Metallica WorldWired Tour

by Photos and Text by Steve Jennings
in Designer Insights
Pyro extended 200 feet into the air above the roofless stage. Metallica 2017 tour photo by Steve Jennings.
Pyro extended 200 feet into the air above the roofless stage. Metallica 2017 tour photo by Steve Jennings.

Metallica’s current “WorldWired Tour” is in support of the band’s Hard Wired… To Self-Destruct album, released last fall. We spoke with the band’s longtime lighting designer and director, Rob Koenig, about working with Dan Braun (show director and set designer) and the tour’s design and logistics he’s encountered for this massive production that’s been filling stadiums around the world. The tour began last year and included a run of stadium dates in North America this past summer. The band is continuing with a series of dates in the U.K. and Europe this fall and next spring.

Premier Global provided the lighting gear as usual. Metallica 2017 tour photo by Steve Jennings

Rob Koenig
Lighting Designer and Director

“The design for this show dates back to 2015. Once the band found out they were not going to play the Halftime Super Bowl show in San Francisco, they decided to host their own hometown show at AT&T Park, on the same weekend, in February 2016.

“(Drummer) Lars Ulrich’s main directive to Dan (Braun) was, he wanted to ‘get out of the box,’ in the most literal sense. Many years of playing outdoor stadiums and festivals around the globe, there is one factor that always remains. Regardless of set, lighting or audio design, the band has always played in what we would see as a “typical” stage system — an 80-to-90-foot square box coupled with ramps extending far stage left and right, and occasionally the Snake Pit. So the hunt started for a different stage, which landed us back at Stageco, and a unique stage that allowed Metallica to achieve that goal. Being able to do that one-off show allowed us to key in on successes and failures, and achieve a more tourable show the following year.

The Video makes a statement. Metallica 2017 tour photo by Steve Jennings

“The band’s last two albums have been themed on white album covers (Death Magnetic in 2008 and Hardwired in 2016), so Dan wanted to go with an all-white set theme. Stage flooring was provided by Tait, the Stageco structure was painted white, and all of the truss and ladders provided by Premier Global Production were painted white as well. All of this gave me a great canvas to paint on, but a huge challenge of balancing the brightness of the giant LED walls (a very emissive surface), and allowing the color of the lighting to breathe.”

Dan Braun's design called for massive video walls. Metallica 2017 tour photo by Steve Jennings

Koenig notes that Premier Global Production has once again assumed its role as the lighting vendor for Metallica. “These guys always go the distance and do a great job for us,” he says. “We always welcome them back.” PRG Nocturne supported this tour’s massive video needs, which played a huge visual role, and created a challenge on the lighting side of things.

“The idea behind such a large video setup is to bring the band as close as possible to all of the fans in the nosebleed seats. Marcus Lyall and Marcia Kapustin of KPX Video handle all of the content creation, and masterfully as well. They are both very cognizant of the needs of the lighting design.

The War scene depicted in video and lasers. Metallica 2017 tour photo by Steve Jennings

“Dave Neugebauer, our video director, is amazing to work with. He saw the cutting of the show from a unique perspective, and is a great collaborator as well. Gene McAuliffe is a world class AD and video programmer, and is the first one I have trusted to run playback on all content, and not drive those cues from the lighting console. Mark Woody and the PRG Nocturne staff had a huge task in front of them on a daily basis, and achieved some more-than-amazing results… tireless.”

“The lighting design had to physically work around the video elements, and the video elements needed to compromise some to allow the lighting to achieve what was needed. This was by far the largest video surface most of us had ever toured with — one of the largest ever put on a tour.

“The challenges for lighting didn’t stop at having 175 feet of emissive video surface. The stage depth didn’t allow for those shallow angles we all love so much in lighting rock shows. And on a bright day with a late sunset, not having a roof for shade didn’t play in our favor either. The show truly became about making the band bright enough to punch through all of those elements, lighting all of the white surfaces, and lighting the air, and the audience, without being abusive to them.”

The content at times keyed the music. Metallica 2017 tour photo by Steve Jennings

Koenig says that the first fixture he chose for this Metallica tour was the Robe BMFL WashBeam.

