production distractions. "It was a case of having to create the right drama within the parameters, and once you get started, it’s amazing how many options appear," he says.
Going for a more theatrical look also proved a lifesaver for the festivals, where they often only had 30 minutes of changeover time for programming. The style of the lighting meant Austin did not have to contend with sweeping moves and gobo focuses.
PJ Harvey on tour
For the Brixton show, Entec supplied three trusses with 7 VARI*LITE 3000™ fixtures and 60 PAR 64s, plus eight 2Ks, four flown and four on the floor. The floor also featured four VL2000™ Washes, 6 PARs with color changers behind the backline and ground-rows for illuminating the black Bolton backdrop–he likes to use floor lighting to enhance dynamics and moodiness. Fourteen ETC Source Four® profiles were used for key lighting. All this was controlled with an Avolites Diamond 3–Austin’s desk of choice.
Much of the show was improvised–with a pool of over 40 songs to choose from and a set list decided about 10 minutes before show time, it was impossible to predict what might appear where. However Austin likes working this way, with the added excitement and playing live with the lighting.
Although it was Austin’s first tour with PJ Harvey, his relationship with Entec as an equipment supplier goes back several years. "I really like the independence and great atmosphere at Entec," he says. "Your project gets the best service and attention at all times, you can speak directly to the people who are handling the account and nothing’s too much trouble." Austin worked alongside Entec crew members Andy Mountain, Steve Major and Leo Tierney.