MTV’s global icons rock Trafalgar Square
Wednesday, 22 November 2017
u2-traf-squareU2 premiered material from new album Songs Of Experience at a free show for 7,000 fans
UK - Overlooked by a dominating Nelson’s Column and The National Gallery, U2 premiered material from new album Songs Of Experience amongst a set of their greatest hits, at a free show for 7,000 fans in London’s Trafalgar Square on Saturday 11 November.
Introduced by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, MTV Presents Trafalgar Square was the curtain-raiser to the following evening’s 24th annual MTV Europe Music Awards (EMAs) at The SSE Arena, Wembley, where the Irish four-piece were honoured with the Global Icon award.
Both events were graced by Stageco’s dedication as staging provider with Wim DeWolf and Mario Dockx handling the R&D, while Dirk De Decker managed both projects. For the U2 event, the Stageco crew of seven [plus local crew], headed by Stefaan Vandenbosch, negotiated one of the busiest tourist areas of the city to erect the company’s now-classic transparent canopy roof. The choice came directly from the event’s production manager, Chris Vaughan, who successfully implemented the product on other events earlier in 2017.
Along with the band roof, the three-day build saw Stageco construct 16 vertical 460-type towers of varying heights and widths, each accommodating 1m and 0.5m wide LED strips designed to transmit lyrics, slogans and graphical content to augment U2’s live set. The company also built four towers for PA and lighting, bridged by horizontal trussing which served the dual-purpose of suspending black drape while offering additional stability.
“Organising and co-ordinating some 20 trucks to come on to one of the busiest squares in one of the busiest cities over the course of a few days is quite a challenge,” said Chris Vaughan, who had to interrupt load-out for eight hours on the Sunday due to the Remembrance Day commemoration.
DJ David Guetta followed U2 to bring the show to a triumphant close with an hour-long set punctuated with an array of special effects. He was also one of the acts at the EMAs, which were held in the UK’s capital for the first time since 1996.
Hosted by Rita Ora on a remarkable set that filled the entire arena floor, the Wembley show witnessed live performances by Eminem, Demi Lovato, The Killers, Kesha, Stormzy and multiple award-winner Shawn Mendes.
“It has to be one of the largest productions ever staged at this venue… certainly within the timeframe we were working to,” said Dirk De Decker, who worked with the EMAs’ production manager Maggie Mouzakitis throughout the project.
“The extent of the real estate taken up by the production was so vast that there was only about seven or eight metres of backstage space left behind the video screen, so there was no other option but for us to raise the arena floor to a height of five metres,” continued De Decker. “This provided the opportunity to incorporate hydraulic lifts within the stage and ‘subterranean’ tunnels that allowed production to be raised into position via the lifts, as well as enabling quick artist changeovers.”
Under crew chiefs Patrik Vonckx and Stefaan Angillis, a workforce of 17 – as well as extra labour from Stageco Nederland – was spread across three teams in full day and night shifts to ensure that the set was built and ready within three days. Stageco’s brief also included the building of numerous camera platforms, relay screen positions in seating blocks, the front of house risers and a ‘glamour pit’ for VIP guests.
The set design for both events was delivered by Julio Himende, who has a long history with MTV’s live productions.
(Jim Evans)

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