Monday, December 3, 2007

Elton Plays Townsville Tonight!

A last-minute reconfiguration of the set has allowed for the extra seating and is sure to please distraught fans who missed out in the first round.

"We thought for this configuration of a football stadium we would need to have a big tower in the middle of the field with a big spotlight on the top, but we were able to get special spotlights ... so we don't need the big high tower in the centre of the grandstand," tour manager Andy Mackrill said.

"So there's all those seats in the centre of the grandstand available ... some of them are the best seats in the house ... there's tickets across all price ranges, there isn't a bad seat in the building."

Dairy Farmers Stadium was again a hive of activity as the final touches were being placed on the concert venue, as North Queenslanders prepare for the arrival of Sir Elton John who is expected to touch down in Townsville tomorrow lunch time.

Sir Elton is expected to travel to the venue after arriving in Townsville for an afternoon nap in his specially designed and catered dressing room before wowing fans with a two-hour spectacular tomorrow night.

While the concert preparations have been a finely tuned operation, one thing out of the organisers' control is the weather.

The bureau has forecast the chance of showers tomorrow night but according to Sir Elton's management, rain, hail or shine, the show will go ahead.

"We played in Canberra the other night and it was the worst weather they'd had in 15 years. It didn't stop us then and it won't stop us here either," Sir Elton's manager Keith Bradley said.

"You're either lucky or you're not lucky with weather so if there's a shower tomorrow hopefully it is in the afternoon and it breaks the temperature and it's a nice pleasant evening for everybody."

Concert-goers are being urged to bring rain coats as umbrellas will not be permitted.

Mr Bradley said Sir Elton had enjoyed his tour down under but has had little time to see the sights of the regional centres he's performed at.

And it's expected Townsville's visit will be no different with the superstar expected to fly in and straight out to his tour home base in Sydney.

"Our schedule is pretty tight. We've done four shows in five days and after yours (the Townsville concert) it will be six out of seven. It's pushing the envelope should we say," he said.

But it may not be the last time we see Sir Elton in this neck of the woods.

"He loves it. He really loves the response he's gotten so far at the venues that he's played,he feels the warmth ... with solo show he gets to relax and play what he wants to play," Mr Bradley said.

Dairy Farmers Stadium's transformation into a rock arena for tomorrow night's Elton John concert is all but done, with the last of construction completed yesterday and the final touches to be added today.

Two event co-ordinators who specialise in seating plans yesterday organised the placing of about 9000 chairs across the football field.

Some chairs were hired from Townsville, while others were trucked in from Cairns and Brisbane.

The seating technicians roped strings across the grass to make sure each row was in perfect alignment.

And in case you were wondering, they didn't plop their bums in every seat but instead just a few to check if they were up to par.

Site manager Colin Skals said it was a myth that you sit in every seat, but the questionable ones get checked out.
"You've got to make sure if somebody is paying big money for a seat, that seat gives them a view of the stage that they think they are going to get.

"It's all about making sure that all the seats can get a visual of the stage.

"All the ones out in the middle are no brainers, you have a good view, but the first couple of rows and the ones on the sides it's no myth, people actually go and sit on those seats and make the decision if they have to be moved."

The biggest challenge for organisers, the 44m x 16m stage, had its final bolts and screws fastened yesterday afternoon.

The stage was shipped in from England specially for the Rocket Man Solo Tour and arrived last Thursday from Canungra.

The 70 tonne of steel was spread across six truckloads and broken into thousands of pieces in 2m to 5m segments.

A specialist crew from England has been flown in to put it together along with the help of some local muscle.

"It's done lots of different shows, it's done Reading Festival and Glastonbury Festival," Mr Skals said.

"The team is an international team that has been brought in from England because they know the stage.

"They have with them eight international riggers and they've come to put the stage up along with some local people.

"The roof is about 15m high and with Elton's lighting rig at about 12m, it gives us some extra room unlike other stages which are only 10m high.

"The only shows that get bigger than this is the shows like the Rolling Stones, U2 or Robbie Williams."

The production crew will start installing sound and lighting from 7am tomorrow.

Straight after the concert it will be packed up and trucked to Melbourne, where it will be loaded on to a ferry and shipped to Tasmania. But for now, everything is ready and the Rocket Man will take to the stage for lift off – without a dress rehearsal.

"He's been doing it way too long for that," Mr Skals said.

"The crew will do a technical check in the afternoon, just check the piano and the sound, and Elton will walk on stage and know it's all working because he hires the best.

"It's tight but that's rock `n' roll."

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