Bob’s the ace builder of the shows
while you’re sitting in the auditorium waiting for the show to start, a sudden calm descends backstage as the first performers get ready to take the stage.
Of all the crew members working together to put on the show, the tour manager is the one who takes responsibility for the whole show.
Sound, lights, intro music and cue to artist to make his or her entrance: that’s the start of the show, but for hours before that magic moment, the tour manager has overseen the setting up of each part of the performance that leads to your enjoyment of the whole show.
Firstly, the stage has to be sorted and equipment laid out ready for the sound system, or PA, to be installed, with the control panel, or mixing desk, safely in place in the auditorium sometimes in the wings. The lighting system has to be checked and the theatre’s own technicians and operators briefed.
Any stage scenery has to be set, or back drops have to be flown. Dressing rooms have names pinned on them so the artists know where they are changing and resting for the evening.
As the curtain up time approaches, the artists start to arrive with their stage clothing and other accoutrements. usually, tone of the tour manager’s aides had laid out refreshments for the performers and crew to help themselves.
Back stage passes or ‘access all areas’ tags are strictly controlled for obvious reasons. Sometimes, at some theatres, the areas behind the stage and the dressing rooms are small and cluttered. Some theatres do not have a ‘green room’, an area for artists to sit together and chat, or relax between appearances.
Although not personally involved with any of the sound or lighting effects, or putting microphones and instruments on stage for the artists, during the show, the tour manager is busy mostly forward thinking about what comes next, especially if you have to announce the artists off stage at the beginning and end of their performances.
What skills does a good tour manager need?
If you are managing a 42-venue run of shows for the Solid Silver Sixties tour, you’ll need a fistful of qualifications and experience gained from working on indoor and outdoor appearances and being front-of-house, or on stage, as DJ or compere.
So, let me introduce you to Bob Balchin who has just come to the end of his latest contract as tour manager with the Solid Silver Sixties 2013 tour.
Bob Balchin is unflappable. he’s been on the stage side of show business for 30 years, from ground to sky. He can get the licence for the event, and makes sure the insurance, fire, health and safety, and other certificates are correct and up-to-date.
He can check security on site and set up all the service provision of water, electricity, catering and personal comfort amenities (lavatories) for shows, indoors and outdoors, on stage and for the audiences.
He times, the shows, makes sure that artists arrive on time -,and he can cost the show and budget finance arrangements.
Beyond this, he takes responsibility for transport, hotels and other accommodation, loading show equipment in and out of venues, and setting up.
You name an event and Bob has probably been there and done that and put the T-shirt in his collection. Managing music shows are only a part of his skills: he’s been involved in motorbike rallies, line dancing championships, Butlins weekend specials, and tours such as several SS60s, Dancing In The Streets, John Mayall, The Manfreds, Rat Pack , and a whole lot of other shows and stars totalling nearly 250 names.
Bob, aged 37, is certainly hard-working and obviously takes his duties seriously. He is a responsible good communicator, administrator, organiser and supervisor.
He is a highly-principled individual, honest and hardworking. I know, because he told me.
Even with the weight of all the responsibilities, Bob maintains a calming influence back stage, among his crew and the performers and the staff at the particular venue in which he is organising the performance.
What does he do in his spare time.
“I’m a beach bum. I have a house on Kos, which is in Greece, and I enjoy walking the sands and watching the waves,” he said.
Will he be doing next year’s SSS tour, and who else might be on it with him?
If he knew, he would not tell me when we chatted backstage at the Basingstoke Anvil, on April 25, on the 2013 Solid Silver Sixties tour, where his biggest problem seemed to be the sound.