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Keane Cause and Effect Tour

Steve Jennings (Photos and Text) • Designer InsightsJune 2020 • June 4, 2020

A sheet of light illuminates the band. KEANE © Steve Jennings

We caught Keane, the English rock band, on the North American leg of their Cause and Effect tour, in support of the band’s fifth studio album of the same name released last fall. Starting with their debut album — the second best-selling British album in 2004 — they continue to have top-charting albums and singles. We spoke with production and lighting designer Louisa Smurthwaite and lighting programmer/director Steve Heywood about the design for the 2020 North American tour leg. Originally slated from March 5-28, had to be cut short after their fifth show, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, on March 10, due to Covid-19.

Martin MAC Auras provide the side beams. KEANE © Steve Jennings

Louisa Smurthwaite
Production and Lighting Designer

As Keane’s production and lighting designer, Louisa Smurthwaite says she was lucky enough to operate the last shows the band did for longtime designer Rob Sinclair before the band took a break in music. It was a worldwide live stream from a closed cinema in Berlin. The band was aware it was the first time she had operated for them. “The show went really well, and feedback from the tour manager (then Colin Davies) was that the band felt everything was on point and liked what I had done. It was after that that I was asked to light [lead singer] Tom Chaplin’s solo tours” in support of his solo albums, The Wave (2016) and Twelve Tales of Christmas (2017). “It naturally progressed from there to the current band’s Cause and Effect tour.”

KEANE © Steve Jennings

Smurthwaite loved theater from childhood. She was always the person that lit youth theater shows, and got her start in the industry at age 18. She started as a theater technician at Battersea Arts Centre in London, a venue that welcomed a mixed community of talented in-house producers and incoming productions. “I learned a lot from incoming designers there, and I also got to light shows and work with directors from a young age.

“With the folly of youth, I wanted a ‘more exciting’ way of life, [and] the next few years I worked for White Light Ltd and then LCI Productions, where I learned laser programming and projection skills. This is where I first stepped onto a tour bus, as a laser tech for Grace Jones on her 2008 album tour, Hurricane.

“Over the years, I ended up doing lasers, running cameras and lighting shows for her. In the early days, the combo of lasers and lighting made me attractive to smaller bands, as I could program both — it saved them money and made it possible. Having worked with lights, lasers and video, I naturally had an eye for balance between mediums to make cohesive ‘whole’ shows without one element stomping on others.”

Opposing side light adds visual drama. KEANE © Steve Jennings

After 10 years on the road working as a lighting designer, director and programmer, Smurthwaite just finished a year at art school, where she says she wanted to develop a practice rooted more in art and design. She has since gone on as LD (to name a few) for Sam Smith’s The Thrill of it All tour, designed by Tim Routledge; Glass Animals’ How To Be a Human Being tour, Rag‘n’Bone Man’s Human tour and Florence + The Machine’s How Big tour, where she working again with LD Rob Sinclair.

Smurthwaite had two meetings with the band, tour manager Mark Dempsey and also Beth Warren and Adam Tudhope from Everybody’s Management. “We spoke about things that were important to them. The album artwork was still being developed — I’d only seen a few paper textures from the artwork, and Tim [Rice-Oxley, Keane keyboardist/singer/songwriter] talked about how he was excited by simple block color.

“I went away and thought about the best way to use color to its true effectiveness, and it felt right to give them a blank canvas — this was really the basis of the show. We could paint anything on that canvas with abundance. As the album artwork completed and we all saw the warmth of the paper textures, it was then I spoke to Jack James at RCM, who made the content (for the U.K. run). We recreated with a new twist, some of the old artwork the band had.

