Peter Gabriel Back to Front Tour

in Showtime

Peter Gabriel 2012 Back to Front tour photo by Steve JenningsLighting Co
Upstaging Inc.

Various (tour)


Lighting Designer/Director: Rob Sinclair

Lighting Crew Chief: Steve Kellaway

Lighting Techs: T-Roy Smith, Jim Fredrickson, Chris Donati

Video Director: Blue Leach

Video Crew Chief: Jim Liddiard

Chief Technology Officer: Nev Bull

Boom Captain: Pitsoe Pirie

Production Manager: Gary Trew

Tour Manager: Dave Taraskevics

Kinesys/Helix Operator: Steve Belfield

Lead Software Developer: Stefan Goodchild

Developers: James Acres, Alex Rook

Producer: George Sinclair

Staging Co: Upstaging Inc.

Video Co: Creative Technology

Booms: Total Fabrications


1 Jands Vista S1 w/2 M1

15 Clay Paky Alpha Spot QWO 800s

26 Martin MAC 2000 Wash XBs

61 Martin MAC Auras

1 Vari*Lite VL3500 Wash

14 Atomic Strobes

14 Lowel Omni 10" Scoops

12 8-Lite Moles

4 Handheld floods

5 Reel EFX DF-50 Diffusion hazers

4 Jem ZR44 Hi-Mass foggers

For more photos by Steve Jennings please go to

Designer’s Insights, by Steve Jennings

We spoke with Lighting Designer Rob Sinclair about the 2012 Peter Gabriel Back to Front tour, which he is also directing. Gabriel performs gems from his rich catalog along with the entire So album from start to finish, bringing back the original band that played on the classic album for the tour.  Sinclair’s other credits include Adele, Pet Shop Boys, Mumford and Sons, Pulp and Queen + Adam Lambert, to name a few.

Rob Sinclair:

“For this tour, we wanted to have a definite visual identity for the So album, and thought backwards from there.  In the past, we always avoided using red lights during the song ‘Red Rain,’ so a decision to go to the opposite of that led to an idea to not use colored lights for the first part of the set.

“We code-named the three parts of the show as ‘Houselights,’ ‘Kansas’ and ‘Oz.’ ‘Houselights’ was just that, no production, house on, and the band playing as if in a rehearsal.  ‘Kansas’ was all monochrome, and started suddenly, with a house light blackout in the middle of ‘Family Snapshot.’ It included some pretty dark songs like ‘Digging in the Dirt,’ ‘Family and the Fishing Net’ and ‘No Self Control,’ which all got the full horror show treatment, and also the optimism of ‘Solsbury Hill,’ which had a nostalgic sepia feel.  ‘Oz’ was the So section, which started with an all-red ‘Red Rain’ and finished with a multi colored ‘In Your Eyes.’

“This was the third time I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Peter. I was brought on board for a short tour of South America in 2009, was invited back for the New Blood Orchestra project the next year and was really excited to be invited again for this show.  We had lots of meetings over the six months before the show — a development week in June where we set up the booms, the risers and played with video and lighting ideas, and a very busy two weeks of rehearsals in Québec. Everything was done face-to-face — I’d go away, research and draw new ideas, and come back the next time ready to change everything again.

“Over my many years in the business, I’ve heard a lot about the Peter Gabriel booms from the 1987 tour. It’s a legendary show, which people rightly hold up as a benchmark. When Peter decided to play So for the anniversary of the album, using the booms again gave us an obvious connection to what had gone before. We dug them out of storage in March, had them completely reengineered to take the weight of the modern lights, tried them at our development week in June, got slightly terrified by them, and had them reengineered again. The original show only had four booms, but we had a new one made to take us to five.

“I must thank Mervyn Thomas and his team at Total Fabrications who did the engineering; the amazing Pitsoe Pirie, our boom captain, who has overseen their safe construction and running every day; and, of course, our touring boom swingers and their local assistants for doing a great job every night.  The combination of man and machine makes them a wonderful and unique effect; able to be both menacing and comforting, sinister and friendly.

“We’re using Clay Paky QWO 800s on the ends of the booms. We did a shoot-out to find the right combination of brightness, weight and zoom range, and they won. Every pound we put on the end of the boom has to be counterbalanced four times at the other end, so quite small differences add considerably to the final weight. Each boom is a thousand-pound monster perched on quite a small piece of stage.

“I tried not to watch the original show too closely, as I wanted to put my own stamp on things and not try and copy the past. We do reference the old show in ‘No Self Control,’ where the booms attack Peter, and in ‘Mercy Street,’ where they caress him, but, hopefully, we do both in new ways.  I was very excited to get the opportunity to re-imagine the show, although I was also very nervous and felt a great weight of expectation and history. Hopefully we did justice to the booms and their history.

“Peter is great to work for, and I’ve learned a tremendous amount from him. He understands and speaks the language of technical theatre and has a knack of always being right.  He can take a good idea and twist it into a great one. It’s always brutally hard work, but the result is worth the pain.

“Blue Leach came on board as video director for the New Blood project and returns for this show. As well as being a great friend and a lovely man, he brings a unique sensitivity and strangeness to cutting cameras that turns simple image into art. As well as the usual modern equipment, he’s running some vintage gear including an MX50, a super-rare Fairlight CVI and a box that makes signals fail in a series of interesting and unpredictable ways.

“We decided to set ourselves a rule that there would be no pre recorded, repeating video content in the show. Blue’s cameras become the content for a lot of the show but we also have some custom software created by Stefan Goodchild, James Acres and Alex Rook that generates live audio responsive graphics and runs a system of Xbox kinect cameras that turn the band into haunting 3D avatars during ‘Red Rain’.

"I can’t finish without thanking Nev Bull, our chief ethnology officer, who puts together a frankly frightening number of computers to help Blue and I do what we want with the screens, as well as running the live video effects through Catalyst.”

Editor's note: A previous version of this posting had the wrong number of hazers touring with the show. PLSN regrets the error.