Motley Crue: The Final tour

in Production Profile

Motley Crue Final Tour photo by Todd MoffsesCleverly named The Final Tour, Mötley Crüe’s final tour began July 2 in Grand Rapids, MI. And final it is. In January, under a banner proclaiming “All Bad Things Must Come to an End,” the iconic band’s members held a press conference in Hollywood, complete with a New Orleans-style funeral marching band, at which they publicly signed a legally binding “cessation of touring” agreement. It prohibits them from going on the road together or individually under the Mötley moniker after their current 18-month worldwide victory lap ends. No biennial reunion tours, no country fair oldies circuit, no package cruises.

Motley Crue Final Tour photo by Todd MoffsesOf course, fans will not be left Crüeless. There’s plenty more to go around, including the nearly 100 million albums the group has sold, 22 Top 40 singles, five books authored by group members, 2,500 branded products, a back catalogue of movie and television appearances, a nationally syndicated radio show, night clubs and strip clubs, tattoo shops, philanthropic causes, and not least, collaborations with other musicians in several genres. A feature film based on their book The Dirt is due out in 2015 from Jeff Tremaine (who gave the world Jackass and Bad Grandpa), and there’s a documentary in the works. A country music tribute album is about ready for release, featuring such artists as Florida Georgia Line, Rascal Flatts, Cassadee Pope and LeAnn Rimes. The song “Kickstart My Heart” is featured on Dodge commercials, and the group has discussed releasing new music online on a song-by-song basis.

Motley Crue Final Tour photo by Todd MoffsesMost Likely To Exceed

The final tour’s show has all the elements you’d expect from the band most likely to exceed: thundering power chords from guitarist Mick Mars and bassist Nikki Sixx, the tight-pants tenor of singer Vince Neil, exotic dancers dressed in the legal minimum, a metric ton of attitude, neuron-blasting special effects, lyrics as subtle as a steamroller, anthemic lighter-waving ballads, profanity by the pound, pyro, cryo, explosions, confetti, costumes, flames pulsing out of the bass guitar neck like…like…well, insert your own analogy here. Because it is the band’s last go-round, they were determined to push more envelopes than the post office. They wanted big and crazy. They got it.

The visual madness originated in the comparatively sane brains of production designers Robert Long and Sooner Routhier, operators of SRae Productions in Portsmouth, NH. “It’s been a whirlwind,” she says (they dove into the Crüe’s swan song project just after finishing work on the KISS tour that featured a giant, articulating spider marionette and already has assignments in the works for an electronic artist, a country tour, an off-Broadway show and a musical tribute called The Australian Bee Gees that will also be shown on PBS TV in the fall).

“We’ve worked with Mötley Crüe since 2009,” she points out. “Whenever there’s a new tour design to be done, we start working with the band to learn what concept they want, what themes to use and so forth. This one took about six months to get ready. Since it was to be their last tour, the general idea was about putting the band to rest, with RIP motifs. We began coming up with ways to portray that on stage. We wanted to take them through the ages, through the different looks and scenic elements they’ve had throughout their career, and bring it all together in one cohesive look. That led to sketches and image searches, followed by full-scale renderings, designs and meetings with the band for input and approvals. Every song is structured, and we stuck to color palettes that work with the song. We think music has color and shape, so we try to portray that with the lighting look. For instance, if they’re doing Shout at the Devil, which is all about the devil and fire, you don’t want to be using green. It’s very red and yellow and amber. On Dr. Feelgood, the album cover has a crazy green tile wall in the background with some red and white, so we tried to put that in somehow, even though it looks disgusting. It’s meant to be uncomfortable to look at.” She credits advances in console technology and software with making possible lighting looks that are original and unique.

Motley Crue Final Tour photo by Todd MoffsesA Scalable Design

The size of venues influences the design, too. “We knew they’d be playing arenas and amphitheaters,” Routhier explained, “so we tried our best to keep the shows within those confines. As it’s designed, this one is big, but we have trusses that can move or shrink according to the space. For a larger venue, they go on the sides to make the show wider; for a smaller space, they’re moved back toward center. We have elements that can shrink and grow as needed, but we typically draw our shows within a bounding box of the smallest space that we can.”

Next came meetings with the vendors, in which Long and Routhier planned the gear, scheduling, crew, transport, etc. “Robert is like a renaissance man of tours,” said Routhier. “He’s done it all, from guitar tech to stage manager to production managing. He is amazing at the tech side of things, of getting things in and out of buildings, keeping things on budget, knowing how many trucks, all the little details that go into putting a tour together and making it look good, as well as having an extremely creative mind. My strengths are more on the graphic side, like drafting, Photoshop, Illustrator and design art.”

