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The Killers ‘Wonderful Wonderful’ World Tour

by Nook Schoenfeld • in
  • Current Issue
  • Designer Insights
  • February 2018
• Created: February 16, 2018

GLP X4 bar 20 fixtures fill the negative space between the video elements. Photo by Rob Loud

The Wonderful, Wonderful world tour is the fifth major concert tour by the Las Vegas rock band The Killers, to support their fifth studio album (of the same name) which was released last September. Back behind the lighting console is Steven Douglas, the only LD they have had since he started working with them in 2005. The band started the tour playing festivals last fall, then touring in the U.K. and Ireland before Christmas, where they have had a large following for most of their career. They embarked on a U.S. arena run at the start of the year.

PLSN checked in with Douglas to see what he has going on this year, as well as how he originally hooked up with these guys, seeing that he resides in Dublin, Ireland, and they’re from Las Vegas.

“In my younger days, I had worked at a theater. One day I got a call from a friend that still worked there, saying they had some American band coming in that didn’t have an LD. Would I mind….” And, of course, at the end of the night, the band gave him some thanks and asked for his number, as bands often do, promising to call. “The difference, this time, was that they did. A week or two after that show, they rang me up. ‘Could I possibly cover a few other shows they had coming up in the U.K.?’ That led to, ‘Could you maybe accompany us to Paris?’ which turned into ‘Perhaps Japan?’” The rest is history. Yes, he is proof that one band actually called the club LD as promised.

Fourteen years later, he’s still at it. When questioned about the logic of a West Coast U.S. band having a full time LD from Dublin, the reply was simple. “The band is actually just as, if not more, popular in Europe than they are in the States. So, since they are over there so often, they don’t have to fly an LD over, so it evens itself out over the course of a tour cycle. It’s worked out well.”

Set elements have a Vegas vibe. Photo by Rob Loud

‡‡         The Design Concept

“After initial discussions with management, we decided to bring in some collaborators on the set design and video content. I reached out to a bunch of different people, including Fireplay,” led by Nick Whitehouse, “who came on board after meeting with the band, management and myself. It was an easy process, as I’ve worked with them before on many projects. Once we had their initial ideas on paper, we were all able to work together to integrate everyone’s ideas and then mold it into the show we have now.”

“Designers often have great ideas, but we sometimes need a little guidance in how to make them physically happen,” Steven continues. “Our production manager, Michael Oberg, put together a great team of people from Big Picture, Perry Scenic, All Access and Acass-Systems to make all the elements come to fruition. We picked him up in Australia a good few years back when we were over there. He was a promoter rep for Frontier on that tour, and we kind of kept him on because of his many years of experience tour and production managing all over the world. Our video director came from there as well. We are kind of like the UN of touring, it seems. We have people employed from a few different countries.”

disguise media servers immerse the band in water. Photo by Rob Loud

‡‡         The Video Aspects

The design is anchored by a video-based structure that envelopes the whole stage. Once in place, the design gives the viewer a forced perspective as the video elements wrap around the side of the stage at what appears to be a 30° angle that grows in height as it extends toward downstage. The centerpiece is an 8mm video wall shaped into an isosceles triangle. Slightly upstage is a 12mm structure of tiles that spans the 60-foot width of the normal rolling stage. More 12mm panels attach seamlessly in the corner and stretch downstage another 20 feet or so on either side.

The rising sides of video force the audience to view the band as if they are in a structure of some kind. Above the main pyramid is another triangle, nicknamed “The Flying V,” made of video tiles that fly up and around, tilting and morphing into different configurations through an automated moving system that utilizes CyberHoist motors. These automated hoists came from CyberMotion in North America and are controlled by David Diamond, the show operator and motion specialist. All other rigging, the top motors and mother grid came from lighting provider Christie Lites.

