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Behind the scenes of P!nk’s Summer Carnival

Executives from Marshall Arts plus production manager Malcolm Weldon lifted the curtain on the record-setting global tour

By James Hanley on 12 Mar 2024

image © Odai Afuni

The team behind P!nk’s Summer Carnival Tour gave a unique glimpse behind the scenes of the global trek at the recent ILMC Production Meeting (IPM).

Marshall Arts’ Barrie Marshall, Craig Stanley and Anna De Neiderhausen were joined by Gaffer Award-winning production manager Malcolm Weldon for the special session, moderated by Okan Tombulka of eps at the Royal Garden Hotel in London.

The speakers discussed the planning and execution of the tour, which now stretches until late 2024 and has already broken multiple records. Just last weekend, P!nk – real name Alecia Moore – became the first female headline artist to grace Auckland’s Eden park in New Zealand in the venue’s 120-year history, hosting more than 100,000 fans over two nights.

Weldon, who joined the panel remotely from the ANZ leg of the jaunt, started off by explaining how the singer’s live vision (and renowned acrobatics) comes to life.

“They come up with the ideas and the concept, and I try to pull it off”

“It all starts with [P!nk], [show director] Baz Halpin and [manager] Roger Davies,” he said. “They come up with the ideas and the concept, and I try to pull it off. It’s their dreams and so my job is to make sure that I can get it from point A to point B to point C, to try to make sure that I can give her the same show every night.”

He continued: “The biggest challenge that we have is because of the acrobatics, everything that’s above us has to correlate precisely on the ground. It’s not like a rock and roll show, where it’s just some guy standing there playing guitars or beating on drums, it’s a theatrical pop show. So you’re trying to get all of those elements to align every show, they have to be where they have to be.

“The majority of everything she asked for is there. The only time that we can’t give it to her is when we’ve done some festival dates – because the show is an intricate show and certain things wouldn’t work – but that hasn’t caused too much of a problem. With Alecia, once you can explain to her why she can’t have something on a certain date, she understands. She may not like it, but she understands.”

Below is a selection of other takeaways from the in-depth chat…

Picking the right cities…
Barrie Marshall:
“A lot of it’s done by Roger Davies, because he knows exactly what he wants to do and where he wants to play. In the case of Alecia, she’s so successful… there’s no problem where you’ve got some countries that are weaker than others. It’s quite useful if we can start here [in the UK] sometimes, because a lot of the equipment comes from here… so that means access is easier. Although things have become so sophisticated now, it seems to me that you can get most equipment you need in most territories, so it’s not critical.”

Venue availability…
BM: “I find it difficult because the pandemic changed many, many things. There were no shows, everything stopped. Everybody was at the bus stop and the bus never came, so there was no way to accommodate people’s needs. We all stayed at home and waited, tried to do things, but waited until it was clear enough for us to go back to work. That meant then there were for two and a half years, maybe three years, a backlog of artists who definitely wanted to get out and tour, so you tried to put three years of touring into a year. It’s beginning to ease up a bit, but it’s still very difficult, so venues are in great demand.”

“It is complicated because now there’s so much legislation and each country is different”

Licensing issues…
Craig Stanley: “A few years ago… we would leave it until fairly late to be able to pass all the information to the licensing authorities, recognising that the artist is also making up her mind – quite rightly – of the show she wants to present. Now, you start your licence applications six, seven, eight months ahead, and then through Europe it’s exactly the same story. But it is complicated because now there’s so much legislation and each country is different. Even within Germany, Munich is just a different universe in requiring certain paperwork. Here in the UK, Scotland is completely different to England. You think you’ve got everything down, and then the licensing officer changes and you have to go back to square one.”

Anna De Neiderhausen: “We have to appease the local authorities, so we are ultimately the middleman. Sometimes local authorities are a little bit unrealistic and maybe don’t really have the experience, [whereas] some of them really are all over it. So it’s just finding that balance trying to not make Malcolm’s life hard, but at the same time, making sure the show goes ahead.”

CS: “Part of my role is to go around Europe, and the advance trip is absolutely crucial. Malcolm and his team are brilliant at actually going there, meeting with the local people and explaining what he needs, understanding their problems, and we find some middle ground.”

Malcolm Weldon: “In 2023, I felt like I was a step behind because we didn’t know what the show really was until we got to Bolton and built the whole show, so you’re kind of learning as you go. And then as you get more shows under your belt, you go, ‘Okay, this is what this is.’ And then you leave Europe and go to North America, and now you’re on a different stage and you’re playing baseball stadiums, which no show of this size should be playing. But they bought tickets, they’re showing up and so we make it happen.”

“You can’t change the ticket price once you’ve charged for the ticket. You have to somehow try and make those budgets work”

Maximising capacity…
BM: “
One of the great advantages with Alecia is her performances are phenomenal, she’s never in one place for very long, so therefore the sightlines in the stadium are such that you see her a great deal of the time. That’s a big advantage to having an artist who’s performing in a certain position all the time, more or less. She moves around a lot and she’s very aware of her audience. She has a great sense of humour and also has a particularly unique way of talking to her audiences, it’s very personal. And the screens we’ve got now are superb so the quality of the video content is phenomenal.”

Budget concerns…
“You can’t change the ticket price once you’ve charged for the ticket. You have to somehow try and make those budgets work. Artists put a lot of money in to production and give the very best they can, and they don’t want to fall short. And Malcolm, in his position, can’t and won’t let the standard down.”

MW: “I [was once working with a very famous artist] and I was trying to stay within budget. They went outside the budget, so I said, ‘That’s going to be more expensive if we do it this way.’ And that artist told me, ‘Don’t worry about how I spend my money, Malcolm.'”

“It’s very easy to think you’re just selling the show, you’re actually supporting the artist’s career”

The importance of the collective…
MW: “It’s a total group effort. If you have somebody on the crew whose job is just doing towels and water, the most important person to the artist at the point when they got sweat in their eyes, or they’re thirsty, is the person that puts out the towels and water. It’s all a group effort.”

BM: “We all work for the audience and the artist at the end of the day, so we all contribute to that and we all have respect for that. We just all have to look after each other in the best way we can and we’ll get the best results.”

CS: “It’s also about… working with our colleagues and understanding how the marketing is done. The marketing is to sell tickets absolutely, but it’s also about respecting the artist and working with the record company. It’s very easy to think you’re just selling the show, you’re actually supporting the artist’s career. One reason why Marshall Arts has incredibly long relationships with the artists – we’ve worked with P!nk for 22 years – is understanding what the manager, as well as the artist, needs to actually help build the career. And now we’re at the stadium level, we don’t take anything for granted.”


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