Yves Aucoin Puts Celine Dion in the Frame
This summer’s Celine Dion LIVE 2017 tour, in support of her 2016 French-language album Encore un soir, took the Canadian songstress on a 25-date tour of Europe in her first major tour for eight years. Celine Dion LIVE 2017 sold out at every venue as it visited stadiums and arenas in Denmark, Sweden, England, the Netherlands, France, Switzerland and Germany, and received stellar reviews that confirmed Dion is an artist at the height of her career.
Dion’s lighting designer of 28 years, Yves Aucoin, put together a lighting design worthy her incredible performance and ensured the singer remained firmly as the focus of the show throughout, aided by 24 Ayrton MagicPanel-R fixtures. After nearly three decades of working with the superstar, he knew exactly what to do:
“Celine takes her craft – and her audiences – seriously, and we spent a long time carefully listening to every song in her repertoire before choosing which she would perform and how they should look. Her collaboration with the design team comes in the early stages of a tour, after which point she concentrates on her performance and leaves us to our work on the visuals. She performs 26 songs in the show but selected 48 in total, switching between French and English from city to city.
“On a tour of this scale, with venues this large, I like to frame Celine so the audience can instantly see, in one look, exactly where she is on stage at all times,” says Aucoin. “Sometimes I do this with followspots or top light, but key to the LIVE 2017 tour was a series of MagicPanel-R fixtures, 8 of which I arranged in a ‘V” configuration on the floor upstage to form a frame around her. At times these appeared like a pyramid effect above her head, so it was clear from all angles of the auditorium that she was in the middle of them.”
Aucoin placed another 8 MagicPanel-R fixtures on the front truss facing the audience to project effects and colours out into the auditorium, and rigged further 8 MagicPanel-R units under two LED side screens, to help blend the lighting with the video and open up the side lighting for the cameras.
“My intention was to make use of the MagicPanel-Rs’ rich colours and powerful beams so I mostly used them as full shafts of light and worked with the colour. However, they also proved to be nice effects machines and I used the onboard effects to create graphics and sparkle effects to add background interest.
“This was especially effective in the first couple of songs where I used them to increase the sense of excitement in the audience: even when using one pixel at a time, the beams are very bright, so you can create a nice sparkling, glittering effect which became the signature look for I Drove All Night, the second song to open the English show.
“This effect was reflected in the video content as well. I am always looking to blend the lighting and video together so they work as one, and work closely with the video team to achieve this. For this number we created a cityscape in which we matched the colours and the ‘excitement’ of the beams of light – some of the dot effects are unique – to maximise the effect.”
Another stand out moment for Aucoin was during the song Love Me Back to Life where he returned to the strong shafts of light and took full advantage of MagicPanel-R’s 360° continuous pan and tilt to create dramatic aerial effects. “The 360° pan and tilt is a really cool feature: the movement of the fixtures gave us a lot of height in the arena and stadium settings – it really was quite spacey!”
Dion is the only artist that Aucoin travels with for the entire duration of a tour and he continues to fine tune his design as the tour progresses. “It is good to put everything together from all aspects of the show. The final ingredient is the reaction from the audience: what is good for the first show will gradually change as the artist settles in and it becomes clear from the audience’s feelings what works well or not. We can modify our design until we end up with a great show, and Ayrton fixtures are flexible enough to lend themselves to this easily.”
This is not Aucoin’s first time using Ayrton, having employed a plethora of DreamPanel-Floor and DreamPanel-Wall fixtures for his ‘in-the-round’ design for Dion’s 2008/2009 Taking Chances tour. He was first introduced to MagicPanel-R by rental company, Solotech, which handles all Dion’s tours.
“For the LIVE 2017 tour I was looking for eye candy fixtures that would frame Celine perfectly and be powerful enough for the stadium and arena settings. With audiences between 25,000 and 50,000, you can’t afford to be too subtle! Solotech showed me the MagicPanel-R and they certainly had the power. I knew from previous experience Ayrton were reliable and easy to tour with so I could rely on them. Added to that I had a wonderful crew from Solotech, headed by David Bergeron who is a key for success in any project, so the fixtures were, as always, in perfect shape.
“I’ve been using Ayrton products since 2008 at least, and I like the way the company always come up with a new generation of products that are better and, most importantly, rock solid. The products always have a feature that makes me put it on my wish list! I’m really looking forward to trying out the MagicBurst next…”
Aucoin will be back with Celine Dion in November, and has the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia firmly in his sights for next year.