The video itself is provided by Big Picture Video out of Australia, who make their own video tiles. They have an arm in the U.S. through Real Deal Touring, a company out of Nashville that provides video gear and crews for all type of shows. Video director David Horscroft is also an Australian from that company. Steven explains, “We tend to go with who we know out here, and work with relationships we have forged over the years. Like using Christie Lites for the lighting — we are pleased with their gear and crew; we have no reason to go anywhere else. After the last tour, we wanted to go in another direction for video. Our PM knew these guys in Australia that were the right fit for us, and he worked out a way to have their video tiles accessible in the States, so here we are.”

While Horscroft cuts the cameras with his Kayak switcher, all the feeds come through to the designer with Notch FX already treating the image. This is managed backstage by the disguise operator, Dan Gentile. “I like to cue all the content from the console,” says Steven. “The team uses Notch effects built in the system that manipulate the image so one rarely sees just straight I-Mag on the stage video.” There are two obligatory side projection screens off to the side, solely for I-Mag for the patrons up top and in the back.

Dustin King is the crew chief for the video department. He looks after getting all the elements up and organizing the ins and outs while overseeing the system. The walls of video tiles are separated into sections that fly independent of each other, then appear to all be connected seamlessly once at trim. “For this video design, we hang tiles at strange angles, have headers that go across them to hide the parts of the tiles we don’t want seen, and kind of mix it all together. The video team have come up with a well-thought-out system, especially on the pyramid design, where all the tiles need to hang at a 45° angle. They live in squares with four tiles per Acass-Systems frame that despite their orientation, go in and out of touring carts well with the help of some custom dollies,” says Steven, handing out kudos for the speed of loading in the system.

“The media content was built by Blink TV in L.A. under direction of William Baker, the band and myself. There was also a mix of stock and other imagery I sourced, with one piece made by Moment Factory” (for “Run for Cover.”) One sweet effect that Steven used was treating the rear and overhead video surfaces as a quasi-cyclorama look. He would bathe the bottom as well as just the top of the Flying V with a saturated color that dissipated into darkness half way up the tiles.

“This idea came from Brandon, our singer, texting me that he had seen a Broadway show in New York and loved the look of an African savannah sunset scene that he saw. So, I worked forward from that reference to achieve these looks,” Steven explains.

The uniquely built system required some considerable foresight and special structural designing to bring to the stage. Acass-Systems was called on to design some custom framing to hold the video tiles. Along with the tiles on the pyramid, the design called for the perimeter of the upstage pyramid to be lined with GLP X4 Bar 20 fixtures. Additional bracing was designed for them to mount to by Acass after receiving a couple of fixtures to test mount. For more on this project, see related story, page 37.

The Killers Wonderful Wonderful tour photo by Rob Loud

‡‡         The Lighting

GLP lighting fixtures play a big part in the overall design. X4 Bars, the popular tilting striplights, line the perimeter of not only the upstage pyramid but in a 60-foot straight line in the mid-stage truss that lives right above the Flying V. There are five lighting pods lined with them as well. There are 72 of these fixtures in all.

The pods are dictated in size by the X4 Bar 20 fixtures surrounding each rectangular pod. The lone center pod has a single fixture on each side, with one across the top and bottom. This is flanked by two pods that have X4 Bar 20’s on each side. The outside pods extend with yet another batten. The pods fill the perfect space between the Flying V and the upstage trusses. They also include some Martin MAC Viper fixtures and GLP JDC1 strobes. “This is the first time I’ve used these new JDC fixtures,” the designer says. “They do the job quite nicely, filling the stage with color and keeping the white strobe that we like.” Indeed, the designer also has the fixtures lining the floor on vertical pipes to silhouette and side-wash the band.

The rear truss is divided into two halves that flank the top of the pyramid. They, along with the trusses on either side that live above the video elements, are full of Martin MAC Axioms to act as beam lights at times or gobo textured filler at others. But the bright lights that stand out are the Claypaky Scenius Unico fixtures which are usually used in conjunction with a Follow Me automated spotlight system that is rented from Neg Earth in the U.K. There are three roaming musicians downstage, and each gets a dedicated spot operator back by dimmers that follows them with a mouse while viewing an overhead camera. Steven has set the V-shaped downstage truss far enough off the stage to make this work out well.

