in On the Road
Tour Name: World Without Borders Concert Tour, 2012/2013
2013 Tour Dates: Starts mid-March and includes performances in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, including Hungary, Romania, Russia and other international destinations. Yanni just finished 80 dates through the U.S. and Canada, and another extensive tour through South America in 2012. During his “off time” in 2013, Yanni was off to do a private wedding in Chennai, India. “It was for two of the richest families in India — quite the three-day extravaganza!” said production designer/LD Bud Horowitz, now preparing Yanni’s new tour.
Years with Yanni: 16, including all the artist’s tours since 1997, except for the Voices tour in 2009.
Lighting Approach: As we use I-Mag video for many of our shows, Yanni is aware of how his face looks on camera. His deep-set eyes can be an issue, especially while sitting at the piano, where he tends to look downward. We use smaller, hard-edge moving lights at the top of 10-foot high truss towers in line with his piano and keyboards for fill.
Yanni’s show is 95 percent music. We do have two vocalists, but most of their vocalization is tonal, with few words. The lighting is about the music, rather than the spectacle. We play mostly theatrical venues, especially in the States, so I can do more with subtle moves and color than in an arena. The music is dynamic. Timing is the critical element. I’ve retrained my brain for the variety of time signatures in his music.
The Design Process with Yanni: There are certain elements that Yanni really likes to see, especially the lighting of band solos and specific moments in the show. He gives me a free rein in terms of the aesthetics. There are 13 people in the orchestra, two singers and Yanni.
Most Challenging Yanni Concert Site: Shooting a DVD/PBS special in front of the El Morro Fort in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The site was a hill in front of the fort, a National Historic Site. Siting the stage and seating was difficult enough, made worse by heavy rains that made the site muddy and unstable.
The lighting rig was on a ground-supported truss system. There were many delays on the install. In addition to the stage and audience lighting, we were lighting about 600 feet of the wall of the fort. Anything placed near or on the fort required approval by the National Park Rangers.
The biggest issue was weather. With sunset came the rain and wind; the truss rig would have to be lowered for safety reasons. I had no programming time with the lighting system. I took a lighting console to my room one night and programmed the stage, TV and site lighting blind.
Home base: Los Angeles
Years in the industry: 35 years in the live entertainment, touring and TV world.
First lighting tour: England Dan and John Ford Coley in 1978, followed by two years as Devo’s first LD.
What inspired you to pursue lighting design as a career? Acting in high school and college. As a tech head as well, I discovered that lighting blended art and technology better than anything else.
Other artists you’ve worked with: Kenny Rogers, Captain and Tennille, Andy Gibb, John Mellencamp, Styx, Natalie Cole, Stevie Wonder, Bette Midler, Suzanne Somers, Carrie Underwood, Brian Setzer — many of these for multiple tours.
Most unusual or fun gig: Lighting the Bradbury Building in downtown Los Angeles for release of the director’s cut of Blade Runner. The building was used for interior scenes in the movie. Producers wanted to duplicate the feel of the movie. It’s a National Historic Register building, so everything had to be done in a specific manner, and we had just the day of the event for load in, focus, program, event and load out.
Heroes/mentors: Lee Strasburg, my design teacher at UC Santa Barbara, for teaching me how to see and how to get those images in my head onto the stage. Jim Moody, for giving me my first real job in this industry and teaching me so much. Peter Morse, Jeff Ravitz and many others for allowing me to work with you and absorb some of what you accomplish with color and cueing.
Other recent shows: Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy party; 2012 NHRA Awards; 2012 Environmental Media Awards at Warner Brothers Studios; 2012 International Television Gala at Warner Brothers Studios; The Suzanne Show for Lifetime TV; Brian Setzer Orchestra Christmas Tour.
Likes about the touring industry way back when? The camaraderie of crews. Money was less of an issue than the quality of the show.
Likes about the touring industry now? Professionalism of the people I work with. I’m fortunate to travel to corners of the globe I would probably never get to see otherwise.
If you could see any concert/event in history? The original Woodstock. I was almost old enough at the time to go. It’s the music I grew up with and still listen to.
Best advice: Don’t turn down work. You never know what a job is going to lead to. Ninety-nine percent of my work comes from direct referrals of clients. Don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone. The broader your range of skills, the more valuable you are.