8 Standout Moments in Concert Production
From BTS’ recent Love Yourself: Speak Yourself Stadium Tour to Prince’s thunderbolt Super Bowl XLI Halftime Show, here are our picks of the most innovative and entertaining shows.
From the distorted sound of the seventies to the larger than life audio-visual performances of today, concerts have come a long way. They are playgrounds of innovation, celebration and education – whether virtual or real. Here are those that broke ground and went beyond the norm, delivering unforgettable experiences for listeners around the world:
1. Imogen Heap’s 2018 VR concert
The virtual reality experience of Grammy award-winning musician and audio engineer Imgoen Heap’s August 2018 concert (which was done in collaboration with LA-based TheWaveVR) was vastly different when compared to that of a viewer watching a 2D recording of the show. Concert goers experienced changing screens, levitating objects, fading lights and a disintegrating Imogen performing in a vortex, among other spectacles. The one aspect that stood out is the sound. Heap’s vocals and instrumentals are so realistic that you just might jump or be startled when you hear them – or the voice of a fellow concert goer. That’s right, VR also means that you and other participants show up to the concert as avatars while Heap is rendered in a 3D hologram herself. She performed hits such as “Guitar Song” and “Let Go,” a song from her time with producer Guy Sigsworth in the electronic duo Frou Frou.
Artists and bands who have also taken the VR route in recent times are futurist musician Ash Koosha, DJ Tokimonsta, electronic music group The Glitch Mob and DJ Kill The Noise.
2. Prince’s Super Bowl XLI Halftime Show of 2007
Show? Super Bowl XLI Halftime. Production Value? Level Prince.
In 2007, the Super Bowl experienced its first ever rainstorm. Slated to perform during the halftime, Music legend Prince asked for lightning to accompany him on stage too. Mother Nature joined one of her greatest wonders as he delivered his most iconic performance ever, featuring hits like “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Purple Rain” and more. A giant billowing screen exalted Prince’s silhouette as he launched into the guitar solo during “Purple Rain.” With 4 separate live electric guitars and a stage made up of slick tile, a lot could’ve gone wrong but Prince was adamant on putting on a show, bending even the storm to his will and turning it into an audio, visual and elemental spectacle for the ages.
3. P!nk’s 2018 Cirque du Soleil-esque LA concert
To be fair, P!nk’s roster of concerts from her ongoing Beautiful Trauma World Tour should take up this space but we’ll settle for the one that took place at The Forum in Los Angeles in 2018. Few singers can do what P!nk can – dance in aerial suspension and channel incredible gravitas while still belting powerful live vocals. Her aerial slingshot moment in “So What” featured the singer somersaulting over the crowd during the chorus as the pop-rock angel hovered over screaming fans. Her balancing and levitating act during “Secrets” was a testimony to her strength as a performer as she took turns with an acrobat to turn into a human platform. The concert saw all this and more while P!nk made it seem absolutely effortless.
4. Daft Punk’s 2006 Sahara Tent Coachella Set
While Parisian electronic duo Daft Punk’s 2006 Sahara Tent set at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival might look basic to those viewing it in the present, back then it marked a spark that cemented the rise and domination of EDM music. What struck festival goers, apart from the beats of the dance music, was the theatrical element to the set, the presentation. The pulsating light pyramid and its twin inverted manifestations were used by the duo comprising of Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter to deliver a now cult-famous sensory experience to 40,000 people – one to inspire FOMO for generations. Daft Punk’s set changed how musicians and producers would look to elevate and reimagine concerts in the future.
5. BTS’ 2019 Love Yourself: Speak Yourself Stadium Tour concert at the Rose Bowl Stadium, California
When it comes to concert production, there are few who can rival the experience created by the South Korean superstars BTS. An audio and visual masterpiece, their Speak Yourself Tour which took place last weekend at the Rose Bowl Stadium in California was beyond cutting-edge. With aerial action, pyrotechnics, dissolving bubbles, holograms, fireworks, tens of thousands of synchronized light sticks, drones and even a bouncy house, BTS are doing what no artist has done before: in a syncretic performance as an ode to their fandom, ARMY.
6. The Grateful Dead’s 1974 Wall of Sound
The year was 1974 and the Grateful Dead were set to play at the Winter Ballroom in San Francisco. Sound systems for concerts till then had resembled large amplifiers and speaker boxes arranged close together and haphazardly, producing a distorted sound. Sound engineer and LSD chemist Owsley Stanley was a friend of the band and the brain behind the infamous Wall Of Sound – a behemoth wall comprising of over 600 speakers. It did away with the distortion and produced a sound so clear, it couldn’t be paralleled at the time. The wall was retired in the same year but not before accompanying and supporting the Grateful Dead’s iconic live acts.
7. The Flaming Lips’ Parking Lot concerts from 1996 to 1997
To create Zaireeka, American rock band The Flaming Lips’ experimental eighth studio album, the group held what frontman Wayne Cone called the “parking lot experiments.” It started with the band members calling their friends who would show up in their cars to participate in the band’s experiment. They would place the cassette tapes given to them by the band members in their cars’ stereo systems and play them simultaneously.
The venue changed to the more comfortable settings of music clubs later as more people joined them, and the band replaced the car stereos with handheld boom-boxes in the boom-box experiments. They distributed copies of a homemade program to guide the participants. Forty boom-boxes were used by volunteers from the audience who engaged and played with each sound source while three sets of speakers were set up around the club. The Flaming Lips used each speaker and boom-box to build tension and texture to the sound as they went along.
8. Beychella 2018
Beyoncé’s headlining set at the 2018 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival was historic not only because she was the first black female headliner of the festival but also because of what it celebrated through its theme – homecoming at historically black colleges and universities (H.B.C.U.s). “Instead of me pulling out my flower crown, it was more important that I brought our culture,” she said about the performance. Over 200 young, black artists joined Beyoncé’s on stage and together, they celebrated the beauty, musical traditions and contributions of African-American culture with reinvented versions of Beyoncé’s hits. This is the performance one has to quit reading about and instead, see. The New York Times said about Netflix’s Homecoming: A Film By Beyoncé – “It was rich with history, potently political and visually grand.”