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JOHNNY CLEGG'S FINAL CURTAIN

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The concert was a 3-hour autobiographical journey covering a spectrum of songs from Juluka`s Universal Men in 1979 through Clegg’s Savuka years and including his recent solo work. A qualified anthropologist, he entertained with enlightening anecdotes highlighting the social, cultural and political influences on his lifelong love of music and traditional dance styles. 

Gearhouse Group provided all technical for this concert as well as lighting, audio, media servers and LED screens for the previous concerts in MonteCasino, GrandWest and ICC. The company also provided technical expertise and servers for Clegg’s performances in Dubai and London.

The strong relationship between Gearhouse, Johnny Clegg and promoter Roddy Quinn spans decades, starting in April of 1985 when Ofer Lapid (Gearhouse Group Joint MD) worked on a Juluka Concert at an African Music Festival in Lesotho where some 20,000 revellers danced and sang in the heavy rain of a glorious African storm, united by the musical experience. 

“I had only been in SA for 3 months and 1985 was not a great time for anyone to land in SA. I was ignorant as to the politics or the real and depth of apartheid, and against all the advice that I received, I continued to travel and work in the townships and so-called (at the time) dangerous places.” recollects Lapid. “Coming from a different country and seeing how happy and real the punters were - men, woman, rain and mud - was enlightening but when a mixed-race band came onto stage, the cheering of the people became deafening and this (I believe) was the moment that made me stay in this beautiful country and made me feel that there was hope” he says. 

“Lighting live music shows was not that popular at the time and our disagreements about the size of the lighting rigs continued through to 1987. Once, in a production and budget meeting with Johnny and Roddy. I explained the look of the show and tried my best to justify the budget with my broken English. Johnny turned to me and said with a great sense of humor and a smile ‘Ofer, whether we have one light or sixty lights, the same amount of people will come. Why do we need so many?’ It set the stage on which our future relationship grew and we are so proud to have been able to contribute to this final concert with a great deal more technology than we had in those days.”

This show was the grand finale of Johnny’s career, thematically similar in design to the other Final Journey shows, but on a grand scale. It was a full blown, 3-hour autobiographical arena concert on a technical level equal to any international artist and featured guest artists including local stars like Prime Circle, Just Jinger, Arno Carstens, Taylor and The Parlotones.

Despite the new technology on the event, the overall look and feel remained theatrical and beautifully simple, highlighting the performers without overshadowing them. An interesting blend of subtle scenic projection, backlit scrims and unique custom-made imagery on LED screens, made for an immersive and, at times dreamy, audio-visual environment which proved perfect for this type of ‘story telling’ concert. A gauze ‘curtain’ separating Johnny from the band was used to great effect in creating a more intimate feel during poignant moments.

Gearhouse’s Tim Dunn created a subtle but powerful lighting design for the concert, using LED fixtures at the back of the stage to highlight the backbeat together with the usual washes and beams to create atmosphere and highlight special moments throughout the show. 

A flown 8m x 4,8m LED screen at centre stage, worked in conjunction with smaller panels left and right displaying video clips illustrating the journey, many of which were created by Johnny’s son, Jaron Clegg. Clegg's other son Jesse Clegg - a recording artist in his own right - joined his father onstage for a couple of songs towards the end. 

According to Gearhouse' Audio HOD, Llewellyn Reinecke, years of experience has proven that the best results in this venue are achieved using L-Acoustics’ premium K1 Cabinet to cover the distance to the back of the room.  “In the Dome, we prefer to minimise weight out of the roof and due to the K1's excellent power to weight ratio, it is our preferred box for the venue. To complement the K1, we pulled on the resources of our Durban branch and their K2 which are perfectly suited to hang below the K1” he explains.

“Audio has advanced significantly in the past couple of years and with L-Acoustics’ Soundvision Prediction Software, we are able to attach to each array and aim with laser precision for perfect coverage and clarity, taking into account the Audience listening Level (either Seated/Standing). We set it to either 1.2m or 1.8m respectively, aiming for the audience’s average height of ear level, to create optimum sound as required by each band’s FOH Engineer.”

The company was busy with back to back shows, moving from the Cat Stevens tour into Johnny Clegg’s Final Journey with limited turnaround time, so although there were technical elements that stayed the same for both shows, the Lighting design and set-up for each was completely different. 

“We needed to get this into place as soon as possible so that rehearsals could take place,” says Branch Operations Manager, Stuart Andrews. “and our driving force came from knowing that there would be no second chance or ‘do-over’ – on this event; more so than any other live event. The concert marked the finale of Johnny’s career and we realise that he may not be well enough to perform again. The pressure to deliver everything perfectly and memorably was intense and the design and operating personnel worked through the night to ensure the best possible delivery. It was so worth it on the night as people were literally brought to tears as we said farewell to one of the greatest South African performers we have known.”

As it was in the beginning and has always been with Johnny, his ability to unite a multi-cultural audience through music made this concert an uplifting experience for all.

After the Final Journey World Tour, Clegg will take time off to finish his autobiography and spend time with his family and do the things he hasn`t been able to do due to an incredible work schedule over the past three decades.


Story Robyn D'Alessandro, Photo Louise Stickland

Nov 30, 2017

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