Lightwave International units are on hand to spread laser beams around at unique times in the performance. Mounted on the upstage side trusses are six of their Phenoms, the yoke-style moving heads that were used with the Follow Me system on one song. (This is the first time I have witnessed a laser being used as a followspot.) An additional four Phenoms were mounted on the front truss. Along the back of the stage are more seven vertical pipes, each holding a 35-watt full color stationary laser from Lightwave as well.

The ColorBlast IW units lining the front of the downstage edge are used as key footlights for the performers, while the downstage truss features more Scenius Unico lights. The Unicos (used as front spots) are augmented by two house followspots. (They are used sparingly, but provided relief when needed.) Additional Claypaky Sharpy Wash fixtures are mounted in the front truss to wash the stage, and 4-Lite moles are used in abundance to light the crowd.

The band hits the stage at the O2 in London. Photo by Ralph Larmann

‡‡         The Set

Along with some changes in lineup for this tour, the band has grown. Besides the main four players in the group (think of them as a power trio backing lead singer Brandon Flowers), the band has two other musicians located upstage in cubbyholes that are built into the set. They play the extra guitar and keyboard parts that fill the songs. Three female backing vocalists are now located upstage right. The set was built by All Access Staging and is erected on one of their rolling stages every day before being wheeled into place. Upon inspection, this polished and sexy set is incredibly tight. Like something you would expect on a large-scale Vegas residency. Everything is symmetrical and clean of excess cables. Even the audio monitors look like ornately carved set pieces to the crowd.

Drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr. Photo by Rob Loud

The drum set for Ronnie Vannucci Jr. sits as a centerpiece on a three-step platform that spans 50 feet across the stage. On either side of him are the two side musicians who stand in an area next to the drummer, but behind some see-through step units. Off stage of them are identical eight-foot-wide elevated platforms for the performers to stand on at times. The entire structure is wrapped with two steps and three rows of LED tape built into the edges of the fascia steps, hidden and protected by behind some frosted diffusion. “Fireplay’s resources were great in helping us realize the design of the set to show the band,” says Steven.

“As is our model, we usually have something reminiscent of Las Vegas incorporated into the set,” Steven adds, noting the mammoth water tower straddling the stage right side and a couple of Las Vegas-style arrow-shaped set pieces that protrude from the floor at an angle upstage left. “These were constructed by Perry Scenic out of the U.K.” The sign has 24 circuits worth of little bulbs chasing around and is lined with LED rope light to give it that faux neon look. “The name painted on the water tower is changed daily, to reflect each town we play.” The water tower has some LED downlights built into it while the designer has dedicated some Martin MAC Vipers to illuminating it from different angles.

Martin MAC Vipers emit beams from the floor and pods. Photo by Rob Loud

“Each tour, we try to come up with a new stand for Brandon Flowers’ keyboard, which sits just offstage center. It’s on a lift this year and is made up as the Mars sign (think male symbol), with LED elements built-in to chase. The first single off the new album was called ‘The Man,’ so this plays off of that idea. Contrasting that are three Venus symbols (think female symbol) that are knee high and placed in front of the three female backing singers.”

Pyrotek Special Effects was on hand to cover some effects for the show. The pyro waterfall effect at the end of the show was over-the-top, with 201 gerbs going off at once. They have a couple of confetti moments as well as some stadium shot streamers that shoot up and fall on the audience at an opportune time.

A confetti moment from Pyrotek Special Effects

As far as control, Steven is well-versed in many consoles. “I’m one of those guys who started out on an Avo Pearl before graduating to the Diamond 4. When the Wholehog 2 came around, I, like all my colleagues, jumped on that bandwagon. I moved onto the grandMA from there, and then a natural progression to the MA2. In fact, it’s quite funny. At the start of this tour, we were doing festivals such as Austin City Limits. I had not finished all the programming yet, so I was running the lighting on one grandMA2 while hitting the video cues on another with my other hand,” the LD laughs.

