McLaren Helps Bring The Wall to Life Again in 2010

February 15, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

Widely hailed as one of the most technically ambitious rock concerts ever, Roger Waters’ The Wall Live tour of 2010 combined complex engineering feats to produce a spectacular set of audience experiences, including fireworks, oversized puppets, and the live construction and demolition of a brick wall over the course of the show.  McLaren Engineering produced the engineering of the mechanisms to enable this extraordinary show, which Entertainment Division Vice President Bill Gorlin describes as, “more like theater than a rock concert.”  Through months of close collaboration with the production team, Designer Mark Fisher, and scenic vendors Tait Towers, Brilliant Stages, and SGPS, McLaren was able to help produce a set that not only creates incredible experiences for the audience but is also safe and optimized for efficient breakdown and transport.

The centerpiece of the tour is a massive brick wall which is slowly constructed between the audience and the musicians, serving symbolic purposes and acting as a projection surface for the onslaught of artistic imagery used to convey the concert’s socio-political themes.  At the climax of the show, the wall is violently torn down as bricks crash to the floor.  To create a reliably stable wall show after show, McLaren engineered telescoping brick stabilizers which form spines inside the stacks of bricks as the wall is constructed, slowly growing with the wall so as to be hidden from the audience’s view.  As the wall grows, technicians use lifts placed behind the wall to build higher and higher.  Design of the stabilizers and lifts were challenging – not only did they need to be tall, supportive and stable, but they also needed to be slender and lightweight enough to fit tight constraints for space and transportability.  At the end of the show, the stabilizers retract and use paddles to knock down the bricks in a dramatic finish, and after the audience exits, the whole system is packed up and moved to the next city.

Many other elements of the show required determined engineering to enable the elaborate movement and lighting needed to bring The Wall to life.  Enormous inflatable puppets of the Mother, the Wife, and the Teacher required onstage tracks and lifts, and the band itself had a set of lifts in the forestage area.  Sophisticated lighting effects were achieved using a cyberhoist, consisting of a circular truss suspended above the stage with eight movable trolleys each with their own on-board winch and hung lighting unit.  Spotlights and their operators were rigged to fly above the stage and audience, and after much iteration of prototypes, eventually were simplified to only vertical and up/downstage axes of motion in order to enable the crew to dismantle the rig in a timely fashion and keep the tour on schedule. 

Though this wide range of technical challenges is rarely seen in a rock concert, with McLaren’s help Roger Waters was able to produce a fitting tribute and 21st century update to the legendary The Wall Tour of the 1980’s.

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