“I had the opportunity to program and use them last year on the Guns N’ Roses ‘Not In This Lifetime…’ stadium run. We had a limited quantity available of the first run, but I was an immediate fan boy over them. The horsepower, the color mixing system and the versatility of the fixture were the first things that drove me to them. Beyond that, the movement of the pan tilt motors was the smoothest and most accurate I had seen to date.

“The Martin Axiom came out of the need to have a smaller form fixture type in the vertical ladders in between the video screens. In the first iteration of the design, I utilized Sharpys, but the lack of usable colors, only having a single color wheel, for a two hour show led me down a different path. The Axiom showed up on the market only a couple months prior to the first shows in Mexico City and PGP were able to provide them for us. Having yet another hybrid fixture in the rig was incredibly useful creating more looks for the show.”

VD Dave Neugebauer cut the cameras. Metallica 2017 tour photo by Steve Jennings

The weather this year has been an absolute roller coaster for shows and all the crews, notes Koenig.

“We’ve experienced everything from 15 hours’ worth of freezing rains at Gillette Stadium in New England, to the hottest most humid climates in Orlando, Miami and Atlanta. We of course had failures, but as many possible precautions were taken by all the vendors well in advance, knowing that they would be touring without a roofing system. I know from a lighting standpoint there were days after a clear load in and flashing the system the day before, that then we would experience terrible weather on show day and the PGP staff would be harnessed up fixing things all the way up to show time. Same with the PRG Nocturne staff. Once again, tireless, and not an ounce of quit in any of them!”

“We would only hear the stories from our local site coordinators and Stageco personnel on what weather they were having to deal with as well, as they would start load in three days prior to our arrival with production. This was the first time that I was with a band that we had to stop mid show (in Denver) due to a massive thunderstorm in the area. We evacuated everyone out of the stadium, brought all spot operators down, and resumed the show when we were given the all clear by the local authorities. The crowd was incredible, and just went back to having fun after the evacuation.

“This summer has been amazing. Again, the response from the fans was overwhelming. It’s great to work for a band that has been at it for this long and still able to wow the audience. I can’t say enough things about how hard all the crews worked this summer. This was not the easiest of tasks, and they all pulled it off with such an amazing attitude. Cheers to every one of them!”

A fustion of flames, screens and beams lit up the open-roof show. Metallica 2017 tour photo by Steve Jennings

Metallica is just finishing their tour in Europe with a fresh arena-sized design by Dan Braun and Rob Koenig. Stay tuned for more news on that production in 2018.

Creating Metallica-Worthy Pyro and Laser Effects

It’s Metallica, after all. So if the band is touring, there will definitely be pyro, lasers and other stadium-filling effects to punctuate the overall visual impact.
But how do you top everything that Metallica has done since the 1980s? Show director/set designer Dan Braun, who has often collaborated with Pyrotek shooter (and now project manager) Reid Derne, had some new ideas for the band’s latest trek — and it involved synchronized effects crossing over from visuals to staging and audio.

Koenig sets the stage on fire. Metallica 2017 tour photo by Steve Jennings.

Pyro and Inflatables
“One of the first ideas Dan brought to the table, at the very top of the show, were two giant inflatable balls that would inflate out of the audio cantilevers built into the stage, that featured the new album artwork,” says Derne. “At the end of the second song, the inflatables would explode and be sucked back into the cantilevers using a Tait Towers ‘sniffer.’ This was coupled with an explosion of FED and sparkle cannons, and an audio concussion sample that shook the stadium through roughly 60 Meyer VLFC’s (very low frequency cabinets)… these recreate sound waves from 13-30hz,” Derne adds.
The band’s current “WorldWired” tour also brought back the “War Scene” at the top of the song, “One,” utilizing the Stadium Gun flame units, the fire screen built into the stage, and 300-foot comets that were there to replicate tracer fire you would see in old war footage.

