Alicia Keys’ Set The World On Fire Tour has been adding dates around the world since it started North American dates in early Spring, spending most of the summer in Europe. We caught up with production/lighting designer Jonathan Goldstein to discuss his design process and the results for the North American leg, that included lighting provided by Premier Global Production, video by Chaos Visual Productions, scenic and automation by Tait, previz at Volt Lites, and soft goods from Rose Brand. (Photos courtesy of Starlight Visual, and check out the full photo gallery).

Live Design: How did you involved with this tour?

Jonathan Goldstein: I was approached by the creative director Simon Henwood nearly a year in advance. He brought me onboard for one of Alicia’s campaign photo shoots, where I got to art direct the shoot. I also designed the set for her 2012 MTV VMAs performance, so we were able to get to get integrated into her camp quite some time prior to the actual tour design coming around. 

LD: What was the design philosophy going into the project?

JG: Conceived by Henwood, it was the show with no show. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? No! What that meant was no one production element could get in the way of the music really carrying the show, and not only the music but the talent of Alicia. It is not a typical thing in our industry that you get to work with a truly talented musician. Some artists are talented performers and entertainers, and then you have others that have the music running deep within their core; that’s what Alicia has, and it’s becoming a harder quality to find nowadays.

LD: Does Alicia get involved in the design concept at all?

JG: She was right there with Simon, approving each scene and act of the shows direction. Along with Simon, we had Luam Keflegzy onboard as show director/choreographer. Luam worked with Alicia on a daily basis, directing and enhancing the flow of the show and performers and musicians on stage. Luam was Alicia’s voice to me when Alicia could not be physically present through the design process. It was a great collaboration between the four of us. 

LD: What is the overall design aesthetic?

JG: Simon created and directed the screen visuals. Each section of the show was broken down into interior or exterior scenes. Simon comes from a directorial background so he storyboarded the show out in that manner; it was always meant as if we were looking through a lens, so the lighting and visuals had to translate softly and really emit the goal of where Alicia was physically, whether that is supposed to be inside the New York City apartment where she grew up or outside in the rain. As we moved forward in the show, the scenes became less about physical location and more about emotion, so we kind of break the fourth wall and let the audience into her dream.

LD: Who else was on your creative team and key crew?

JG: We had a great team dealing with the technical and direction of this shows lighting and visuals. We had tons of continued changes, even through rehearsals, which made things down to the wire technically. Cameron Yeary was our lead video technical director, and he did the systems design. Florian Mosley jumped in toward the end to come and make sure all the [coolux] Pandoras Box systems were operating properly. John DaCosta was the Pandoras Box programmer/video director on the road, and he also called the live camera switch. Jesse Blevins was lighting programmer and director and great at both! Just ask [hip hop artist and Keys’s husband] Swizz Beatz, who stood behind him jumping up and down.

Read part 2 of our interview with Goldstein.