Pooh have been touring since the 25th January 2001, stopping off at the Sports Arenas of 19 Italian cities to present their new album “Cento di queste vite” and many other numbers from their celebrated repertoire. The album is yet another artistic and commercial success of this unfailing quartet, which has been proposing a musical repertoire for a vast public for over 30 years, producing chart-topping albums. The figures speak for themselves: during their career, Pooh have made a total of 41 albums (included 25 inedited ones) and sold over 20 million LPs, besides over 2,100 concerts, almost 600 weeks in the charts, 20 platinum disks, 14 gold disks and 14 Telegatti Awards. “Cento di queste vite” is proving to have a most auspicious start, as they have already sold 300,000 copies in a few months, winning 3 platinum disks.
Each concert of this tour includes a program of 40 new, recent and celebrated pieces, with the Australian Tommy Emmanuel – one of the world’s greatest guitarists – as the guest star. As always, the tour promotes important collateral initiatives: “Cento di questi incontri” is a series of occasions where Pooh meet up with personalities from the world of culture to exchange and bear witness to their social commitment, which this year has been realised in WWF – Federtrasporti and Rock No War-Pigna initiatives.
Pooh are known to be among only a few artists who manage to stay on stage for 3 whole hours: in fact, they don’t just play music but also dialogue with the public, joke, underline their social commitment, revive the emotions of their celebrated numbers and propose new pieces. Many insiders come to the group’s concerts out of curiosity to see what kind of new show they can invent yet again.
This is why Pooh are not just a band of excellent musicians, but also a proper organisational machine that prepares the tours with meticulous care on both a technical and promotional level. During their stopover in Verona we met up with Renato Neri, owner of Xeron, the service which deals with the stage organisation and setting and supplies the sound and lighting system that revealed some distinctive features of this tour.
How do you choose the locations for the concerts and what are the characteristics of this Sports Arena?
The locations are chosen depending on the availability of the premises. Depending on whether it’s a sports arena, a theatre or an open-air stage, they have certain qualities that make us choose them for some technical reasons rather than others. For example, the sports arena can provide a wider array of lights than in a theatre, so the show is even more captivating from this point of view.
As for the lights, let’s talk about Astroscan, the new CLAY PAKY projector.
Astroscan is a spectacular effect that can create soft and relaxing atmospheres or powerful flashes of light. It can be positioned on the stage or up on the trusses, and covers the entire intermediate area thanks to pyramid head which oscillates at the speed and angle desired and creates a diffusion of the light beam on several axes at 360°. As well as providing an effect that blends in perfectly with the rest of the lights, Astroscan gave us the opportunity to light up the audience in a creative way, encircling it completely and making it an active part of the show.
This is a pretty important novelty, isn’t it?
Of course! The interaction between the public and the artists is fundamental, and even more so if it’s Pooh, as they’ve always concentrated on this aspect. And let’s not forget that both young people and longstanding fans come to Pooh’s concerts: making them protagonists is also a way of thanking them for the emotions that they’ve always conveyed.
Now let’s talk about the stage and the massive curtain that surrounds it.
The stage covers a surface of about 16×12 metres. A system of fork-lift trucks opens and closes at different levels, making, for example, Roby’s piano appear at the start of a slow number. The curtain surrounding the stage is a large white piece of canvas that serves as a maxi screen used in different ways, for instance: for the spectacular entrance on stage of the artists, whose huge silhouette is retro-projected onto the closed curtain, for projecting mega slides (thanks to a Pani projector in the director’s cabin), which accompany the band’s “celebrated” numbers, or for various graphic effect projections and retro-projections.
This seems to be something more than just a concert…
Pooh have been around for thirty years because they’ve always been able to renew their image, yet keep their own style. We always need to propose something new in terms of music and show production. For this occasion, we wanted to give the concert a theatrical element that creates a certain intimacy with the public. Tricks like the huge curtain-screen as well as the brand-new and inspiring effects of ASTROSCAN have been specifically designed for captivating the audience.
Renato Neri is the owner of Xenon, a service that has always used Clay Paky products. Would you like make a comment?
In my view, Clay Paky is definitely the best you can find on the market. The products of this Bergamask company are robust, reliable, powerful and offer an unrivalled uniformity in lighting. I have always proposed and used Clay Paky in concerts and many television productions, just because they are very versatile and achieve the best possible results in any setting.
Now let’s hear from Giancarlo Tosani, Lighting Designer of the concert, who has been a part of Pooh’s entourage since 1980.
Could we turn to the lighting design? What was the idea behind it? How was it done?
A lighting design is created by first assessing the material that the service gives you. I must say that Xenon provided me with everything I wanted and also Renato Neri and I are absolutely convinced that Clay Paky projectors outshine all their competitors. I installed the Super Scan Zooms on the central truss above the stage together with the Stage Color 1200 for basic lighting. A lot of Stage Zooms 1200 were placed on the upper truss, on those perpendicular to the stage and on the floor, while the Astroscans, the brand-new Clay Paky projectors, were arranged on the stage and ceiling.
What do Pooh ask for?
Pooh trust me a lot and give me free rein to choose the effects that I prefer, even if we all then judge the final result of the show that I have produced. They are all very skilled and professional on this matter and often make very useful suggestions. The album “Cento di queste vite” is very varied so I could make the most of the colours.
Do you have different phases and methods in the lighting design of this show?
Yes. The first part of the concert consists of pieces from the new album. Often the public can’t relate to them, so the Lighting Designer tries to give a colour and an identity to these pieces. Yet things are different when they start singing the “celebrated” numbers: the public already knows them all and sings along with the artists, so the lights dim and become less intrusive to enhance this intimate atmosphere.
As in all jobs, at certain levels, the professional proposes his own style and character. What is your most important trait?
I always try to give the stage a sense of grandeur, combining all the projectors I’ve got at hand. My lighting designs always have a form of their own if observed all together, but can take on different forms if observed separately, breaking up the various parts. I don’t like mixing more than two colours on stage, to avoid losing the colour’s intensity. I use bright colours and generally avoid “dark” atmospheres. For this tour, the Clay Paky projectors helped me realise a lighting design exactly as I had in mind.
Pooh’s shows have always used Clay Paky. How important is the availability of lights for the success of a light show?
It’s fundamental: a Lighting Designer can provide all his professionalism and talent, but must always need to have the adequate means available to realise this. It’s essential that he can use instruments which make him feel completely at ease, fulfil his ideas and adapt to the musicality of the artists.
How do you combine the Clay Paky Astroscan beams in the economy of the concert?
Astroscan is an innovative lighting effect, as it can produce 10 light beams using numerous effects – rotating gobos, colours, iris, stop, strobe, dimmer – and project them in any direction and at any speed. I used them to captivate the audience and interact with the Stage Zoom 1200 and Super Scan Zoom beams. It’s definitely a fascinating product, and not only for concerts, which depends on the reliability and power of Golden Scan, the origin of this projector.