Robe and HSL Light Robbie Williams in Dubai

Robbie Williams played Dubai’s largest to date at the Nad Al Sheba Racecourse in Dubai in front of 23,000 wildly enthusiastic music fans, who were also responsible for making it the fastest selling out show ever in the United Arab Emirates.

The entire production lighting rig, including 150 Robe moving lights, 60 points of rigging and all necessary power distribution was supplied by UK-based HSL. They air freighted 36 tonnes of equipment – with the help of Mapcargo – from their Blackburn base to Dubai, to meet the specification for Al Gurdon’s spectacular design.

The lighting deal was put together by Robbie Williams’ production manager Wob Roberts, local production manager Peter Loh working for Midas Promotions and Robe Show Lighting’s International Sales Manager, Harry von den Stemmen.

Sourcing enough lighting equipment locally for the show was proving challenging and costly. Von Den Stemmen was simultaneously alerted to an opportunity by both Tony Sawyer of V.V. & Sons, Robe’s UAE distributor, and Louis Teo of Lighting & Sound Singapore where Loh is based. He immediately went to HSL, one of the UK’s fastest growing lighting rental companies with a large inventory of Robe moving lights – where MD Simon Stuart jumped at the chance of quoting to service the Robbie Williams show.

Stuart comments, “The show was awesome! I’m extremely proud of the fact that we have worked alongside one of the best live production teams in the world and helped them produce such a great result”. The show – artistically directed by Lee Lodge – amazed and enthralled everyone present with its high production values and characteristically superlative performance by Robbie.

HSL’s crew chief and project manager was Mike Oates, who worked alongside hand picked crew of 9 HSL A-Team regulars. On site they liaised closely with Robbie Williams’ lighting crew chief Mark “Marky Mark” England, lighting director and show operator Richard Gorrod, site co-ordinator Tom Armstrong, Wob Roberts and Al Gurdon. Oates comments, “It was an absolutely brilliant experience and a great exercise in teamwork and good communication”.

Moving lights were absolutely integral to the lighting design. The rig was based around 8 structural ‘ribs’ – tall, hinged architectural set pieces originating from the “Intensive Care” album launch show at Berlin Veldorome in October, arranged in a gentle upstage curve. Designed by set designer Ray Winkler and constructed by Brilliant, each is edged with 288 Saco LED lights, and they also contain 48 Turbo Fuzz Lights that travel as part of the set.

Forty Eight Robe ColorSpot 1200AT fixtures – 6 per rib, were then added, along with 5 strobes per rib.

On the floor were 10 ColorWash 1200ATs sitting on the risers in between the ribs, with eight right behind the ribs, sitting on cases and shining through them. More ColorWash 1200ATs were used to up-light the set drape.

Rigged onto the sides of the offstage PA towers were five Robe ColorSpot 1200ATs and five Moles, with another 5 blinders on the onstage PA towers.

On a horseshoe shaped rear truss that followed the line of the ribs were another 16 ColorWash 1200ATs, plus four rigged above the central LED screen. Another two per side were hung off two individual front trusses, together with 3 Moles a side.

Under the set grill were twenty-four Robe ColorSpot 575ATs – their smaller size making them ideal for the space – shining upwards through the grills, along with strobes and 8-lites. On the catwalk thrust around the floor were 60 Birdies, along with an additional 24 PARs, also utilised as up-lighters through the grills.

The moving lights were used for a whole variety of effects from tight pencil beam matrix patterns to colourful washes to the creation of enveloping walls of colour, and also for profiling Robbie in the moodier moments.

HSL supplied the six Robert Juliat Manon onstage follow Spots, with the four FOH ones sourced locally from rental company Nemesis.

Richard Gorrod operated all the lights plus an EX1 digital media server from his Virtuoso console which tours with them. He commented “HSL have been fantastic, nothing has been too much trouble and the kit has been meticulously well prepared”. Oates adds, “The Robes were absolutely brilliant – they were transported half way round the world, came out of their crates and all worked first time. There’s really not many other fixtures as reliable as this!”.

The biggest challenge for everyone on site in Dubai was the short timescale in which they had to build the technical infrastructure. However this also galvanised everyone into action, firing up the “show must go on” spirit across all departments, who worked seamlessly together through some very long days and nights.

The Dubai show was part of a series of 4 ‘warm ups’ by Robbie Williams (preceded by three shows in South Africa), all ahead of his massive European summer stadium tour that kicks off in June. This streamlined ‘rest of the world’ rig (bigger than a lot of people’s ‘A’ rigs) as seen in Dubai and South Africa, will be used for shows in Asia and other territories in the autumn.

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