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Capping off a long and popular European tour that started in 2012 at the Bataclan, Michaël Gregorio returns to Paris to play his show at the Olympia for 16 dates, rich with color and music! It is no less than 40 concerts for the price of one, as the impersonator takes us, with his group of musicians, on a tour from Shakira, to Jacques Brel, to Dépêche Mode to U2, before an enchanted audience.
Accomplice to this grand, festive illusion is the passionate and enthusiastic Jocelyn Morel. He also becomes an impersonator and offers, together with the videos projected onto a white screen, as many different atmospheres and lighting scenes as there are artists and periods evoked during the show, from the Stade de France with Johnny Hallyday, to intimate postwar cabarets.
The show is like a musical journey, generous and humorous, skillfully conducted by a trio of young pranksters – Michael, Jocelyn and Arnaud Lemort, director of the show – who stroll us through time and space to rediscover the greatest artists of this century and the previous…
Behind the scenes at the Olympia, just hours before the Parisian show of the young prodigy, we meet his enthusiastic lighting designer, Jocelyn Morel, who, with his little Dushow rig and some rarities from his collection, has some nice surprises in store for us…
And, even if he has to share the stage with Dimitri Vassiliu’s lighting rig for another artist, the kit chosen by Jocelyn shows its distinction, through intelligently negotiated compromise on both sides, with the highest mutual respect between them.
A tightly-packed stage.
SLU : How did you adapt to this shared stage,were you able to hang your whole rig?
Jocelyn Morel (Concepteur lumière) : Yes, of course. We have mixed front lights – some Dimitri’s, others mine. I only had to offset one boom so that it could pass but, in the end, my layout is very similar to my usual lighting plot.
For example, I wanted to do a lot more side lighting – which Michaël really requires – but we have a lot of material, five musicians on stage with their backline, positions that change with each number, a drumset on wheels…
The stage is very crowded. Then the installation of the totems was meticulous, in order not to obstruct the backline or the monitors.
SLU : So, in the end, how many totems do you have?
Jocelyn Morel : We have six totems : four for the side lighting of the musicians and two (at stage right and stage left) for Michaël’s plot.
As I have a white screen upstage as my main constraint, I have to carefully dose the illumination.
If I throw a fixture at 20% on Michaël’s set, the screen grabs all the light and lights up. It’s complicated to obtain intimate atmospheres.
And as the show moves from the Stones to Brel, by way of U2, I have to do both the brilliant lighting and intimate lighting and, unfortunately, it is impossible to have only the artist illuminated in darkness, because the screen reacts to everything.
SLU : Then why have you not chosen to hide the screen, depending on the scene?
Jocelyn Morel : We could have, but it was a choice that we didn’t take into consideration because there are a lot of rooms where hanging it would not be possible (in sports arenas, for example), and it is absolutely necessary to be able to adapt to all the scenes. Also, there is often video that plays at the same time, so you can not hide it.
SLU : And the budget doesn’t permit the use of an LED screen?
Jocelyn Morel : Not this year. The investment in this production is already enormous, with a team of 17 people in full-production, and it’s substantial enough for a show that can be seen as a one man show. Nevertheless, we have a semi-trailer in tour!
We are also always very surprised (and happy!) to do full houses, even with moderate media exposure. I’ve been working with Michael for eight years and I have never seen a sparsely filled room. And it’s going well, we all get along wonderfully, it’s like a family.
An eclectic lighting rig
SLU : Tell us about your rig in detail, what is rented and what comes from your personal collection?
Jocelyn Morel : Dushow furnishes the lights. Historically we work with Caméléon, and we’ve remained faithful to that vendor.
The rig is relatively small but it allows me to do everything I need.
I have 10 Mac Vipers (four on the floor and six flown), which I really wanted, for spots, six Studio Colors and eighteen A7 Zooms (four on the floor and fourteen flown) for washes. There are also eight Alpha Beam 300s, which are usually more for back lighting but, here at the Olympia, find themselves more as down lights than in my original plot.
For sides, we have six Mac III Profiles and, on the floor, twelve Arcalines that illuminate the scenography from the back, and a set of nineteen FL-1300s, which are the only conventional lights in the rig.
SLU : Is it the reliability of the Viper that convinced you?
