Ruel, the 15-year-old Aussie singer-songwriter taking the world by storm, is a superstar-in-waiting.
In 2017 he caught the attention of Grammy-nominated Khalid, who invited him on the road as main support on his Australian/New Zealand tour, and the legendary Elton John proclaimed on his Beats1 radio show that he had the “most amazing voice that I’ve ever heard from a male singer at 14 years of age.”
Emotional, resonant and astounding considering his youthful age, Ruel has just completed a short tour of the country selling out venues including The Enmore Theatre.
With an eye on the future, lighting designer Mike McDonald did Ruel’s first couple of shows in 2017 free of charge because he knew that Ruel’s career was only going to grow. The budget for this tour was low but Mike is a master at working a small budget so that the results look bigger than they should.
There was no video element to the show and management didn’t want to pay for a flown rig at The Enmore, so it came down to a creative floor package that managed to give the stage quite some depth.
“Ruel is quite new at performing so I didn’t know if he would be walking around on stage a lot or there would be guests appearing,” said Mike. “I decided to create side light with ShowPRO Quad LED Pars so wherever he walked he would be covered. It’s all about creating layers; we have the upstage riser to help create depth and definition between the band and the artist. It grabs people’s attention just to Ruel as he is downstage and works that space quite heavily. Being only 15 years old he runs around like a spring chicken! If I had tried to pick him up with some front wash, I would have struggled.”
Upstage were three GLP JDC-1 fixtures adding some colour and musical stabs to accentuate the band. Having a responsive strobe is essential as the band’s musicianship is tight with a lot of musical builds and accents. Mike used them in full 68ch mode (SPIX) producing a shimmer effect with the tube and the pixel effects with the outside cells as well.
“To maximise the use of these fixtures, you really need to spend time on the console creating detailed groups and layout views,” commented Mike. “It’s not a fixture you can patch in the console and press go!”
A total of ten Martin MAC Aura XBs delivered movement to the show with four in front of the riser and six behind the band. More ShowPRO LED Pars were situated underneath the riser helping to create depth between the artist and the band.
“You get a nice shine on the floor and you can black out the band whilst still giving some ambience,” added Mike. “At the back of the stage were six 4-Lite Molefays each mounted on a 2 metre black pipe and they were great for backlight. They’re also a camera-friendly fixture and provided something in the background for Instagram because that’s important nowadays. I’ve been doing the tungsten thing for quite a while now - if you put it in the right place it does its work without doing much.”
Management had purchased some Astera AX1 wireless pixeltubes for a video clip of one of Ruel’s singles and these were incorporated into the tour design. Unfortunately on the way to The Enmore, they got damaged in transit and had to be dropped from the design.
“There were supposed to be eight of them in front of the riser,” explained Mike. “It was such a shame but these things happen. They have wireless DMX that runs over 3-pin and unfortunately that broke, and I couldn’t control them via DMX. You can control them via your phone and that’s about it.”
Mike commented that he would like to add video further down the track but with artists such as Ruel, he says it’s about small steps and that you can’t progress too quickly.
“He’s gone from selling out 300 capacity rooms to playing The Enmore in four months so the progression is really very quick,” he added. “It’s also about understanding what he wants. He’s only 15, he just wants to play video games. That was the first question he asked me; is there a video screen we can play Playstation on? You have to nurture the artist so he understands what he wants.”
For control Mike used an MA2 light, a console he describes as reliable. Chameleon Touring Systems supplied the tour, except for Perth, which was supplied by Frontier Lighting.
Photos: Troy Constable
This article first appeared in the print edition of CX Magazine November 2018.
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