The charismatic singer/song writer Mika’s Revelation tour in support of his fifth studio album, My Name is Michael Holbrook, may have been postponed midway through due to the current coronavirus crisis, but it wowed audiences from autumn through to this spring. Lighting designer for the tour was Vince Foster who requires little introduction; there is not enough column space available to cover his more than impressive CV which spans well over thirty years.  From Kylie to Duran Duran, Jameroquai and Paloma Faith, the list is both extensive and impressive without even touching his work in TV and film.

Foster’s design for Mika’s ‘Revelation’ was clean and uncomplicated: plenty of floor lighting, significant numbers of side fixtures and trusses in the most effective of locations.  His choice of fixtures was similarly unambiguous: just four different fixtures and overwhelmingly from Ayrton.  Alongside around thirty Ayrton Magic Blade-FX fixtures were approximately one hundred and twenty of one of Ayrton’s newest moving heads, Khamsin-S.

“Every moving light is a Khamsin,” opened Foster when we spoke to him about his design.  “I have always been a big fan of Ayrton, using a variety of their fixtures over the years and their move into developing moving heads that have that Ayrton combination of feature-rich technology and quality engineering is really exciting.  The Khamsin-S is a truly powerful beast (they make a Khamsin-TC that is slightly cooler for TV use) and they are everywhere on the rig: the floor, the side hangs, the ‘B’ thrust stage and on both the stage trusses and the downstage one, which ideally, hangs downstage of the B stage. The rig was designed with input from both Mika and his sister Yasmine.  We wanted an unfussy but solid music hall look to allow the audience to focus on Mika himself.  The brief was essentially to create something of a ‘Baron Munchausen’ feel, a slightly tongue-in-cheek, comedic atmosphere. He is the consummate performer, a true showman; I rate him as one of the best – and I have watched a fair few over the years.  He has a very theatrical approach and is a gift to an LD; he is like a peacock – you shine a light on him and he shows off.”

This was the first time that Foster had used an LED light as his primary workhorse as he explained, “I’ve always felt that LEDs are not bright enough for a big, arena sized show but Ayrton’s Khamsin proves that LED has now come of age; I imagine that over the next few years we will see the demise of the discharge light source – certainly in my sector of the industry.  The Khamsin is a great fixture, it seems to have everything – Ayrton has certainly ticked all my boxes.  It is a big beast but very quiet as it uses a cooling pipe technology I believe.  And, as for its features: gobo wheels; animation wheel; two prisms; frosts – I have used them all – and of course the excellent beam range which allows me to use it equally as both a wash and a profile.”

Refreshingly, there was no video on this show (the stage uses raked rainbow coloured stripes to allude to the new album cover) so the lighting was very much central to establishing the visual ambience of the set.  Foster used the Khamsin-S colour palette to full effect with the set list based on rainbow colours.  “With some colour mixing you can lose intensity, particularly when adding greens, but not with Khamsin.  Having that facility in the same fixture that you can use effectively as a key light shows the light’s flexibility.  Mika spends a lot of time out on the B stage; there is a scissor lift and a piano out there which is why we fly the front truss so far downstage, preferably 20m from the edge of the main stage, so we can light him essentially in 360o.  Occasionally we’ve had to use ground support so that truss has ended up as a back truss but we can still use the Khamsins as back key lighting with support from followspots. In situations like that, and for lighting the B stage, the shutters are very useful, sited as they are on stage, for framing set pieces like the drum risers. I also use a single Khamsin as a big back light with a rotating gobo at the upstage vanishing point for his first entrance, and another under a grill at the top of the ramp to light him from beneath. Of course, with the floor lighting, an effective shutter facility is vital.”

This was a long and demanding tour so proved a great testing ground for Khamsin’s robustness and reliability. “The only damage we’ve had to deal with has been from mishandling from stage crew in Italy, so I am pretty impressed.  We’ve not had any failures from within the fixtures themselves.”

Alongside the Khamsin-S fixtures on the rig were nearly thirty of Ayrton’s Magic Blades-FX.  “The MagicBlade-FX’s are great,” enthused Foster, “The zoom is fantastic, it can create a really wide back light that is completely beamless – like a wall of light.  I have ten up on the mid truss, eight on the floor and nine out on the B stage.  On the thrust, they work really well as uplighters and you get great footlight with a nice even fill which adds to the theatricality out there.  I’m also a fan of the individual cell control; with seven cells you can have the outside one colour, then graduate the palette inwards and then flip it around.

“I am really pleased that I took the option of using the Khamsin-S and the Magic Blade-FX fixtures as the foundation for this design,” concluded Foster. “The Khamsins have proved to me that they are a perfect choice if you are looking for a light that does everything in an arena environment.  They have more than met that challenge.”

Text: Kate Lyon
Photos: © Sarah Womack/Brilliant

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