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Judas Priest ‘Firepower’ Tour

by Nook Schoenfeld • in
  • May 2018
  • Wide Focus
• Created: May 14, 2018

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LD Tom Horton Lights the Metal Gods on their Latest Tour

Judas Priest, the U.K.-based heavy metal artists, have been around for almost 50 years now. With their new album, Firepower — their 18th — released in March to widespread acclaim, this band, which has sold more than 50 million copies of their albums to date, shows no signs of slowing down. According to lighting designer Tom Horton, the band is looking forward to many more live shows, and judging from their latest, there is no lack of energy on stage or a farewell tour in sight.

The motorcycle entrance never gets old. Photo by Todd Kaplan

Horton, out of Seattle, has been behind the lighting desk with this act for 14 years; he started up with the band not long after lead vocalist Rob Halford rejoined in mid-2003. We caught up with Tom for the first time since he was out with Green Day last year.

“I’m quite pleased to be back here. Last year was fun, and I appreciated that Greg Dean and Ethan Weber reached out to me to run the huge Green Day show, but this is where I’m most comfortable. These guys are really nice fellows who just want to go out and play. There are really no egos involved.”

The 2018 tour is taking the band through North American venues from March through May 1, before a May 5 show in Mexico City. The European leg runs from June 5 through August 10, then the band swings back through North America from Aug. 21 through Sept. 30.

Sharpy beams accent the solo. Photo by Todd Kaplan

The band covers the gamut of venues on this run, so the rig called for versatility. “Last night we were in a theater in Milwaukee, tomorrow we are in an arena. I needed a rig that could be versatile, yet still look big when we play arenas.” The band is filling them as well.

PRG supplied Tom with the lighting he required and has been the long-time favorite vendor of his. He spec’d an aerial grid that was 48 feet wide, anchored by a straight mid truss that runs straight across the stage. He placed four 24-foot sticks of PRG’s patented BAT truss on both sides of the mid. The trusses stagger in height and where they are hung, depending on the venue. “The design calls for the trusses to articulate when necessary,” Tom says. “There are days those sticks hang close to vertical, but we squeeze them in.”

The trusses are filled with well-known fixtures that the LD can easily source anywhere in the world. They are evenly stocked with GLP X4 pancake style wash lights, MAC Viper AirFX for spots, Sharpys for beams and good old-fashioned Atomic strobes with color changers.

“There’s still something I like about Xenon strobes. That sizzle you get. While they can’t stay on, they dim better than many of the LED models. The color changers came out well prepped, like all the gear; there have been minimal issues if any.

“We work on a budget out here,” Tom continues. “I’m not too choosy when it comes to the actual fixture. A [Martin] MAC Aura or a GLP X4 work equally fine for me. I spec’d Robe Pointes for the beams because I like the zoom, but the company had Sharpys sitting on the shelf at the time we were prepping the rig. I want my lighting vendor to make money and not have to sub-rent gear. It helps everyone, including myself, when I will need a favor from them later on. You know how that works.”

GLP X4s bathe the stage in color. Photo by Todd Kaplan

‡‡         Video Elements

CT (Colonel Tom) Touring provided the video elements, which includes a massive 48-by-24-foot (WxH) LED wall above the set, erected from Flyer 12mm made by Kindwin. At times this is cut down to a 32-by-16-fooot (WxH) LED video display to fit in the smaller venues. “Mark Devlin did a great job supplying us with custom content. We’ve had a long history with clever album art and a lot of that is manipulated and applied here as well.” The content is all played back from a Catalyst media server run off Horton’s grandMA2 console.

The set was provided by Hangman and Metalman, a premier set and drop company out of the U.K. This included a downstage kabuki reveal that starts the show. The fabric artwork consists of Judas Priest’s trident symbol (affectionately known as the pitchfork to Horton), surrounded by song lyrics in an eerie font. Horton illuminates this with mostly with MAC Vipers from the front truss, while the bottom gets help from a ground row of Chroma-Q Color Force 2 striplight fixtures along the downstage edge. The drop is released on cue via solenoids and gets sucked straight upstage center by a sniffer device provided by Metalman.

The band gear rides in carts that are hidden behind soft goods, providing a clean stage. The soft goods have patterns on them and are kept illuminated by the same ground row downstage. Pipe and drape with more fabric encloses the stage and hides the backline crew from sight. New this year are three 15-foot-wide Wahlberg roll drops that the band purchased. They are used during the first three songs before winding up for Horton to reveal the video wall.

“As far as lighting goes, the songs are usually fast and hard. They call for aggressive colors. Hence red, yellow and white — fiery tones of color are used often.” That’s not to say that other colors weren’t evident in the performance, but I will mention that the use of magenta and pastel colors was sparse.

Mark Devlin designed the media content.

‡‡         Special Effects

Perhaps surprising for a tour supporting an album called Firepower, “we’re not carrying any pyro this tour,” Horton says. “The band bought a half dozen of those Antari M7 Foggers with the LEDs lighting the output. We get the fire and cryo effects we want and love the ease of setup.”

The band had a setback when lead guitarist Glenn Tipton announced he was stepping back from performing after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The band has a substitute player and continues to rock, with the obligatory motorcycle still bringing vocalist Rob Halford on stage. A summer shed tour with Deep Purple is on the horizon, with more dates rumored through next February.

Horton wraps up by saying, “There’s really good people out here. It’s a great environment when the guys at the top have no egos. We have a nice schedule and are well taken care of.”

Judas Priest Firepower Tour

 

Crew

Lighting Designer/Director: Tom Horton

Lighting Co: PRG

Lighting Crew Chief: Tom Bider

Light Techs: Graham Hill, Patrick Warrington

Video Co: Colonel Tom Touring

Video Techs: Kyle Lantz, Nick Lepoutre

Production Manager/FOH: Martin Walker

Stage Manager: Rik Benbow

Rigger: Brian Collins

Set Carpenter: Jude Aflalo

Production Assistant: Safron Peffer

Wardrobe: Heather Spooner

 

Gear

2       grandMA2 full size

37     GLP impression X4’s

27     Martin MAC Viper AirFX

30     Claypaky Sharpys

26     James Thomas 4-Light Molefays

18     Martin Atomic 3000 DMX strobes w/scrollers

8       Chroma-Q Color Force 72’s

6       ETC Source Four CE fixtures (10°)

1       Video wall/Kindwin Flyer 12 panels (48×24 or 32×16)

1       Catalyst media server

6       Antari M-7 LED fog machines

1       PRG S400 208V distro setup

1       ETC dimmer setup

3       Wahlberg Motion Design roll drops

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