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Sun 14 Dec 2008 04:00 AM

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Especially for you

Local promoter AEG Live Middle East proudly whisked Ms Minogue off to her next Dubai engagement.

Local promoter AEG Live Middle East proudly whisked Ms Minogue off to her next Dubai engagement (after her performance at the Atlantis opening party) the following night, where she made her first public Middle East debut. Kelly Lewis reports.

Continuing the Middle East leg of her KylieX2008 tour, Minogue made her way to Dubai's Festival City venue to perform in front of 16,000 eagerly awaiting fans.

AEG Live Middle East's managing director, Thomas Ovesen said that due to logistical reasons, Minogue's Dubai concert was not quite as large as her full-scale touring show, but none the less, the performance the popstress gave on the night far surpassed the expectations of all present.

In the build-up to Minogue's performance, lads and ladies from around Dubai rushed to secure their tickets to see the diva live in action, and she certainly did not disappoint holding them captive for two hours, while she performed a compilation of both current and old favourites.

Ovesen says the strong ticket sales produced from Minogue's show was encouraging to see in a market currently hit by a recession and while other local events are flagging in comparison.

"While many local events are selling poorly we were extremely happy with the turnout for Minogue, but we have to be realistic when assessing that approximately 50% of the sales took place before mid October... Having decided to charge in the region of only US$53 for the entry level ticket this event offered remarkable value for money," Ovesen claims.

To enhance sales and raise awareness of the event, AEG Live sprung-into-action with an effectual marketing campaign.

"For Minogue we rolled out a regional campaign of a magnitude that I have not seen before to ensure everybody knew about the event well in advance...I think we achieved a great turn-out and everyone will agree that this was an amazing event."

Ovensen says AEG Live was honoured to present Minogue's first public concert in Dubai, adding it was a fantastic show that fans will not be able to ‘get out of their heads' in a hurry.

Heading-up the new ‘gourmet style' concert food was JW Marriott, which served 8000 meals and 22,000 beverages on the night.

For the event JW Marriot set-up a total of 34 counters and had 212 dedicated food and beverage staff. As a result queues were relatively short and fast-moving additionally, it set-up beverage only bars to facilitate the flow even further.

As fans stood waiting for Minogue to take to the stage they vociferously reinforced their excitement.

As the pulsating stage came to life in tune to her opening song, Speakerphone, the giant speakers (props) vibrated around on stage, then parting to reveal Minogue standing centre stage in an electrifying capacity.

The multi-million dollar, KylieX2008 tour is Minogue's largest production yet and showcases an interesting juxtaposition of physical and simulated visual elements.

The tour plays on the electro-pop genre (mid 1980s to early 1990s) employing digital video art and electric vocal elements supported by the theatrical ‘new wave' theme.

Adding to this is the tour's theatrics, which have been inspired by the French fashion designer Jean Paul Gautier, who has custom-designed a range of Minogue's threads, which intermix with the show's animated feel.

Minogue's production manager for the tour is Kevin Hopgood, who says "the creative process never stops on this tour".

"Along the way we have tweaked areas to either suit different venues or different legs of the tour, which has worked really well and it also prevents the show from becoming repetitive for Minogue and the crew," he adds.

From a production manager's point of view, Hopgood says it is all about having the right people on the tour to bring it all together, which in this case involves around 55 people.

"In terms of having equipment supplied locally we have been very fortunate in Dubai, everything we specified could be provided, we've had to adapt less here than almost anywhere else, which has helped the process," states Hopgood.

"The main thing we need for this tour is space because we have so many performers on the stage and that requires a large surface area. The requested stage dimensions aren't always available, which means that for each show we have to adapt the stage design to suit and then rework some of the choreography and visual elements to tie-in with the new set-up."

For a little lady Ms Minogue does not travel lightly, with some 23 tonnes of equipment in-toe for this leg of the tour. To make the transition from destination to destination easier Matt Wright from the UK's Rock-it Cargo, is along for the ride meticulously coordinating all the logistics of the freight and cargo.

The hefty rig features ‘state-of-the-art' multimedia technology and XL Video supplied video equipment and six crew for Minogue's tour, under the direction of crew chief Stuart Heaney, who also heads-up the video projection for the tour.

KylieX2008 has a strong instrumental look and feel to the show, bringing, texture, depth, movement and big colour visuals alive on the stage.

Six Element Labs Stealth LED screens each consisting of seven panels wide by 22 panels high (18m x 9m), with a hanging weight of 1.5 tonnes, form as one huge backdrop that runs playback material one rack per screen.

The Stealths hang vertically on the upstage, with the playback content feeding from two Apple Mac G4 computers utilising the playback VVTR software system.

All the footage was specifically created for this tour by Marcus Viner of Blink TV in the UK, who worked closely with creative director William Baker to shoot the content.The visuals were then programmed and formatted for all the screens by Richard Turner during the production rehearsals, which is now triggered by MIDI timecode from the on-stage keyboard of musical director Sarah DeCourcy.