ER Productions provided a multitude of laser sources. Metallica 2017 tour photo by Steve Jennings

Lasers for a Roofless Show
Marc Webber, the co-founder of ER Productions, has been supporting the band’s need for laser beams since 2011 and worked closely with lighting designer and director Rob Koenig to devise a laser scheme that complemented the production design.
Although Webber had a fairly open brief, the band wanted each song to have a very different laser look and color scheme, which he choreographed and programmed in advance at the ER Productions demonstration suite in Dartford, U.K. (outside London) before the tour went on the road.
Given the lack of a fixed roof structure, festival set ups and a few shows performed in the round, Webber specified two complete laser rigs comprised of 100 Beambursts, 16 Phaenon 3000s and a huge smoke and haze package.
Along with all of its epic pyro moments, the song “One” intros with an epic laser design that might put the original Star Wars trilogy to shame.
To achieve the effect, ER productions rigged 30 Beamburst fixtures across the stage and 20 onto the delay towers, which accentuated and spread the beams across the stadium.
The resulting scene was carefully timecoded in advance to ensure consistent delivery of the segment night after night.
“For WorldWired, we’ve continued the column design from the first San Francisco show, utilizing the delay tower to enable us to fire beams in all directions,” says Webber. “It’s bigger, better and brighter than anything we’ve done for Metallica before.”

Metallica WorldWired Tour 2017

Crew

  • Show Director & Set Designer: Dan Braun
  • Lighting Designer & Director: Rob Koenig
  • Lighting Programmer: Rob Koenig, Troy Eckerman, Joe Cabrera
  • Lighting Crew Chief: JT McDonald
  • Lighting Techs: Brandon Blackman, Bill Spalliero, Nick Shields, Jason Lanning, Nikki Brote, Jack Hayes
  • Video Crew Chief: Mark Woody
  • Video Director: Dave Neugebauer
  • Video Programmer & AD: Gene McAuliffe
  • Video Engineer: Graham Holwill
  • Video Techs: Jason Lebel, Thomas Pagano, Victor Davis, Corey Lang, Benjamin Welch, Neil Welch, Erin Lynch, Julian Van Bussel, John Moore
  • Tour Manager: Dick Adams
  • Production Manager: John “Lug” Zajonc
  • Production Assistant: Henry Wetzel
  • Stage Manager: Michael Washer
  • Laser Techs: Tom Vallis (operator), Dylan Hall,
  • Pyro Techs: Hans Lundburg (Shooter), Matt Thomas, Joel Richardson, Alexander Toverada, Terrence Birdsly, Cole Bibler
  • Riggers: Chad Koehler, Ken Ruhman
  • Site Coordinators: Anthony Giordano, John “Bugzee” Hougdahl,
  • Albert Lawrence, Philip Guiliano
  • Tour Accountant: Chris Risner

 Metallica 2017 tour photo by Steve Jennings

Production Companies:

  • Lighting: Premier Global Productions (Nashville)
  • Video: PRG Nocturne
  • Content/Creation: Marcus Lyall KPX Video
  • Staging: Stageco
  • Set: Tait Towers
  • Lasers: ER Productions
  • Pyro: Pryotek
  • Trucking: Upstaging

 

Gear

Lighting:

  • 2       grandMA2 consoles
  • 69     Robe WashBeam BMFLs
  • 54     Martin Axioms
  • 30     Martin Atomic LEDs
  • 25     SGM Q-7s
  • 30     Solaris Flares
  • 16     SHS Global Titans
  • 2       Martin MAC Vipers
  • 8       HazeMasters

 

Metallica 2017 tour photo by Steve Jennings


Video System Stats:

  • LED Pixels: 921,600
  • Bytes of Video Content: 1.5 TB
  • Modules of PRG V28: 3,600
  • Power at 100%: 150 amps/270,000W
  • 2 PRG Mbox V4 Beta servers
  • 12 active layers each
  • 4 HD live video inputs each
  • 2 HD outputs of 3840x1080


Lasers and Atmosphere:

  • 100   ER Productions Beambursts
  • 16     Phaenon 30000s
  • 16     Look Solutions Viper Deluxe smoke machines
  • 4       Look Solutions Unique Hazers
  • 12     Look Solutions Hand Held Power Tiny Foggers

 

 More Metallica 2017 "WorldWired" tour photos by Steve Jennings:

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