Vector Goes ‘Theatre Mode’

September 24, 2012
3 mins read

EARLIER THIS EVENING I waddled amongst a small throng – if that’s not a contradiction in terms – inspecting Vector Arena’s just-announced ‘Theatre Mode’.
When Vector director Stuart Clumpas urged us in his thick Scottish brogue to take to the stage, I was surprised to feel not even one iota of stage fright. Perhaps it was all the empty seats staring at me, and the motley media assemblage staring back at them.
While tempting to let loose with my most virile Robert Plant lemon-squeezing yelp, my inner sophisticate took over just in time. It was interesting to get a star’s eye view of what the new Theatre Mode of the Vector looks like, however. It’s still a decent-sized area, but the way they have organised the seating and lights, a sense of intimacy has been created.

Stuart Clumpas
Of course, as someone remarked, Leonard Cohen managed to create a sense of intimacy in the whole arena, but he did that with his inimitable voice, charm, songs; and a very expensive, dedicated production crew who did the unthinkable, and got the sound just right.
But not everyone can command an audience that will fill up the entire arena. Theatre Mode is designed for those acts who are too big for the medium-sized venues, but too small for the full arena… between 1500 and 3000 bodies, all sitting comfortably, and all with a good line of vision of the stage.
Clumpas explained that, unlike the “half a Vector” Yes had played to earlier this year (where it looked like the arena was just partitioned off, but the seats still seemed a long way from the stage), with the Theatre Mode they have pulled the seating towards the stage, and the seats on the ground level have been splayed into an array that limits the amount of old necks with cricks in them. That has to be a good thing.
The seats themselves are a notch up from the standard plastic church assembly hall chairs as well, in keeping with the slightly posh look – a look that, while it definitely has a feeling of a concert auditorium rather than a repurposed sports stadium, doesn’t harbour any pretensions to the fineries of, say, the Civic.
Or, as the Vector press release states: “This innovative, multiple fit-to-scale capacity plan clevery utilises moveable curtains and stage placement to scale back the proportions of the arena for audiences of 1500-3000. The beauty of this new mode is that is creates the sort of cozy ballroom/theatre feel that most becomes an artist such as Emmylou Harris.”
Oh yes, I almost forgot. The venue announcement was a double banger, which also included news of a November 18 gig by Emmylou Harris and her Red Dirt Boys (with support from members of the Gunslingers Ball) at the venue.
Harris, who last performed in Auckland nearly a decade ago, is the kind of connoisseur artist (or musician’s musician, or singer’s singer) that should be perfect to launch the new space-within-a-space, and Stuart (who is a huge fan of the artist) is confident that interest in the legacy alt-country star will be sufficient to fill the Theatre Mode seats.
Brent Eccles – who is in league with Stuart on the Vector project – also gave a short speech, in which he described himself as an “ex-drummer”. To the “now generation”, Eccles is one of NZ’s most successful concert promoters, but to those of us who grew up in the ’70s, he’ll always be the guy who powered the drums in Citizen Band, and later, Australian hard rock band The Angels. I got to do my embarrassing fan-boy thing and shake his hand. God, that first Citizen Band album was good – I wish it was out on CD.
Emmylou? Well, according to the PR blurb, she “promises to perform selections from her wealth of original material as well as beautiful interpretations of some of music history’s most classic songs.”
Emmylou with some muppet.
Also of note is the opening act, which will feature performers from the Auckland country music event The Gunslingers Ball, featuring members of The Bads and The Grifters, and singer Tami Neilson.
But let’s end on a note that will be of interest to readers of a hi-fi-oriented site. Stuart talked openly and with some frustration at the bad rep the Vector has had for its acoustic qualities, or lack thereof, and was adamant that if it ever had any problems, they had been sorted. His contention: that with enough care and attention and skill from a band’s sound engineers, the room should sound as good as any comparable room anywhere in the world. He noted that too often, a sound engineer will make a gig sound awful after a tense phone conversation with the wife, or a secret session of imbibing unknown substances before the gig. With the Theatre Mode, in-house producers will take more control than they would otherwise do, which should make the who she-bang much more reliably acoustically and visually good. We hope so.
* Tickets go on sale on October 2 at

Steel has been penning his pungent prose for 40 years for publications too numerous to mention, most of them consigned to the annals of history. He is Witchdoctor's Editor-In-Chief/Music and Film Editor. He has strong opinions and remains unrepentant. Steel's full bio can be found here

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