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Ian Anderson’s Jethro Tull Rock Opera Lit with Bandit Lights
USA – It was last year in Italy while touring with Jethro Tull, singer-songwriter and frontman Ian Anderson began to toy with the idea of a stand-alone show around the real life exploits of the band’s namesake. Using lighting provided by Bandit Lites, lighting designer Mark Wheatley took his knowledge of Anderson’s lighting preferences (no haze, no ‘mad flashing lights’ and dislike of followspots) to complement Jethro Tull – The Rock Opera, which features both earlier hits and newly written songs.
“The workhorse fixtures are Martin Mac Viper profiles, GLP Impression X4s on mid and back truss, Mac Auras on front truss and pros booms and Sharpys on back truss and floor,” said Wheatley. “We also use Showtec Sunstrips as blinders and effects on floor towers and back truss. An 18k HD projector on the show is rigged either on the front or mid truss depending on stage depths and sight lines.”
In addition to three 40’ trusses at front, mid and back stage, he also utilizses six truss towers to frame the video screen.
With Ian Anderson preferring not to use haze, Wheatley had to choose fixtures that were both powerful enough to work in front of the white projection screen and give a definite beam look without haze. The solution: GLP X4s, with their varying zoom range including an ACL styled beam when rigged in groups, giving an old school ACL fan look.
“As with any artist though, if Ian feels that the lighting is complementing and enhancing his creativity then he feels more comfortable with it,” said Wheatley before adding: “It's all about communication. He has a very acute sense of timing so if I miss a cue, he will be the first to know and isn't shy about telling me.”
Timing is crucial as the video heavy show features Ian Anderson interacting with virtual co-stars, requiring him to feel the focus move from him to the screen when necessary. The challenge was moving the visual focus without followspots, as per Anderson’s request. The solution? LED Wash lights on the pros booms and the front truss.
“I never liked RGB colours on faces before,” explained Wheatley. “I was always a fan of tungsten on faces, but the Auras now do a great colour correction and white, making my life much easier on that front.”
With the band and Anderson positioned downstage, the mid truss is used to reinforce the back light looks, but also provides a cross light on faces when the front light might wash out the video. The fixtures on the mid-stage truss provide more shadowed, textured looks, meaning the lights needed to be either in line or slightly downstage of Anderson. And while positioning trusses may be simpler in arenas, the wide array of theatre venues for the current tour requires some daily creativity on Wheatley’s part.
“To be honest that's one of the reasons I've loved touring for the past 20 years because no two days are the same,” he said adding, “Fortunately the guys with me on the road from Bandit were flexible, not only in their thinking but in their communication and prep, so even when I was shifting the goal posts each day, they were with me all the way.”
Flexibility and quality preparation are key to a successful tour, and are two elements Bandit strives to achieve for every single client; a reputation that apparently preceded this tour.
“Right from the start of the process of getting the show together, Dizzy was really accommodating and eager to give me the tools I needed to make my design work,” said Wheatley. “The reputation that Bandit has for prepping the gear for a tour, no matter the duration or size of the tour, is second to none and project manager Don Lockridge and the team at Nashville didn't let the side down this time. They were happy to accommodate the kit which I travel with around the world, like my Chamsys control and Hippo Media Server.”
“It was great to be able to work together with the Ian/Tull organisation again,” added Dizzy. “I first worked with them in 1986 or ’87 and onwards for about 18 years, back when Ian and I both had more hair. He has been such a major force in the history of concert touring since the very earliest days; you cannot deny his forward thinking and his methods of not blindly accepting the touring status quo (the principle, not the band). I liken his contributions to the evolution of live rock shows with the likes of Bowie, Alice Cooper and Queen over the course of his career. Mark and production manager Chris Archer were total gents to work with and we do look forward to a few more decades touring with them all!”
Attention to detail in preproduction means less headaches when the production kicks off, a fact that was not unnoticed on Ian Anderson’s tour.
“That first day of a new tour when everyone is finding their feet and working with new people they've never met before can be truly stressful,” finished Wheatley. “Not surprisingly all the gear arrived and it was pretty much plug and play for me.”
26th November 2015
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