A single Claypaky Unico beam with a gobo is operated on a Follow Me system. Photo by Ralph Larmann

Somehow, the week before they were to start their U.K. tour in early November, Steven found time to program the lighting cues when Christie Lites set up a system in a Trenton, NJ facility. “Of course, we had no media content or band members there at the time, so all I could do was my best at guessing color schemes, etc., but at least we had something programmed in the console. Then I had 48 hours to put it all together on one desk when we got to Birmingham, England for the touring dates.”

When quizzed about how involved the band gets with the overall production, Steven concludes, “I have some initial meetings with the band, where we throw out some vague ideas, kind of bounce stuff off each other. But it’s not until they see the actual cues that they start giving me input. Then they really start to add stuff and change it to suit their vision.”

The band wrapped up their U.S. leg on Feb. 6, starting up the European dates in Helsinki, Finland on Feb 19. By mid-March, the band will travel to South America, followed by dates in Australia/New Zealand in late April and May. U.S. fans need not fear; they will be back in May and June headlining large festivals such as Bonnaroo and Firefly before heading back to Europe in June and July.

Acass-Systems built the video surrounds and touring frames. Photo by Rob Loud

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Killers Wonderful Wonderful World Tour

Crew

  • Production Manager: Michael Oberg
  • Lighting Designer/Programmer/Director: Steven Douglas
  • Lighting Co: Christie Lites
  • Lighting Crew Chief: Kitty Hoffmann
  • FOH/Follow Me Tech: Jeremy Van Delft
  • Stage Right Dimmers: Arnold Pereira
  • Stage Left Dimmers: Sean Flynn
  • Lighting Techs: Jordan Sell, Mike Sorowka, Andrew Williamson
  • Video Director: David Horscroft
  • Video Co: Big Picture (Australia)
  • Video Crew Chief: Dustin King
  • disguise Operator: Dan Gentile
  • LED/Camera Techs: : Jerry Rodgers, Michael Wilson, Rob Villalobos, Mario Juarez
  • Video Engineer: Andrew Walter
  • Video Rigging: Tim Smith
  • LED/Camera: Laser Tech: Dave Fonner
  • Pyrotek Techs: Nigel Deslippe, Dave Harkness, Keith Maxwell
  • Head Rigger: Rob Gardner
  • Rigger: Michael Dunn
  • Motion Control: David Diamond
  • Stage Managers: Zack Eastland, Ben Ullmann
  • Set Carps: Matt Garrett, Eric Martinez, Logan Gibson
  • Production Coordinator: David Fidrych
  • Production Assistant: Adam Stewart

GLP’s JDC1 fixtures bathe the floor in red. Photo by Rob Loud

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gear

Lighting:

  • 2          grandMA2 full size consoles
  • 22       Martin MAC Viper Performance
  • 24       Martin MAC Axiom Hybrids
  • 12       Martin MAC Aura XB’s
  • 19       Claypaky Scenius Unicos
  • 14       Claypaky Sharpy Washes
  • 72       GLP impression X4 Bar 20’s
  • 17       GLP JDC1 Strobes
  • 20       Color Kinetics IW Blast fixtures
  • 1          Follow Me Remote System (3 targets, supplied by Neg Earth)
  • 10       Lightwave Phenom laser units
  • 7          Lightwave 35W full color laser units
  • 12       Kinesys motors
  • 2          3K followspots
  • 7          Radiance hazers w/ fans
  • 3          Foggers

 

The band was boxed in with Big Picture Video’s panels. Photo by Rob Loud

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Video:

  • 1          Triangular centerpiece w/ Big Picture Video 8mm tiles
  • 1          Massive upstage wall w/ Big Picture Video 12mm tiles
  • 2          Side screen structures w/ Big Picture Video 12mm tiles
  • 1          “Flying V” ceiling structure with moving video panels
  • 2          Side screens for I-Mag (20’ x 12’)
  • 2          Barco 26K FLMs projectors
  • 4          Sony HSC-300RF cameras (2 FOH, 1 pit, 1 onstage)
  • 1          Kayak 2ME switcher
  • Sony CCUs
  • Ki Pro Record rack

The Killers frontman Brandon Flowers dons a gold suit. Photo by Rob Loud

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