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Rob Thomas “Chip Tooth” Tour

Richard Olson • August 2019Wide Focus • August 9, 2019

All Access supplied the set. Photos by Jim Trocchio Photography

Matchbox Twenty frontman Rob Thomas recently kicked off his solo “Chip Tooth” tour with a full production design, including lighting programming, handled by Benoit Richard. The production designer has worked with Matchbox Twenty since 2000, and also designed Rob Thomas’ first two solo tours. He serves as production and lighting designer on this outing. Patrick Hayes handles lighting direction and additional programming.

For the last several years Benoit, a Canadian who has resided in the U.S. for the last 25 years, has recently been busier in the motion picture industry working on films such as Iron Man 3 and Captain Marvel. Music and touring have taken a backseat to his busy schedule running his company, Millennium Design Inc., and renting out control solutions along with his programming skills. But when his old friend Rob Thomas announced he was hitting the road, Benoit was all in.

An all white look makes a statement

‡‡         Clean, Classy and New

“My goal was to deliver a visual experience that is very ‘clean and classy’ and also offer forward thinking ideas by using new and exciting lighting technologies,” comments Richard, who created plenty of visually stunning moments in the show, reinforcing hits from Thomas’ solo career as well as a few songs from Matchbox Twenty. “The toughest part is to avoid repeating key gags and effects more than once to create the anticipation of ‘What’s coming next?’ Having a bunch of multi-purpose lights that are more than one-trick ponies is something I was adamant about utilizing.”

Bandit supplied Benoit with everything he asked for

The designer notes that he had some specific ideas when it came to this design. There were two major factors that came into play. One was that he wanted the fixtures to all be IP65 rated instruments. The tour alternates between outdoor and indoor venues and the memories Benoit had of old shed tours and non-working fixtures were not fond ones. The second was he liked the idea of getting the majority of all his lights from the same manufacturer.

Benoit explains, “There’s a special identity that comes from having a rig with luminaires from the same manufacturer. I was able to achieve that in the 90’s and the 00’s with other manufacturers and then it got a bit mixed up where it made more sense to build a rig by going to more than one ‘grocery store.’ But this year, I felt it was the perfect time to be ‘elated’ by Rob’s music and by Elation’s new products. I am very confident that we are delivering a great visual experience for Rob and his fans.” In the end, 99 percent of all the fixtures on tour were Elation products.

The artist leaps to the stage

When choosing which company’s fixtures he would request for the tour, Richard said the choice wasn’t too difficult. “I will admit that I have been close friends with my fellow countryman and Elation rep Jean Lariviere for 30 years. Eric Loader has also become a good friend over the last few years, so I kept an eye on their latest products. The other main asset that Elation brought to the table is that they are at the forefront of designing IP65 rated fixtures.”

Richard has also maintained a great relationship with Bandit Lites over the years and is especially fond of owner Michael T. Strickland. “Bandit was all in and had my back from the get-go. Michael basically told his team to go out and purchase whatever it took from Elation to make the tour a success. Not a single substitute fixture was ever mentioned. I thank my friend for that.”

Budgets are a concern on the majority of tours, so when Richard drew up his plot, he made a conscious decision to bypass all video elements and dedicate the allotted funds towards his lighting budget. This of course allowed him enough money to have an impressive lighting rig. But he also needed a set and some soft goods.

“I went to All Access and had them pull their old 40-foot-wide curved ramps out of their boneyard. I threw a cross stage runway deck behind that and some basic risers for the band. Then I got Sew What? to make us some custom riser skirting with a white poly silk behind some black sharkstooth scrim material. I put some Elation Paladins on the floor under the risers to make the skirts illuminate with color, but when not lit they remained dark, due to the sharkstooth.

The Elation rig provides some sexy beams

‡‡         Sparkling Effects

Richard’s choice of fixtures includes Elation’s new Rayzor 760, a compact wash LED luminaire with SparkLED technology that he incorporates as a key visual component of the show. “The Rayzor 760 is the anchor in my design,” he says. “This brand new luminaire is so versatile and looks great as a simple wash or as a specialty effect light. We are using 48 Rayzor fixtures and they are everywhere in the rig.” When asked if he incorporates the SparkLED effect in his show, Richard commented, “I certainly do! Rob has a song called ‘Her Diamonds’ which was an immediate source of inspiration for me when I first saw this feature.” Benoit had planned on just using the sparkle effect once, but the artist loved it so much he requested the LD should incorporate a different version of the effect into one more song.