And since bad boys like to play with fire, there’s pyro involved in every Mötley Crüe tour. “We bring over FFP from Germany,” Routhier explained. “They’re really good at experimenting with different effects, so when we have a crazy idea and send it to them, they’ll go into their labs and experiment with it and come up with something that has never been seen before. They do an amazing job with that.”

After all the materials were produced and ready to go, everything was shipped to a rehearsal space in Grand Rapids about ten days ahead of the first show and set up so the band could rehearse with it.

Motley Crue Final Tour photo by Todd MoffsesOver the Top Drum Gag

The literal high point of the program is the “Crüecifly” drum solo stunt. Drummer Tommy Lee, who in recent years has become as noted for his priapic prowess as for his percussion proficiency, is carried up over the audience with his entire drum kit on what is essentially a slow-moving rock-and-roller coaster to the back of the hall and returned to the stage, playing and chatting up the crowd while rotating end over end.

Motley Crue Final Tour photo by Todd Moffses“We’ve been building drum riser gags for Mötley Crüe for 30 years,” says Eric Pearce, owner of overhead rigging specialist Show Group Production Services, Inc., headquartered in North Las Vegas. “This concept came from a combination of discussions with Robert Long and Sooner Routhier. It is by far the most extreme drum riser gag I’ve ever seen.” The actual fabrication, he recalls, “was done in a great rush, because it took a while for management to approve the finances and to get the thing really into a ‘go’ condition. Basically, the whole thing was designed and built in less than six weeks.”

When a system weighing several thousand pounds is suspended above an audience, concerns ensue. “Obviously, safety was the first consideration when we started the project, trying to figure out how to create something that would be safe to have above people’s heads,” said Pearce. “Everything is double- or triple- secured. The drum kit is welded to plates on the rotating deck, with secondary attachments for the individual parts. It’s radio-controlled and miked, with a UPS unit supplying power.” The track is lined with Elation LED tape and Martin MAC 101s. Around the drum kit are LED rings called Bright Beats that Lee triggers from his drum pads.

Motley Crue Final Tour photo by Todd Moffses“The horizontal speed of the Crüecifly is limited,” Pearce explained. “It’s going through changing radius curves, from tracking on the inside of a curve to tracking on the outside of a curve. Every time it transitions, the program has to speed up and slow down the opposing drive wheels to get through that transition point, then accelerate and slow down and run them at different speeds as it hits the next changing curve. Programming-wise, it’s very complex to go around these multiple curves. Four drive units drive simultaneously. As their position changes as they move along the track, their speed relative to each other has to change. That alone took about 20 hours of programming to figure out.”

And the stress on the drummer? “Tommy’s very acrobatic,” said Pearce, chuckling. “For the last one, he went upside down on a 30-foot circle that was on stage, so he’s pretty much used to these stress rides. I don’t believe he had more than a day or so of rehearsal before the first show. It’s much more difficult to ride on the unit than it looks. It’s not only a head rush, it’s a stomach rush, it’s an everything rush.”

The full Crüecifly package, which takes local stagehands under SGPS supervision about four hours to erect, is designed for major arenas. In venues where the roof is not strong enough or there is no roof, a modified segment of the system takes the drummer only a short distance out from the stage.

Motley Crue Final Tour photo by Todd MoffsesGoing Out with a Bang

Lighting director/programmer Matt Mills describes the Crüe show as “definitely kicked up a notch from my previous work (Daughtry, Staind, Three Doors Down, Nelly Furtado, Disturbed, Linkin Park, etc.). They’re really going out with a big bang. There are definitely some pretty cool things being thrown around out here. The Tommy Lee drum solo belongs on a episode of Modern Marvels.”

Fresh off a tour with Avenged Sevenfold, Mills began programming for the Crüe gig ahead of time at home in Orlando with fellow lighting director Mike Cooper, who’d brought his family down for vacation. “I have a pretty nice programming suite set up in my house. I have a grandMA2 Command Wing linked up to a computer [with grandMA onPC software v3 for pre-viz work]. Mike and I would sit up late at night, load the show file up and figure out what worked and what didn’t, so we could be a bit farther ahead before we went into preproduction.”

Cooper had done the band’s 2013 Intimate Evening in Hell residency at the Hard Rock Casino’s The Joint venue in Las Vegas, so many elements from that transferred over to this show. The two kept any programming that worked from the Vegas set, adjusting for the different configurations, and added any new elements. “Each of the 19 songs and the drum solo and the guitar solo has its own cue stack, its own page on the console,” Mills explained. “The whole show is time-coded. We had the foundation of the programming in, then we got the new time-code tracks from their Pro Tools guy and were off and running. There are a few things I’ve adjusted since we’ve been out, like some of the transitions between songs, which can go very quickly. Coming out the drum solo, there’s a guitar solo. We give Mick his special spot, with the rest of the stage dark. We’ve got four ego risers that are really just a big LED brick. He steps up on that and I uplight him all in red so he looks real evil. He goes into an evil-sounding guitar solo that transitions into the song ‘Live Wire.’”

