Brilliant Stages has designed and constructed the staging and spectacular suspended pyramid feature for Muse’s current tour, Second Law, which tours Europe until Christmas before moving to North America in January 2013.
Brilliant has worked on several stages for Muse including the highly successful 2009 Resistance tour and subsequent 2010 stadium tour, and the band’s inspirational stage design for their Reading and Leeds anniversary shows in 2011.
Oli Metcalfe’s design for the 'Second Law' tour incorporates a semi-circular stage with a straight leading edge, from which projects a full width fore-stage and thrust, and which is inset with circular polycarbonate panels housing lighting effects. Tech bunkers flank each side and a curved runway circumnavigates the upstage edge. LED panels and moving heads feature heavily in the Brilliant Stages’ design which needed to incorporate the necessary support and infrastructure to accommodate this.
“The original concept went through many design changes before the current touring system was signed off in July,” explains Iredale. “Once the design decision had been made, we addressed the practicalities of what we needed to achieve on the tour in a number of meetings with Tony and David from Brilliant, and Oli and I from the Muse camp. Further meetings with the various suppliers then followed to ensure their respective systems were designed to fit within this design brief.”
Brilliant Stages’ David Harrison, supported by Brilliant’s team of highly skilled staff and project manager, Kenny Underwood, were heavily involved with the design aspect from the start. The new design has taken the circular stage used on the 2009 Resistance tour and adapted it to form the basis of the new staging, removing 2.5m from the circular stage to create a flat front-leading edge with a re-engineered substage framework to support it. Three existing scissor lifts were infilled, retaining just the piano lift for current use and two additional off-stage access stairs with handrails were added to augment the pre-existing set leading up from back stage.
The stage is surmounted by the original revolving drum riser which was adapted to accommodate 600mm high LED panels attached to its sides. Brilliant Stages increased the height by adding a rectangular base and infill corners, and created a framework into which the LED panels slide and are locked into position by the corner pieces.
The upstage curved runway, which has bridges over the access stairs, borders the stage at a height of 3m and is faced with 120 linx12 LED panels from XL Video. Brilliant Stages designed the complex method of storage and deployment of these LED panels by adding channels around the inner circumference of the runway into which hook the folded LED panels. Once hooked in, the panels are folded out at the bottom edge and braced, deckchair-style, to form a 45° angle between the runway and the main stage with a 25mm clearance. Ballpin locks then secure them into position for added safety.
The runway and LED panels are constructed independently from the main stage and rolled into place, once complete, on wheeled dollies. These dollies form part of the supporting structure as well as providing transit storage for all the stage decks, framework and LED panels. The two tech bunkers flanking the stage are also built separately and rolled into place following construction.
The runway design ensures there is ample access and storage room sub-stage for lighting suppliers Neg Earth and XL Video, which was a major specification from Metcalfe. “We needed something that would solve access problems backstage,” says Metcalfe. “Brilliant’s design has created a huge amount of space and it is very easy to get around and to store equipment. Having everything integrated like this means that we have been able to achieve a very clean look to the stage, even when you’re viewing from the rear aspects.”
A safety handrail runs the length of the curved runway, over which hang formed aluminium shelf brackets that hold MAC Viper moving heads and laser boxes. These hook over the back of the handrail and rest against the deck allowing the shelves to be rigged in whatever position required. Similarly MAC 101 fixtures are half-coupled to the top rail and hence easily moved and adjusted.
Metcalfe specified that ‘nothing should protrude off the back deck’, both to retain the integrity of the design’s ‘clean’ lines and to avoid damaging the high shine Marley flooring which covers the stage, runway and forestage thrust. The handrail therefore packs into its own separate dolly, minimising wasted space within the cart and leaving the decking panels flush for compact and damage-free carting in separate dollies.
More banks of LED panels are attached to the front of forestage, thrust stage and tech bunkers. Those between the main and thrust stages and on the front of the tech bunkers are attached re-using the coffin catches from the original staging. Brilliant also manufactured five sets of on-stage access stairs from transparent polycarbonate to ensure video content on the LED panels is not obscured during performance.
The finishing touches at stage level are made using B1 M1 rated black Regal satin drapes around the thrust, rear of the runway, and tech bunkers, with roll up panels for access to monitors and acoustically transparent fabric across the front of the bass speakers incorporated into the forestage.
Overhead, the major design feature is the 5-layer pyramid faced in LED panels which hang at a 10° angle for optimum visibility by the audience. Each layer is independently rigged from 4 chain hoists and animated using a Kinesys system which synchronises the movement of each layer.
The pyramid can be lowered or raised as a whole unit or as separate layers, inverted and even lowered down onto the deck to conceal the band entirely. All is suspended from a customised Litec grid supplied also by Neg Earth.
The layers are composed of standard truss and corner truss configuration and powder coated in different colours on inside – invisible to the audience - for quick reference when assembling and striking.
The LED assembly is composed of six easily removed and interchangeable panels within a profiled aluminium sheet. These sheets are locked together using corner supports and a cover which simply drop in and are pinned off, without any bolts, for very quick assembly. For easy maintenance, the LED panels are pinned to the truss using only four standard M12 pins which allow the panels to swing outward for access or be removed quickly for full-scale access. All the LED panels remain attached to each section of trussing during transit.
MAC 101 moving heads are also integral to the structure. These are attached by half couplers which are simply loosened and the fixture swivelled inside the truss to travel in situ.
Brilliant Stages designed the pyramid as a modular system based around the customised dolly sizes to minimise transport and handling time and ensure the panels remained undamaged for the duration of the tour.
Each cart is designed to hold two pieces of trussing complete with LED panel assemblies, MAC 101s and XL Video’s power control units. Each LED panel is stored in its own transit half-dolly. During set up, these halves are lined up in the correct order and pinned off as with any truss assembly. Internal corner supports are then secured using an over-centre system for speed and ease of use. The hoist chains then pass through the support and hook off to the lower pick-up; the truss and the whole level can then be lifted directly out of the dollies and flown into position. On de-rig, the sections are lowered back into the transport dolly with spacing blocks separating them to the optimum distance, the pins knocked out and the two halves put together. Ends are then attached to the halves which lock the whole dolly together.
“Aside from the obvious necessity for the stage to look good, our primary requirements were that the packaging of the staging should cater for all forms of transport we were likely to encounter over the course of the tour, the systems should minimise the real estate required to transport it, and that it was easy to assemble and disassemble,” says Iredale.
“Brilliant have certainly delivered on the brief, and we have ended up with a really slick dolly system that incorporates all the dimmers, laser, control, Kinesys control, video and power distribution in the horseshoe section of the stage. The main system of staging follows this principle, so it is very quick and efficient to assemble and disassemble. Load-in takes only 5 hours from the start of rigging to rolling the stage into position, while on the load out, the trucks are loaded between 2 and 2.5 hours after the end of the show.”
Brilliant Stages work can be seen all over Europe and North America as the band continue their tour (muse.mu/tour-dates.htm). More information on Brilliant Stages can be found at www.brilliantstages.com