Jocelyn Morel : Yes, these spots are really good, solid machines that we can count on. On tour, we need the ruggedness. I don’t have a kit of 200 fixtures plus lots of spares and technicians. I have to be able to rely on my six flown fixtures. Here it’s true that the lamps are a little tired (they have been there since the beginning of the tour) but, even with this much time on them they remain uniform, and I especially love the beams of the Vipers. Everything they do, they do well.
SLU : What if you had access to a larger budget, what would you have chosen?
Jocelyn Morel : More Vipers!
SLU : So, for your key lights?
Jocelyn Morel : Oh, the Mac IIIs work very well for me in the front! The only fault with this fixture is that it takes up a lot of visual space when it’s flown, so in some small rooms where the front truss can not be very high, it eats into the scene, especially when seen from a balcony. But, otherwise, it is a very good spot.
This is not a revolutionary fixture with which you can do a thousand things but the CMY color mixing is beautiful and the zoom is just amazing.
I do not ask much from them, just to provide light, and they do it correctly and reliably.
SLU : The side lighting is an essential element of your design?
Jocelyn Morel : Yes, because the more I use the key lights, the more I pollute my screen, which is also polluted by the back lights and smoke. So the use of the side lights to illuminate the musicians is essential. At first I was tempted by the WildSun 500, but during the first tests together with A7 Zoom, the musicians had eyes as red as a Russian rabbit at the end of the show, since the LED light, which was pretty close to them, was very aggressive.
So we forgot the WildSun and I then set out to find more conventional washes for my sides. So I went back to the Studio Color 575.This lumin aire is an absolute marvel, one of the fixtures that I love the most.
SLU : These movers are not very young, did you have any problems with breakdowns?
Jocelyn Morel : No real breakdowns, but some small color wheel shift problems from time to time. These were quickly resolved by changing the belts. That got them back to work for at least 20 more years!
SLU : You don’t have any follow spots?
Jocelyn Morel : No, again because of the screen, and in the different venues we wouldn’t always be able to put them in the same places or even use them at all. So, knowing the artist (at 120 dates a year, you could say that!), I can follow his movements with my MAC IIIs without any problem; everything is fine. Michaël is super-precise and tight in his performance.
SLU : There are some old-school fixtures in your kit, is it a little whim of yours?
Jocelyn Morel : Indeed, it is!Michaël has prepared some numbers just for the Olympia, which required some additional angles. So I brought in two of my Telescans for this show, which have done the job perfectly!
SLU : What can you tell us about your back lighting?
Jocelyn Morel : I have two back trusses, plus the Alpha Beam 300s and the A7 Zoom LED washes.I love these Beams because here we don’t have an abundance of luminous output. Even if I had had Sharpys, it would not have helped me; everything would have been unbalanced.
With the Alpha Beam 300s, I don’t have this problem, I have pencil beams and a three-color mixing, and that’s really good. It can change from any color to any other instantly, without the problem of rotating a color wheel.
SLU : As for the console, how are you organized? Are you operating the show manually?
Jocelyn Morel : Yes, I like to run the lighting live. I am a musician at heart, and this is also a way to “play“ the show with the rest of the team.It is important to me. Running the concert is fairly difficult because, even though everything is very well in place, everything is played out “live“.This is an actual concert with abrupt atmosphere changes in every sense, and I also have to follow a number of events that are not fixed. This is live (and I love it!). My console is a grandMA2 Light. It has the resources and I can really configure it like I want.
The importance of smoke.
Very attached to his MDGs, Jocelyn Morel tells us about the prime importance that haze takes in his lighting creations, an indispensable ally to any lighting according to this avid collector, who also has some smoke generators in its warehouse.
Jocelyn Morel : Haze is a very important element in the show, which must be present to fully materialize the beams of searchlights, but without being too much to interfere with the video either.
There is always a balance to achieve, which is also not always easy depending on a number of parameters dictated by the venues and the halls in which we perform.
Even just a little complicated air conditioning or ventilation to manage in a room and you have to rack your brain a little to find appropriate solutions. Nevertheless, we manage to do it fairly well in most cases.