Motley Crue Final Tour photo by Todd MoffsesVirtual Rehearsals

The band was on hand for some rehearsing with the lights. When they weren’t, “we did our own rehearsals. We fired up the iTunes and cranked through all the songs to see how it was looking, making sure the transitions were good, making sure we didn’t have a red and blue song followed by a red and blue song.”

Mills owns the two grandMA2 consoles he uses on the tour and operates them in full tracking mode, so they back each other up. “I’ve been a grandMA guy ever since they came out. With every new software release, they keep making it easier and more powerful, so it makes it a lot easier for me as a programmer to knock out some very intricate looks very quickly. I’ve progressed with them and couldn’t imagine doing a show without them. If someone asks if I speak a foreign language, I tell them ‘I speak MA command line.’” He estimates that the show, counting LEDs, has 16,000 light fixtures. It takes four or five hours to set up and about two-and-a-half hours to take down, depending on the venue and loading dock. “We’re in a really good groove now,” he says. “Christie Lites really went above and beyond to make this thing right. They have such great customer service, getting us things we needed at the last minute when things changed from what was on paper.”

Mills describes an effect that he’s especially proud of. “We have a lot of LED fixtures up in the rig, a bunch of Ayrton MagicPanels and Martin MAC 101s. Inside of Catalyst, I’ve pixel-mapped every LED fixture we have, so now I can play video on top of the entire rig and can get effects out of it that I’d never be able to get from a lighting console.”

Concludes the lighting director, “This is so cool, because as a teenager, I went and saw Mötley Crüe several times when they rolled through my town. It’s pretty wild to sit back and think that I’m actually taking them out for their last tour.”

And that’s final.

For more info on the design team and band, go to www.sraeproductions.com and www.motley.com.

The Mötley Crew

Production Design: Sooner Routhier, Robert Long/SRae Productions

Lighting Programmer/Operator: Matt Mills

Lighting Programmer: Mike Cooper

Production Manager: Robert Long

Stage Manager: Patrick Murphy

Production Coordinator: Eric “Shakes” Gryzbowski

Riggers: Chris Sorenson (head), Ben Erdreich

Carpenters: Casey Long, Dale Bryant, Scott Ramos

Lighting Co: Christie Lites

Lighting Crüe: Martin Kelley (rep), Mike Flynn (crew chief), Sean Flynn (dimmers/distros), Andy O’Toole, Tyler Pigeon, John Clark, Ian Saunders

Video Co: Chaos Visual Productions

Video Crüe: John Wiseman (rep), Robert McShane, Kenny Ackerman, Seth Sharpless, Chad McClymonds

Staging/Rigging/Automation: SGPS/ShowRig

Staging Crüe: Eric Pearce (owner), Chris Kunkle, Angel Aguirre, Mike Rock, Vince Gallegos, Jordan Matson

Pyro: FFP

Pyro Crüe: Nicolai Sabottka (rep), Nick Tompsett (shooter), Marcin Okupnik, Christoph Buschor


Gear

2       MA Lighting grandMA2 full size consoles
1       MA2 on PC with Command Wing (for Pyro)
12     MA Lighting NPUs (4) and NSPs (8)
2       grandMA2 Lite consoles
1       City Theatrical SHoW DMX system
3       Additional SHoW DMX systems (Drums)
1       Catalyst Pro media server
20     Opto-Isolators (8-way DMX)
5       60 channel HD distro racks
1       ETC 96 channel dimmer
110  Martin MAC 101s
46     Ayrton MagicPanel 602s
38     Martin MAC Viper AirFX fixtures
18     Clay Paky Sharpys
16     Martin MAC 2000 Wash XBs
16     Martin MAC Auras
7       Martin MAC 2000 Performances (for Alice Cooper)
5       Martin MAC III Profiles
3       Altman Lighting Focusing Cyc lights
6       Jelly Jar Aircraft Beacons
8       Bars of 6 VNSPs (for Alice Cooper)
52     ETC Source Four PARs (for Crüe Pods)
6       4-Light linear DWE blinders
18     Showtec Sunstrips
40     Martin Atomic Strobes w/Atomic Colors
4       Apollo Design Technology Right Arms
9       Bright Beats LED Drum Heads
14     Chroma-Q Color Force 72s
4       ETC Source Fours (36°)
400’   Elation Flex Pixel LED Tape
4       JEM ZR 44 foggers
4       Radiance hazers
2       DF50 hazers
4       JEM ZR44 Hi-Mass foggers
39     7'10" sections of Christie Lites F Type track truss
24     End Gates for Christie F-type truss
6       Christie Lites dance towers (for Crüe Pods)


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