Six60 first band to play iconic Eden Park Stadium
A Six60 tour seems synonymous with the phrase a ‘New Zealand first’. It was no different this year, when Six60 became the first band to play at the iconic sports stadium Eden Park in central Auckland. Global Production Partners and Human Person had five weeks to pull together this quite literally ground-breaking concert.
“The real curveball was the decision to go ahead at Eden Park this year, rather than during the next tour cycle as previously planned. Five weeks out we had no design or anything,” recalls Leon Dalton, Global Production Partners. Leon had just got back home to Perth from the Six60 Summer Tour and had to turn around and head straight back to New Zealand.
Producing a live show for the first time at Eden Park also brought other challenges. Permission for Eden Park to hold up to six concerts a year was the culmination of a long-running legal battle, “There was an encyclopedia of resource consents, nothing unusual, just the sheer amount. We were very mindful that we had to get our ducks in a line.” The one problematic consent issue was the limitation on moving trucks after the show, and with only six of the twenty trucks required able to fit under the stadium, most were loaded the following day.
Equally, requirements such as house lights, aisle lighting and access to the venue were all very much work in progress, “The venue were really good about it – and clever, bringing in Six60’s old representative Glynn Leggat to be their liaison for live entertainment, someone who understood what we needed.”
The long legal battle also meant that the CEO of the stadium Nick Sautner and his team were unusually invested in the show, “They wanted a spectacle like no other that had to tick all the boxes.”
As did the band. Frontman Matiu Walters grew up locally, played first fifteen on the field, had sung the national anthem to open a recent All Blacks Wallabies game, and his grandfather had captained the All Blacks out in 1957. The band’s brief? Far more hands off having worked with Global Production Partners and Human Person for the last few years, it was simple. Create a historical musical moment.
A seamless partnership now in terms of design and production, Ben Dalgleish, show designer from Human Person and his team sketched out the vision and Leon and his team made it happen. Ben describes what he wanted to achieve, “We’d done three back-to-back tours, we weren’t going to go ahead with Eden Park unless we could make it something significant. I wanted the visual and the music to complement each other as much as possible. Previously separate, I wanted to bring the IMAG and the band together on the same screen, use a lot of Notch and UV mapping which would be ground-breaking for New Zealand, a new way, a tasteful way of using the cameras.” Ben saw an ‘A’ symmetrical open stage with no side walls, 3D towers either side and full automation.
Leon took up the challenge, “The tour used a 27 metre wide custom stage with no sides to avoid that ‘band in a box’ look so we expanded it for Eden Park.” Stageset duly created the biggest stage that they had ever made at 68 metres wide and the highest point was 18 metres high with 133 rigging points.
One element that Ben wanted to add for the Eden Park show was four large pillars of LED screen, covering the stage legs. The desired 3D effect required exact engineering and a large amount of square metres of LED.
Although dubious about the cost versus impact of the pillars, Leon backtracked, “I ate my words on the night. That’s how I see our partnership. Ben has the vision and his role is to push the boundaries, and I make it happen and ensure that we don’t blow the budget.”
Managing the budget was a mighty task for what was in Leon’s words, “Everything we toured with times three.” They used every LED that Big Picture had in stock to create a 600 metre squared screen, “We essentially ‘meccano’d’ what we could get our hands on.” Being a stadium with seating pushed as far up as possible, they angled the screens back and spent a lot of time checking sight lines. The video from the Summer tour was re-rendered for the much larger set up.
The full automation, so critical to the Eden Park show’s vision was provided by CP Solutions, led by Chris Browne, and for Ben was the really dynamic element of the production, “They were under the pump to get all 50+ cues programmed and gear secured safely, and did an amazing job.” Lighting-wise, there were 11 moving light trusses, five pods at the back for the Robe LEDBeam 100s and six fingers full of Robe Tarantulas that came up, down and angled as required. An additional automation element was 24 Astera Titan Tubes with custom facades on mini winches provided by Human Person. For Spotlight, the lighting supplier, it was the biggest show they had ever done, cleaning them out of lights.
College Hill Productions deployed a large L-Acoustics System for the tour consisting of K1 and K2. Chris Tate (FOH engineer)’s console of choice was a Soundcraft Vi7000, along with an extensive Universal Audio Plugins package. Monitors was handled by David O’Brien using a DiGiCo SD7 with a large array of Shure IEMs and RF mics. One of the interesting things on the tour was the monitor console was hidden behind all of the LED screens, so David had to rely on a complex video monitoring system and talkback matrix with all the other crew.
Ben also threw pyro in the mix supplied by LiveFx which was “very impactful” and the band are keen to use pyro at every show going forward.
Already broadcasting the show live to eleven Pacific Island countries through Pasifika TV (another New Zealand first), Six60 made a late decision to add pay for view, having successfully livestreamed to TikTok at their Hamilton show (guess what – another first!), “This added a huge degree of complexity requiring an additional broadcast system on top of the show system, and adding another twenty-five people to our two-hundred crew.”
To add to the streaming, the short timeframe, vagaries of a new entertainment venue and the exceptionally high expectations of all stakeholders, the final challenge was putting a concert on in New Zealand in late April, “We would never usually have done that, and with an open design. We spent a lot of time on weather proofing.” And even though the Six60 Summer Tour had miraculously dodged the COVID19 level changes, to the extent that it was laughingly rumoured the band had a direct line to the government, there was no such luck with the weather. “Although we had five days rehearsal at the Spark Arena before we started the Summer tour, we only had the afternoon before to rehearse for the Eden Park concert, and it got rained off after three songs. I walked out panicking that we hadn’t tested anything, but everything ran faultlessly on the night. Testament to the expertise of the team.”
And the feedback was resoundingly positive, reviewers bravely harking back to the night at Eden Park when the All Blacks won the 2015 Rugby World Cup. In deference to the band’s – and much of the audience’s – connection with the venue as an iconic rugby stadium, the show opened with the band coming out of the All Black’s tunnel and launching into the first song on a B stage with a 40 metre thrust. A kapa haka group performed a haka to ‘Don’t Forget Your Roots’, stirringly tying art, sport and music together. It was an intimate start to the international standard performance that everyone wanted – and in the case of the Eden Park team – needed.
For both Ben and Leon, it was the culmination of a three-year partnership and five weeks of 24/7 days. Leon reflects, “There was something special about being the first person to produce a show at Eden Park, but more than that it was the feeling that we had put together something that would compete globally. It was an incredible team effort, using local resources and local people.”
For Ben, “I’ve been working with the band for 12 plus years and moving from where we started up to this 50,000 seater show at Eden Park was very special. To be there alongside them helping to create this momentous occasion was very emotional.”
With a fast-selling Australian tour and concerts in the Islands on the cards, plus planning underway for a New Zealand stadium tour in 2022, Global Production Partners and Human Person will continue to have ample opportunity to create and produce some more Six60 firsts.
Photos by Matt Clode
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