X4 Bar 20 fixtures throw shafts of light. KEANE © Steve Jennings

“Some of my favorite moments in the show are the stop animation style recreations of the artwork from past tours. I had drawn a set that was essentially a stage within a stage; it illuminated from beneath the band. It had some custom-made light boxes behind the band, and beyond that, it had the blank canvas far upstage, so it was really becoming something you could shift between perspectives with lots of depth play. It was a new band layout for the guys, which they took to really well. Tom [Chaplin, singer/songwriter] and Jesse [Quin, bassist, multi-instrumentalists, vocals] really used the height and width of it to make some exciting interactions between them all.”

Planning looks for songs with bold color, Smurthwaite went back and drew inspiration from some “true masters” — the late artist/educator Josef Albers (for Smurthwaite’s palettes of color) and James Turrell, of Roden Crater fame, for her sense of depth, light and form. “I really liked the mix of rock-show-cum-art-installation. I actually wanted to use a lot more front light in the show; it was due to budget with labor costs to not take a front truss everywhere.

KEANE © Steve Jennings

“The things I wanted to play with relied so much on color temperatures. We couldn’t really rely on the different in-house rigs, so we went with side lights for lots of illumination of the band,” she says (with apologies to monitor engineer Ralph Smart). “Lighting the set pieces, I really needed fixtures with consistent good mixing, and lots of the same thing. So many thanks to the lovely teams at GLP and Martin lighting. They’re always on hand if we need any help. The only fixtures I ‘had’ to use, due to dimensions of the stage, were the Color Force II by Chroma-Q, and I was really impressed with the brightness and mixing on them.”

Smurthwaite first met Steve Heywood when he was the venue tech in the Oxford Academy. They both used the same desk back then and knew some of the same people, so it was good to bond. “He took over the Glass Animals tour from me a year or so later, when I needed a break from touring. He did a brilliant job. He was the person that I really trusted to take my words and make them into cues and execute those cues with metronomic steadfastness. The Keane members ended up nicknaming him ‘Steed’ rather than Steve,” alluding, no doubt, to the unflappable gent in the British TV series, The Avengers.

KEANE © Steve Jennings

“We spent a week or so in visualization at Christie Lites in Coventry. I really like to have all the cues nailed before we even see lights in the production period. I spent three shows adjusting things, then left it to him. I could change things forever, so I’m sure he was pleased I left. I’d like to thank the band — Tim, Tom, Richard and Jesse — for letting me shine lights in their eyes. Beth and Adam for trusting me. Mark [Dempsey, TM], Simon [Hall, PM] and Steve [Heywood] for making it happen. As well as Mat [Ilot] at Christie Lites, [and] all at Hangman, for the scenic elements, and the team at RCM for the content. Oh, and my dog, for being at rehearsals and making everyone smile.”

KEANE © Steve Jennings

Steve Heywood
Lighting Programmer/Director

Steve Heywood was approached by Louisa Smurthwaite last year about the lighting director and programmer role. They had previously worked together on pop band Glass Animals, then Heywood took a short gap from touring after the birth of his second child. “It was timed really well, to get back into it and work with Louisa again,” he says.

For the Keane tour, Heywood had been using the Vista by Chroma-Q S1 console, which both he and Smurthwaite have used for quite a while. “It’s what she had programmed Glass Animals on, and it’s my ‘go to’ desk on most jobs. Just before we started Keane, Louisa had been on the grandMA for Sam Smith, another desk I know well. We discussed which one to use and decided in the short time frame we had before the initial festival shows that we could get the most out of the Vista.

KEANE © Steve Jennings

“People always seem surprised when it turns up at FOH, and it’s always nice to be able to show them around it,” Heywood adds. “The programming flow is excellent and lends itself to very quick, yet precise work, both initially creating the show and updating while on the road. Features such as the ‘Alias Cue,’ where copied cues update each other if further changes are made; and the timeline feature, for quick-yet-complicated offsets, really help with this. The FX engine is also very versatile, allowing the creation of very dynamic looks. Finally, I really enjoy the visual layout of fixtures. Once you move away from a number of a fixture and into just a tap to select, I find I can spend more time looking up at the rig than down at the desk.”

