Joe Beardsmore: Flowing with Tom Odell’s Black Friday Tour

Posted on May 7, 2024

The deepest emotions tend to live in that area between light and darkness, where nebulous boundaries give them endless space to expand and shrink, twist and turn in infinite directions. By devising such a space on stage for Tom Odell’s Black Friday Tour, Joe Beardsmore created the ideal visual setting for music that one critic aptly described as “a raw emotional masterpiece.”0

Busking his show on a ChamSys MagicQ 250M Stadium Console, Beardsmore of Phosphor, moved seamlessly in sync with the Brit Award winning singer-songwriter and his seven piece band, blending shadows and brightness, sihillouetes and distinctive light angles to underscore the heartfelt narrative of this roughly 90-minute show.

Helping him accomplish this was a collection of CHAUVET Professional COLORado PXL Curve 12, Color STRIKE M and Maverick Storm 4 Profile fixtures, which like the rest of the kit, were supplied by Colour Sound Experiment.  (Phosphor supplied two ChamSys consoles.)

Beardsmore positioned 32 of his PXL Curve 12 fixtures around the top of his flared truss. He then arranged 28 additional units on the floor. The fully pixel mappable motorized battens with 12 independently controlled heads helped him achieve his vision of following the contours his set with deeply evocative light.

“The induvial control of tilt and zoom is essential to the look of the show,” Beardsmore said of the PXL fixture. “I honestly don’t think there is another fixture in the world that could have achieved the same effects. I use them a lot as multiple units—one-third of the pixels wide washing the drape, one-third doing a stage wash, and one-third out to the audience as blinders or strobes. This has allowed me to avoid having a wash layer in my flown rig, which is only beams spots and strobes.”

This adroit use of nuanced lighting angles and fixture combinations from his PXL units and 14 Color STRIKE M motorized strobe-washes helped Beardsmore weave his way through light and darkness. “Dark and negative space are really important to my vision for this design,” he explained. “Both musically and creatively, this show has massive points as well as small intimate moments. It’s nice that at times I can have hundreds of lights on for a song, but at others, a song can be just as impactful with a single spotlight or a floor wash creating a shadow.”

Gobos are another tool Beardsmore  is using to accent the emotional flow of his client’s music.  “There are a lot of  very wide gobos straight out to frame the band members in a breakup or dot gobo sihillouetes,” he said of his show. “This works really well but also at times; it can be blinding to the audience. So, I have individual faders for each floor light. I try to balance the effect with the blinding of the audience, a bit of very slow gobo rotate is also really helpful here to move the blinding effect through the audience.”

Contributing to the gobo effects deployed by Beardsmore is the Maverick Storm 4 Profile. He has the high-output (60,000 lumens) fixture with him at FOH, sitting on a tipped case, using it to project a custom gobo welcoming fans the Black Friday tour. This image is projected onto  a kabuki for roughly 40-seconds.

“The storm 4 only needs to be about 15-percent to be bright enough to ghost the gobo onto the drape from FOH,” said Beardsmore, who also use the fixture to project  a custom moon gobo for a sing alongside a shadow.

Throughout the show, Beardsmore adds an extra dimension to the stage by altering light levels and angles, while relying minimally on front light.  He estimates that Tom Odell is front lit about three-quarters of the time when he is singing, and the band members are lit like that only about a tenth of the time.  Instead, the musicians are most often lit from above or the floor, when they aren’t being silhouetted from the drapes being lit behind them.

On the subject of silhouetting, Beardsmore said: “It’s probably the number one thing in importance of the design. In this case connection and emotion can be created with light much more easily with backlight and sihillouetes since vibrancy of colour is so powerful. The design has a 34m long flared truss which starts covered up in black, but early in the show its kabuki drops to a flat cream backdrop, but to me it’s never cream, it’s whatever I want it to be. Its block colour is in any colour I decide. Ian at Enlightened in Bristol did an excellent job  sourcing the drapes. All the Team at Colour Sound — Alex, Heidi and Tiago in the office, plus Simon and Fletch my hard working lampies and kabuki techs as well as Tyler at ChamSys and Chris Hale at Chauvet.”

In keeping with the honest, genuine nature of  Odell’s emotional performance, he and his band have a spontaneous approach to playing their music. “They do not play the same song the same way from show to show – and Tom doesn’t normally stick to a set list,” said Beardsmore. “I pick up on where he’s going at the start of each song.  It’s a wonderful creative challenge. There is no option to timecode. I don’t even have cues, just one setup for each song — and then total busk.”

Summing up his experience on the tour, Beardsmore noted, “I have learned that I just have go with the flow and  play the lighting console like an instrument alongside the band.”   Anyone who turns out for this tour will readily agree that, just like his client, when it comes to playing his “instrument” this LD is spot on.