Having convincingly established herself as the anti-Britney, tough girl Avril Lavigne launched her first tour this spring, with Graeme Nicol and Kurt Wagner as the co-LDs. For Nicol, the experience was a stimulating change. “Having designed for Sarah McLachlan, Dido, and Diana Krall, I've been tagged as the sensitive guy,” he says. “This is the most rock thing I've done in a long time.”
Not only does the music require a hard-rocking approach, but Nicol adds that he took into account the fact that Lavigne appeals to a young, young audience. “For a lot of the kids going to the show, it's their first rock concert,” he says. (He adds, laughing, “At times, it looked like Single Dad Custody Day out there.”) Therefore, he says, he chose to “make it big, and to include the audience a lot. For example, in the song, ‘In My World,’ where she wanted the audience to jump, we'd make them jump. You can't be subtle; it's about the big picture.”
The tour began in Europe, Nicol says, “with half the rig we eventually had in North America.” Throughout the tour, Martin Professional equipment made up the bulk of the gear, with the addition of some High End Systems units for the European leg, and some Dataflash strobes used throughout the tour. “We used [Martin] MAC 600s for washes and MAC 2000s for beams, along with [Martin] Atomic strobes.” Control was provided by the MA Lighting grandMA console (distributed by A.C.T Lighting), which, Nicol says, is “an interesting console,” although, having worked steadily on the Flying Pig Systems Wholehog® II, he is still adapting from that board's methodology. “It's hard to change when your mind is used to the Wholehog environment,” he says. “The board has many great features, you just have to relearn things you took for granted before.”
In designing the tour, Nicol says he focused on the lighting while Wagner handled the projection system and also created video imagery. (Video gear was supplied by Nocturne.) The setting featured three screens — two of which were dedicated to close-ups of the star and a third which featured some dedicated video imagery. “For the number ‘Complicated,’ we had the word ‘complicated’ appearing in several languages,” Nicol says. “She also did a cover of ‘Knockin’ on Heaven's Door,' for which we found footage of World War II-related images.” As for the lighting, Nicol says he approached the show song by song. He adds, “She's quite pale-looking, and we didn't want to color her too much, so we used followspots on her. You know, most of her audience is quite short, and they want to see her, so keeping her lit all the time was a big part of the job. She's short herself, so everything had to be scaled to that. For a full-body shot, I had to remind the followspot operators that she didn't need that much iris.”
Having collaborated with Wagner — the two LDs have worked on one-off events together in the past — Nicol says that he's open to further collaborations. “We'll see what we can come up with,” he says. “We both think in the same direction.” Other personnel included production manager Paul Runnals and lighting crew Dale Lynch, Terry Mueller, and Ryan Kell. Lighting was supplied in Europe by Neg Earth, in North America by Christie Lites, and in Australia by Bytecraft. The Avril Lavigne tour concluded in June.