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Pack It Up & Roll It Out

The stage in Studio’s 20/20 rehearsal hall is ready for action. It’s a dress rehearsal for a tour across half of Central Europe. CUE, the agency responsible for the set and lighting design, tasked satis&fy project manager Joanna Schmidt’s team to craft an extraordinary set tailored to one of the Germany’s most successful artists, Cro. 

Premiering in 1989, MTV Unplugged is a TV format featuring artists performing acoustic versions of their music on an intimate stage in front of a small audience. Cro recorded an MTV Unplugged album in 2015, the youngest artist to join the show’s ranks of illustrious musicians. The unplugged concert in Ludwigsburg’s Scala movie theater was a smash success, prompting Cro’s management to take it out on the road with a stage and set preassembled in satis&fy Werne’s Studio 20/20. As soon as the rapper and his Stuttgart concert agency Chimperator Live gave CUE CEO Gunther Hecker the thumbs-up, satis&fy got to work building the stylish set for the MTV Unplugged Open Air Tour. This stage puts the artist up front and very close to the audience, surrounded by orchestra players on three levels and conjuring a vibe reminiscent of a Shakespearean theater. Cro and his musicians were able to rehearse with it under gig-like conditions, but far off the beaten path and sheltered from the media and fans. The long walk through satis&fy’s warehouse complex to the 400 m2 rehearsal room afforded the rapper and his crew an opportunity to get in some practice with the electric scooters that had been brought on board for this tour.

Every technical and visual detail was fine-tuned at the rehearsals for this unusual concept, which focused on the musicians rather than the show. Another unusual touch was the backlighting that Hecker conjured with a 54 m2, semi-transparent wall of Clay Paky LED Mirages that served as the stage’s backdrop. The unplugged ensemble was on three levels, each 1.6 m high and 13.65 m wide, arrayed around Cro in a semicircle. Musicians were seen in silhouette and cast in the spotlight when they took solos. One special effect was a nod to Cro’s big hit about how love can set everything spinning: A piano on an undulating riser emerged from a catwalk leading out to the audience for the King of ‘Raop’ to play an unaccompanied tune about love, sex, wealth, loneliness and happiness. 

Joanna’s team first assembled the prefab three-storey music theater in Bad Segeberg on the opening night of 23 outdoor performances in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The key highlight provided a gilded frame suitable for the occasion: an outsized grille made of metal bars covered in gold foil that sparkled under the floodlights. Built by Scenic Services, this 9.3 x 4.5 x 6 m eye-catcher was anchored to six rigging points and flown center stage over the performers using Cyberhoist C1 chain hoists. It was flanked by two 7.5 x 4.5 m LED walls bracketing the band. The side walls were also clad in grilles and showed video clips produced by Haegar.

The crew packed up four trailers and rolled out 40 metric tons of gear for every gig, including trusses, a rolling Litedeck stage floor, a media server, SD and other cameras, Elation Platinum FLXs and other moving lights, 12 Robe Patt 2013s vintage-style street lamps on stainless steel stands, the FOH rig, monitors, microphones, wireless transmitters, the backline and more audio gear, King rails and photo backdrops. 

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