Nottingham, UK – Elvis Presley has been gone for the best part of four decades, but his legend is very much still alive. As one of the most successful artists of all time, the King of Rock and Roll, reluctant movie star and performer extraordinaire has something of an untouchable legacy. Although Las Vegas, – which saw Elvis perform a whopping 635 times — is the place most synonymous with his exuberant and energetic shows, the city of Blackpool (fittingly, the so-called Las Vegas of Northern England), has been hosting one of Europe’s premier Elvis contests, which this year featured an appropriately glitzy lightshow featuring high-impact LED fixtures from CHAUVET Professional.
The fourth annual Europe’s Tribute to Elvis, which took place in Blackpool’s iconic 19th century Empress Ballroom, gave aspiring Kings of Rock and Roll the chance to qualify for a trip to the Elvis Tribute Artist Contest finals in Memphis. Arranpaul Audio, which has handled lighting and audio for the event in the past, was tasked with creating the design for the 2015 edition of the contest. LD and Engineer Ollie Wilkinson called on a collection of Chauvet fixtures to create something of a fresh Elvis experience for the audience during the three-day event.
“As the event is becoming one of the most popular Elvis competitions in the world, we knew that we needed to step the game up this year, and of course, our Chauvet fixtures didn’t let us down,” said Wilkinson.
All in all, Wilkinson incorporated 16 Q-Wash 560Z-LED fixtures and eight Next NXT-1 moving LED panels from CHAUVET Professional, as well as three MotionOrbs, four Geyser RGB LED foggers and eight PiXPar 24 par-style fixtures from CHAUVET DJ into his show design.
“When you see Elvis tribute shows around the world, there’s usually a big upstage E.L.V.I.S sign in lights,” continued Wilkinson. “I didn’t want to go for that typical look, so we played about with the thought of using separate Elvis letters in gobos on the downstage truss. After some thought we had the idea to use our Chauvet NEXT NXT-1 fixtures to spell ELVIS across the truss, along with other supporting acts such as the legendary Suzi Quatro, who also graced the stage.”
While the NXT-1s enabled Wilkinson to create something a little different from what one would usually expect to find at an Elvis show, another tradition was at the forefront of his lighting considerations.
“It became obvious to me when designing the rig that the world of Elvis was very black and white when it came to color and contrast,” continued Wilkinson. “It’s rather difficult to keep the audience engaged with different temperatures of white, so I had to be very careful when washing the stage with primary colors and using gobos etc.” As a solution, Wilkinson resorted to using a lot of pastels in the design, using both the NXTs and the 560Zs. He continued: “I could go from a primary red to a lavender wash very easily just by adding an extra bit of white into my palette.”
Wilkinson positioned eight CHAUVET Professional 560Z fixtures on a flown truss in the centre of the ballroom for a full band wash, as well as painting the extravagant 100-year-old chandelier clad ceiling with color. A further eight fixtures were positioned on the upstage truss to give a back wash, and also to wash the white wall at the back of the stage. Significantly, Wilkinson married the 560Zs with the three MotionOrbs, which adorned the back wall.
“As the whole event was being filmed, I placed the MotionOrbs against the white upstage wall to give a sense of color and depth to the stage on camera. This provided a good amount of eye candy while keeping intensity to a suitable level.” He continued: “The MotionOrbs combined with the 560Zs really created a complementary look, and looked especially impacting on camera.”
To add extra snippets of wash light at crucial moments during the set to illuminate various members of the band, Wilkinson added eight PiXPar 24s to the roster of lighting fixtures. “The Chauvet PiXPar 24 is my alternative wash fixture when power and dimming is limited. Although the output is stunning, for this show I didn’t have to compromise all of my front wash. I could then still use some of the flown fixtures to light the cat walk and roof when needed.”
Complementing the grandiose aura of Blackpool’s Empress Ballroom, Wilkinson’s final touch to the stage involved creating atmospheric effects with eight Geyser RGBs positioned alongside the catwalk, which protruded from the front of the stage. The Geyser RGBs, which produce large volumes of water-based fog illuminated by colorful LED lighting, had the expected huge impact on the show.
“The Geysers never fail to impress,” continued Wilkinson. “The Geysers are my favorite alternative to Pyro by far. Not only did they give the audience that ‘wow’ factor, they were a worthy accompaniment to the awards, presentations and performances that were scattered throughout the event.”
While the King may no longer be around, with events such as Europe’s tribute to Elvis keeping his spirit alive, it’s little wonder that Elvis’ popularity refuses to wane. “It was a fantastic production to be involved with.” Concluded Wilkinson: “The Chauvet fixtures were essential to helping me recreate that electric atmosphere synonymous with Elvis performances.”