Heywood has spent more time as a lighting director than programmer. On lots of the other tours he’s been on, he’s taken over when it was already on the road. “I really enjoy both roles — the problem-solving of programming and the creativity as a lighting director — and I also enjoy seeing a show through another designer’s eyes. The first mock-ups I did in WYSIWYG after Louisa sent me the plot look very different from where we are now, and when the band adds a new track, which they often do. I have to think, ‘How would Louisa light this?’ There is no time-code or triggers on the show. It would be achievable, as the band are on a click, but there is a large pool of songs they like to choose from,” he adds, noting that this tour is for their fifth studio album, and adding that there have been nine Eps and B-sides that have been released. “And we had 10 days initially to get the show up and running. This way, we could spend more time on the ‘design’ and less on the ‘programming.’ I have a musical background and enjoy running a show live with all the nuances that can be added as is needed. Now we’re into the flow of it, and most of the show is second nature. I enjoy being at FOH, seeing the result of every button push.”

Heywood is using GLP X4 Bar 20’s, JDC1’s and Martin MAC Aura XB’s among his lighting fixture package, and says there is a good reason why all of them are a staple of so many shows at the moment. “We have four rows of X4 Bars at the back of the stage (two flown and two on the ground) giving both light curtain and cyc effects, and it has been good fun playing with those, especially on the cyc, to find new things to do with them. Just when you think you’ve done all there is, I’ll sit down one day and find something else. We have our JDC1’s on their side at the bottom of the light poles either side of stage. This means we can tilt them up and down stage. They make a terrific flat wash and some great shadow play. There’s a few moments in the show where they are the only lights on. The Color Forces light the front of the drum riser and pack a great punch. For most of the show, they are at quite a minimal level, and then can smash when needed. The strobe options on these make for some nice effects, and they have a lovely dimming curve at the low end, keeping the same color all the way to off position.

“Mat [Ilot] and Christie Lites have been great to work with, allowing us to take over office space and providing us superb crew throughout the tours. It has been a great few months on Keane. The Oakland show PLSN covered was unfortunately the second-to-last before the U.S. tour was cut short due to Coronavirus. I am lucky to be working for a band and management who have continually looked out for the crew through the whole time I’ve been with them and continue to do so now. I look forward to getting back together with everyone soon to continue where we left off, and wish everyone in the industry well at this trying time.”

Christie Lites provided the fixtures. KEANE © Steve Jennings

Keane Cause and Effect Tour

Crew

  • Production & Lighting Designer: Louisa Smurthwaite
  • Lighting Programmer/Director: Steve Heywood
  • Lighting Co: Christie Lites
  • Crew Chief: James Poepping (U.S.) Mike Sanchez (U.K./EU)
  • Lighting Tech: John Hetherton (U.K.)
  • Tour Manager: Mark Dempsey
  • Production & Stage Manager: Simon Hall
  • Christie Lites Rep: Mat Ilot
  • Content: Jack James/RCM
  • Staging: Metalman
  • Drapes: Hangman
  • Trucking: Stage Call (U.S.)/Fly By Nite (U.K./EU)

Gear U.S. Tour:

  • 1       Vista By Chroma-Q S1; 2 M1+backup consoles
  • 40     GLP X4 Bar 20’s
  • 8       GLP JDC1’s
  • 24     Martin MAC Aura XB’s
  • 8       Martin MAC III Profiles
  • 6       Martin MAC 700 Spots
  • 12     Claypaky B-Eye K10’s
  • 4       Claypaky Sharpys
  • 3       Chroma-Q Color Force 72’s
  • 3       Chroma-Q Color Force 12’s
  • 12     Chauvet Strike 1’s
  • 2       Half mirror balls
  • 2       ReelFX DF-50 hazers
  • 2       Look Solution Unique hazers

 

More Keane Cause and Effect 2020 tour photos by Steve Jennings: 

 

 

 

 

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