Although an all LED rig was the designer’s original thinking, he says that due to the wide variety of venues they play, especially outdoors, he chose the IP65-rated arc source Proteus Hybrid as his hard edge light. Twenty-two of them populate the aerial rig. They are not LED powered, but are IP-rated.

Seeking another multi-faceted light, the designer turned to the Protron Eclypse. “With this fixture, once again the recurring theme is versatility,” Benoit notes. “In one song, the Eclypse is a static wash light, then later on it’s a special effect light, and once in a while it’s a traditional strobe.” To illuminate the audience in warm tones Richard spec’d variable white DTW Blinder 350 IP LED blinders, 2-lighters that the designer calls a throwback to the days of tungsten moles.

Richard says when he designed the set he was looking for a compact pixelated backlight to place on the floor behind the band. He chose the Chorus Line 8 LED batten with zoom and convenient tilt axis movement, which he says reveals more and more of what it can do over the course of the show. These six-foot long strip lights were used to illuminate a black Chaos backdrop rented from Sew What? which is made of tight knit camo netting and has plenty of swags built in to take light beautifully from below. The set is also lined with 12 custom runs of Acclaim Flex Tube Pixel RGB LED strips to accentuate the contours of the risers and ramps.

Only one fixture prevented the lighting from being an all Elation rig. Richard expands on this, “I required one really bright moving light that I could stick upstage to act as a truss spot. Because we are playing a few height challenged venues on the tour, I couldn’t go with a traditional overhead spot op. I requested a Proteus Maximus for an automated spot, but they just couldn’t get one released in time before the tour started. I settled for a Robe BMFL with the RoboSpot system and it has been flawless.”

‡‡         Controlling the Pixels

Richard’s console of choice is the Hog 4. One of the reasons he loves his desk is the onboard pixel-mapping engine. “I have the whole rig pixel mapped per fixture. I have separate maps for the Chorus Lines, the Paladins, the Rayzors, I even mapped the Proteus Hybrids. I admit I went a little crazy with this function simply because it was so much fun. Well, that, and it also looks great. At times I used the Hog to only pixel map the dimmer function or just the color or both”.

Rob Thomas’ North American run launched May 28 at the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, NJ. Touring in support of his fourth solo album, Chip Tooth Smile, released in late April, the tour will extend throughout the fall, wrapping up on September 28th in Napa Valley, CA before heading overseas for a series of shows in Australia in November 2019.

Benoit Richard, CEO of Millennium Lighting Design Inc., is represented by Michael Wright at Rooftop Management. He can be reached through his website at www.benoitmld.com.

Rob Thomas’ “Chip Tooth” Tour

Crew

  • Production & Lighting Designer: Benoit Richard
  • Lighting Director: Patrick Hayes
  • Lighting Co: Bandit Lites
  • Bandit Lites Team: Jeff Archibeque, Justin Wilk, Andrew Ellis, Michael T. Strickland
  • Elation Reps: Jean Lariviere, Eric Loader
  • Tour Manager: Jessica Suchter
  • Production Manager: Andrew Crow
  • Production Assistant: Lindsay Baker
  • Management Co: Lippman Entertainment
  • Staging Co: All Access Staging
  • Soft Goods: Sew What?
  • Stage Manager/Rigger: Harry Gray
  • Set Carpenter: Chris Hazelton
  • FOH Sound Engineer: Mark Chase
  • Monitor Engineer: Jeremy Groshong
  • PA Tech: Suzy Mucciarone

 

Gear

  • 1       High End Systems Hog 4 console
  • 48     Elation Rayzor 760 fixtures (/ SparkLED
  • 22     Elation Proteus Hybrids
  • 21     Elation Protron Eclypse fixtures
  • 24     Elation Chorus Line 8 LED battens
  • 14     Elation Colour Chorus 72’s
  • 10     Elation Paladins
  • 10     Elation DTW Blinder 350 IP LED 2-Lighters
  • 1       Robe BMFL RoboSpot
  • 12     Custom runs of Acclaim Flex Tube Pixel LED strips

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