Thousands of people see what happens on stage, but only a few witness what goes on behind the scenes. There may be a strategically placed oxygen cylinder for an artist to quickly get their breath back, or an exercise bike in the dressing room to keep their heart rate up. Some people have their own table tennis table so they can relax, or wine imported from France for a post-performance celebration.
To keep the stars happy, the major promoters of events have a department specifically to fulfil the 'shopping list' sent by each artist's tour team. The staff in these departments serve as the link between the venue and the singer's representatives. However, when Elton John came to Malaga (Palacio de los Deportes Martín Carpena, 2015), he brought his own staff with him to prepare the dressing room to his liking, with all the lollipops, glasses and hats transported in a trailer.
The work of those who are responsible for ensuring the comfort of the stars begins months before the concert, so they have time to find that soft drink or brand of water which is not sold in Spain. They are experts in finding the impossible. When he came to Fuengirola (Marenostrum, 2018), Santana was able to enjoy his peach beers, which can only be obtained through distributors to restaurants with a Michelin star. He also had his favourite Californian wine, which had to be imported from France for about 190 euros.
Van Morrison made it easier in his visits to the Teatro Cervantes (the last time in 2006): he only wanted a bottle of Dom Perignon, which he took to the hotel after a concert which he timed to the final second with a clock he placed on stage.
For the show by Jennifer Lopez, the grand diva of the summer with her performance in Fuengirola, they had to provide 500 vegan nutrition bars and about the same number of bottles of an American brand of water which is not sold here. The request was met by the Villa Padierna hotel, where she stayed. However, on the day of the concert she booked an entire floor of the Hilton to be closer to the venue.
Other requests are more prosaic, such as for ginger, which is fashionable among singers for its properties against hoarseness and sore throats.
To prevent problems of that type, Bob Dylan demanded that the temperature on stage did not drop below 24 degrees, and he said that if it did then he reserved the right to refuse to perform. Unfortunately, on 4 May at the Marenostrum in Fuengirola, by the sea, it was 18 degrees Celsius and there was the threat of rain. To solve the problem, heaters were installed on the stage to keep it warm. What the public perceived to be part of the stage illumination was in fact nothing more than the heaters to ensure the concert would go ahead. And the temperature was not the only reason the concert was at risk: Dylan could have also refused to perform if someone raised their mobile phone or he saw a press photographer. The only photos possible had to be taken outside the venue.
Parked behind the stage, the musician who won the Nobel Prize for Literature had his 'sleeper' - a bus equipped with all the comforts of a house on wheels - to which he retired as soon as he had finished the performance.
Some stars, like Luis Miguel (Palacio de los Deportes Martín Carpena, 2012), only ever travel by private plane, even if they are only going from Malaga to Murcia, for example. And when Mark Knopfler (La Malagueta, 2013) got off the plane in Malaga, three of his top-of-the-range vehicles were there waiting for him, such is his love of motoring and classic cars.
Inside the dressing-room
Meanwhile, in the venue where the event takes place, prefabricated modules or plainly-decorated rooms are transformed into luxury abodes through the magic of interior decoration. And here too there are preferences. Jennifer Lopez's team specified that her dressing room had to be white and in Balinese style, so the rooms at the Marenostrum, all of which had a black background, had to be painted. And in the end, the Latin queen of pop didn't even set foot in them.
For a few hours, this space becomes the artist's only refuge, the place in which they can relax before and after their performance, the hideaway where nobody can see them. That's why they want it to be pleasant and comfortable. Grupo Mundo usually decorates the walls of the Auditorium with fabric, installs a 'coffee corner' with different types of herbal teas and a selection of fruits as a gesture of hospitality. And every module at the Marenostrum has a different ambience, with motifs on the walls or carefully placed fabrics.
Then there are the more unusual requests to make their stay more comfortable. George Michael (La Rosaleda, 1989) wanted a space-invaders game.
For the macro-concert by the first generation of Operación Triunfo in Malaga port, a ping-pong table had to be provided to keep the 16 performers entertained, and the Rolling Stones wanted an athletics track behind the stage so they could go for a run if they felt like it before their concert in the city in 1998.
Other requests were made for a more practical reason. Rod Stewart (Marenostrum, 2019) had an exercise bike backstage to ensure that his heart rate didn't drop before he went back on stage after his band performed some numbers without him.
James Brown (La Malagueta bullring, 1988) asked for a helmet hairdryer so he could ensure his characteristic hair looked right.
Ricky Martín (Marenostrum Fuengirola, 2018) and Maná (Athletics stadium, 2015) wanted a physiotherapist so they could manage two solid hours of jumping and dancing.
An optical specialist had to be found urgently for George Michael, to certify that he was able to go on stage and perform: he arrived in Malaga with a detached retina which occurred while he was practising water sports off Ibiza the day before.
And the 'technical rider' for Jennifer Lopez (the document listing everything the artist or band will need to perform their show) included 1,000 hangers for all the costumes. In the end they made do with less than half that number.
When it comes to food, most stars have their own cook, who supplies the list of products that will be needed. They also cook for the large team of technicians, producers, musicians and dancers who spend hours at the venue doing sound tests, setting up the stage and paperwork.
Sting and Bob Dylan have their own cooks, and asked for a room to be made available just for steaming food. Alejandro Sanz (who always includes Malaga on his tours) travels with his own catering service. It is said that Spanish bands normally ask for local foods, that Cantajuegos (Marenostrum, 2019) prefer home-made dishes and that Aitana (Marenostrum, 2019) brought cupcakes with her name on them. Obviously, food for the stars is a very individual choice.