I use MDG machines, which give me excellent results. As an avid enthusiast for good gear, I personally own five MDG machines. This enables me to achieve optimum results anywhere, even when I have to work in situations with less than choice material (a small service, a poorly equipped hall, a residence with no budget, etc…).
I have tried numerous systems over quite a few years – compressor systems (noisy, fixed flow rate, and leave grease everywhere…), more “classic“ fog machines (that are just sufficient for evening’s entertainment), other machines that use CO2 and, occasionally, other exotic systems – but nothing that has been really satisfactory.
On Michaël Gregorio’s show, I have a MAX-3000 with the classic DMX interface, and on certain dates (like here at the Olympia), I have an Atmosphère and an additional MAX-3000.
They are installed in my personal cages equipped with a “Mandrilloptère” (a large fan). I can set the desired flow rate, and trigger the emission via DMX. The rest is a matter of placement of the machines and spreading the haze at an angle that doesn’t disperse it directly onto stage in order to avoid problems of settling and uniformity.
Since we often work in large rooms, we have room in the wings that we can use, even if the machine is some distance from the stage. “
Treasures from the collection.
SLU : Are you doing some rear lighting from behind the backdrop?
Jocelyn Morel : This is a rig that I came up with for the scenography of this show, with twelve Ayrton Arcaline battens laid on the floor and seven FL-1300s, in front of which I have placed our raised rear gangway, which has translucent panels underneath with a ridged polycarbonate coating. These panels are actually treated with holographic raised surface in front.
I discovered this coating thanks to Philippe Coudyser, of Sonoss, who used it a few years ago at SIEL for Pixel Line, (he used it vertically by coloring the inside of the material). I asked him if he still had some (Sonoss is 2 km from my home), I did some tests and it was great!So I bought a few pieces from him that we have recut and installed here. The effect is very nice.
I didn’t want a flat, frosted effect, but a translucent one, and it works because we see the line of Arcalines as if it were a fluorescent light behind, while with the FL-1300s I get a fun wave effect that is a little blurred.
SLU : The Télescans and holographic panels are not the only curiosities in your rig, there is even a big Moroccan lamp!?
Jocelyn Morel : It was added to the rig during the show at the Châtelet, where Michaël wanted to make a ’70s hippie atmosphere with carpets, a sitar player, etc. We wanted something that leans in this direction, therefore anything but a moving LED wash.Our backliner “Baron” provided this lamp. He had made it for a show at a time when he did lights; it’s a large Moroccan lamp, modified with the motor from a mirror ball and a 1 kilowatt lamp from a PC! It creates a crazy effect. We reveal it above the artists, and it’s like a sort of giant gobo when the beams pass through the wrought iron and rotate.
A very dominant screen (maybe too dominant?)
SLU : We can clearly understand the presence – at times inconvenient – of the white screen, but can you tell us about how the videos are projected and how they are an important element of the scenography of the show?
Jocelyn Morel : The videos are varied. Maxime Lethellier manages them and also created the graphics. They are projected by an 18,000 lumen Barco. We project texts, extracts from music videos and movies, and even lip sync on several occasions. This is why I can’t hide that screen, it helps to set the mood for each new impersonated artist and often hosts an important, purely graphic base created by Maxime for the scene. It is used to set the stage.
SLU : You would like to be able to fit an LED screen into the budget, but wouldn’t the power of the diodes interfere with the rest?
Jocelyn Morel : No, especially not now, with the more advanced technology products. And even so, I would prefer to have an old display with gray LEDS than this white screen! It would change the lighting design a lot, in the sense that it would give me more freedom.
The video is a big part of the show and the scenography, so we all managed to come to compromises that make the whole thing work.
A lighting designer impersonator, as well
SLU : How difficult is it to alternate between different atmospheres so often in the scenography of the show?
Jocelyn Morel : It is true that we have lots of very different atmospheres and, with a small lighting rig, I can’t create anything intimate with two fixtures; so there are a lot of moving heads going in almost all the scenes, but of course they’re not always used in the same way. There are scenes, such as Piaf and Brel, in which we will be in the desired atmosphere – a very pure backlight, with whites that I use laterally or against it.
I also love the big diagonals, like on Michel Berger’s “Diego”, where I try to simulate prison bars with beams, and use just a tight diagonal crossing over the head of Michaël, without front lighting. This is what I like best in this kind of atmosphere, clean and very impressive.
