Northern Star
Thursday, 2 November 2000
Pete Barnes, assuming the triple role of LD, set designer and production manager, explained that he had been carrying the idea for the design for Mel C’s Northern Star tour in his head for some time.

"I went to the Pompidou Centre in Paris four years ago, and one of the works was a cave by Bernard Buffet, called Jardin d’Hivers. It was very simple - just a white landscape but with heavy black contour lines like you would find on a 3D map. Ever since seeing it I’ve wanted to do something in that style."

Barnes applied the concept to a design that had to be practical for small-scale touring - Melanie C’s first major tour plays to civic halls rather than the arena circuit tramped by the Spiceys. The floor and cyc are decorated with seemingly random lines, and a trio of stylistic trees adorns the stage, marked out in black and white. The trees themselves, which were fabricated from aluminium section and covered with velcroed fabric, provide suitable mounts for a dozen MiniMACs, which add a further vertical dimension to the two-truss main rig.

The fixtures, which are between 2.5m and 3m from the stage floor, are positioned upstage of the six-piece band and under Barnes’ expert direction provide an ideal match for the larger luminaires in the trusses. The total equipment count (sourced from Lite Alternative) includes 12 Martin MAC 500s, 22 VL5s, five 6-way bars and a half dozen 4-light Molefays with colour-changers for cyc lighting. A Wholehog II provided control, with a pair of Deathstar strobes and DF50 crackers for additional effects. Barnes elected to tour with a pair of Stark 1200HMI followspots rather than relying on local stock.

Meanwhile, the on-stage sound set-up had changed considerably since Melanie’s showcase UK tour last year. Monitor man Graham Blake explained: "The whole band started off with in-ears, but they felt that the result was a little bit clinical and left them isolated from each other. We’ve now gone over to a mixed system, with half the band wearing in-ears and the other half using wedges. "The wedges in question - Nexo PS-15s - which he had used as band monitors for bigger Spice Girls productions, met with approval from Blake: "Even used as passive wedges, they sound very good - though it’s heavily dependent on the amplifier. We’re using Lab Gruppen power amps on this tour and they sound great." Side-fills are d&b C7s with C4 subs. The change to a hybrid system has meant the replacement of Blake’s diminutive Yamaha 02R console with a more traditional Midas Heritage 3000. Melanie C’s world tour was in Europe during October, and finished in Milan on November 2.Mike Mann

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