The live camera mix is directed by Ruary MacPhie. XL is supplying three Sony 55HD cameras, which are positioned with one at FOH, and two in the pit on track and dolly.

MacPhine cut the mix using a Panasonic AV-HS400 HD Vision Mixer, and this was beamed onto two Barco DLite LED screens hung either side of the stage.

On-board for yet another of Minogue's tours is her long-time front-of-house engineer Chris Pyne.

As usual Pyne did not leave home without his faithful DiGiCo console, but this time he traded the D5 in place of the SD7.

After trailing the SD7 at PLASA07, Pyne says DiGiCo's managing director James Gordon asked him if he wanted to road-test the console for the KylieX2008 tour and he keenly took-up the offer.

"The initial programming of the SD7 took around a week during rehearsals prior to the European tour, but it's always a work in progress. You don't ever stop refining and changing things - every venue and new sound system creates a new issue to deal with," states Pyne.

Due to the electronic, and harsh at times, sound of the tour, Pyne says every song is individual in its acoustic application meaning that he can not apply the same EQ settings and various other parameters as a blanket mix because it always changes.

Also on tour with Pyne is an ADK 48kHz multitrack hard-disk recorder.

This acts as a refinement tool for Pyne, as he can record any show in real-time and then play it back through the SD7 console via MADI to carry-out an individual mini sound-check prior to each show, which reduces the time the band has to be sound checking for.

As part of the global touring process Pyne specifies three different makes of PA systems, with JBL being one of them.

But, he says the only issue with using JBL is that he has spent the entire year working with Meyer Milo and the whole stored mix and drive system has been geared towards that brand and its particular sound, so it took a bit more tweaking to get the system sounding the way he wanted it to.

To set-up the JBL system to suit the outdoor elements and the reflective surface qualities of the car park venue, Pyne used Meyer SIM 3 to analyse and EQ the system, while the local crew used the JBL prediction software to aim and array the speakers maximising the audience coverage and to keep the sound from reflecting off nearby objects.

"For even sound dispersion across the entire site the main hangs were straight line arrays hang of 16 JBL Vertec 4889 Line Array cabinets, which have the normal 90 degree coverage pattern that's sufficient to deal with the wider audience area," he says.

"To fill some of the dead spots created by the video screens we added some Turbosound floods and the same for the centre fills. Additionally, we added two delay towers for the long throw audience area consisting of eight a side JBL 4880A array sub speakers."

Pyne says he likes working with outdoor locations as he does not have to deal with the reverb issues that he is faced with in other venues. But, obviously in an outside area he says it does pose different challenges and he has to factor in other elements like wind.

Adding to the glitz and glamour of the tour are three custom-finished versions of Sennheiser's 5200 microphones, in chrome, gold, and one diamante.

"We have been using this microphone since its release; in fact, before it was released we did some testing for Sennheiser. The microphone suits Minogue's voice - it's very reliable and its small size fits well in her hands," states Pyne.

"Being a petite woman, it's important for her to be comfortable while jumping around the stage, and over all, the Sennheiser RF system with the Neumann 105 hypercardioid capsule has got quite high gain-before-feedback properties.

"As far as flagship, handheld radio microphones go, I don't think there's a better one on the market."

On another note; Pyne says this leg of the tour was novel as the stage Minogue performed on in Dubai was previously owned by her and sold-on to Protec after her Showgirl Tour was cancelled.

Nick Whitehouse and Bryan Leitch of Visual Light provided lighting design and operation services for Minogue's tour.

The concept for the show's design is based around a giant "light box" and the set comprises a rectangular, raked main stage and two band risers stage left and stage right, which are front lit by of Barco's MiStrip modules.

Whitehouse says most of what he does as the lighting designer is visually compliment the screen and the video heavy and theatrical components of the show. He describes the vast video and light combination as a "disco wall of death".

Whitehouse's lighting rig (including some X-shaped truss supporting the tour's X manifesto) complements the video-heavy show and the European A show rig consists mostly of Vari-Lite VL3000 and VL3500 Spots, VL3500 Washes, and VL500 Washes.

But for the Dubai, B show, Protec supplied a mixture of Clay Paky Alpha Spot 1200s, Alpha Wash 1200s and some Alpha Wash 575s.

Touring with the show, Whitehouse acts as board operator, controlling his extensive rig of DMX automated fixtures with via a Virtuoso DX2 console from PRG.

Whitehouse opted for the DX2 as he says it is the ideal programming tool for digital lighting media servers because its flexible and adaptive console controls are well suited to programming for a large number of control channels.

For the lighting heavy show Whitehouse employed around 1000 lighting cues for the B-show, while for the full scale A-show there are 2000 at play.

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