And if not, when, for example, he does Hallyday, we attempt to simulate a large show with a riot of beams, but we try to make it look classy! Then, on “Allumer le feu”, you can’t be in the dark, but we always make sure to limit the brightness, because of the screen…
We have to be keenly aware of this on the intro of the show with the Black Eyed Peas, which requires a big punchy scene with big sound, a disco show and the video. We have to compromise on the debauchery of lumens because Michaël dances with the characters in the gray image on a black background, which must remain visible. This is the first effect, which kicks off the show, and we must establish a balance…
I am very picky about the quality of the key lights; the audience must see the artist, his face and his expressions perfectly. We are here for Michaël, and it is he and his show that have to wow the audience…“
SLU : Regarding the artists, have you watched concert videos of the artists and groups that Michaël does in order to soak up to the atmosphere of each?
Jocelyn Morel : Yes, inevitably; it’s important. Then again, it is often possible to get closer to the original concerts of the artists he does, sometimes not. From a technical point of view, we can not even approach the big shows played in the largest venues like the Stade de France or Bercy with our rig, but we can “cheat“ in many ways, especially in that of presenting the scene, running it, and I think at times we achieve quite impressive results!”
And even though, of course, Jocelyn is not able to precisely recreate a show from Bercy or the Stade de France at the Olympia, he nonetheless shows off a true talent as an Illusionist. Just like Michaël Gregorio, a brilliant impersonator in love first and foremost with the artists he imitates – at times almost magically – so the illusion is convincing, it’s all in empathy and generosity that the lighting designer nails the atmospheres and takes us away with each scene.
The lighting designer shifts from the lights of the ’80s, that of jazz clubs, passing through old-time rock and roll, the big stages and the disco shows (because Jocelyn Morel is a character), he readjusts at the whim of the artists: Michaël Gregorio, his musicians and the lucky stars they impersonate. There are moments of incredible accuracy and ideas, like the passage in which the crowd at the Stade de France, in a video projected on the upstage screen, responds to the equally supercharged crowd at the Olympia.
The fact is that this show, more than any other, constantly shifts between two spaces: that of the original concert being imitated and that of the actual venue, in this case the Olympia, where Michaël Gregorio and his audience share so much jubilant musical enjoyment. And we must admit that the video has a lot to do with it and that Jocelyn’s lighting accompanies it intelligently.
In setting the scene, the era or even the venue of a concert, videos and lights serve up space-time on a silver platter for the prodigy impersonator-singer-guitarist-drummer (etc, etc), allowing him to let his talent erupt. A timelessness that helps to immerse you in the scene, energetic and often involving the audience, enhanced by the luminaires chosen by Jocelyn Morel. It is as if the lighting designer had concocted an “all-purpose rig”, with moving heads and fixtures both old and new, fast or bright, on the ground or in the air, to be able to sign a painting with every concert, and it works every time !
It alternates with formidable efficiency between scenes with punchy beams (thanks to the Vipers, which are definitely the shining stars of the design) and single colors (the beautiful tones of Studio Color are still very much up to the task) for the big names – like Muse, Hallyday, and the Rolling Stones – and white downlights in low light to focus on the body language. It is also amazingly well emulated, like with Jacques Brel’s “Amsterdam”, with which Michaël Gregorio engages in a captivating game of mirrors in front of a video of the actual performer performing on the same stage at the Olympia a few years ago.
Finally, the more electronic moments, from Daft Punk to Black Eyed Peas, let the backdrop designed by Jocelyn shine as it should, with a special mention for the Arcalines and the FL-1300s, ingeniously hidden behind holographic plexiglass, that create a very nice halo effect. Finally, we are delighted to see Michaël’s lovely face, his hands and facial expressions illuminated by Jocelyn’s very well done key lights, always perfectly dosed.
Talent, passion, five master builders (artist, director, lighting designer, sound engineer, and videographer) that nail it every time, and an unconditional love of music – these are the elements that make this show stand out among current one-man shows, and this certainly explains its success. And the concerts they recreate ? We were right there (mostly) !
As for the concert/show of Michaël Gregorio ? We will be back !