The Boss Embraces Video

Bruce Springsteen's Magic Tour is winding down after nearly a year on the road, and has moved outdoors for the summer months. We covered the tour in detail in the November issue of LD (http://livedesignonline.com/concerts/dancing_dark/index.html), but it's interesting to note that the Boss has, finally, allowed LD Jefff Ravitz to incorporate video in the rig.

"The video was a visual solution to the fact that we don't have a rear audience in the stadiums," Ravitz explains. "We had developed several scenic suggestions for back there, but Bruce wanted and okayed a video wall. This is such new territory for him, but he's seen his other friends do it and the possibilities intrigued him. He's shied away from it before, just like he's shunned backdrops, because he thinks anything too literal just means he hasn't planted these images into the audience's brain with his lyrics and performance. He's thought of those as a crutch. And anything too abstract would possibly distract. Finally, what to put up there? He just doesn't want to devote the time to figuring it out, because, well, he's sort of busy!

"But, this time he said yes," Ravitz continues "I asked for it to wrap around the sides little because so many people see the side walls of a stadium stage as their "background" view. But, knowing that there might be many songs with no content, I also added around 16 Morpheus Panaspot XR2s on the floor to rake color and texture across the screen surface when there is no video playing. The only images were some clouds, fireworks and a few other things that have been added, gingerly, over the course of the last eight weeks in Europe and here."

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Other changes to the rig have been mostly as a result of the move outdoors. "We added a lot of audience light and supplemental stuff out on thoe side runways to outline and enhance the huge side screen areas and to give the show the scale it requires to 'fill' a stadium. We also added lights to the audio delay towers out in the house, so we could beef up the deep and far away audience without having to reach them from the stage. It also adds excitement and more "fill" for the large venue. Plus our usual front of house spots that are used when anyone ventures forward to the downstage ramps and runways, are now on these enormous delay towers instead of being up in the stands."

I was lucky enough to attend the July 31 performance at Giants Stadium in East Rutheford, NJ--basically Springsteen's backyard. It was something of an adventurous night: a propane trailer overturned on the Meadowlands exit off the Jersey Turnpike, causing total rush hour chaos and delaying the arrival of most of the attendees. I went with my wife and two daughters to the gig--it was the kids' first rock show, and no, I had to explain to them, overturned tractor trailers generally aren't part of a rock show--and it took us over three and a half hours to get to the parking lot. Luckily, most of the other attendees were late, so they delayed the start of the show for an hour. Springsteen fans were not disappointed, playing many of his hits as well as a few old chestnuts that are apparently rarities in concert, like "Jungleland," "Rosalita," and "Incident at 57th Street," even one I've never even heard of called "Pretty Flamingo." Ravitz lighting remain as crisp and effortless as it was when I saw the show back in the fall; I can't think of many LDs who are so perfectly matched to the performers, but he's right up there with the best of the lot.

I also have to say I'm quite proud of my little rockers, who quickly mastered both the generic rock concert fist pump and the quite specific refrain of BRROOOOCE from this particular audience. And was equally surprised at my youngest, who fell asleep after the first 90 minutes and didn't stir for the rest of the show. We had to pack them into the car as the encore began, late as it was, but I'm glad this got to be their first show and not, shudder to think, Hannah Montana.

Ravitz' lighting director on the tour remains Todd Ricci, since 2002; the GrandMA operator is John Hoffman, programmed by Jason Badger. Springsteen and the E Street Band are scheduled to tour through the end of August. Ravitz is currently working on a TV project and says he will try to be at LDI again this year.

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