American music legend Tom Petty and his Heartbreakers recently concluded a summer North American tour that saw the three decades-old band rock playing across 36 cities. Lighting designer and longtime Petty friend and colleague Jim Lenahan, who attended high school with the rocker, has designed the band's lighting for nearly 35 years, and this tour was no exception.
Lenahan's rig was made up of five trusses, each curved quarter circles, or fingers, based together at upstage center like a hand, each with three Martin Professional MAC 2000 Wash XBs™ — the first-ever US production using these new fixtures — and outlined with Philips Solid-State Lighting Solutions ColorBlaze 72 LED units. The lighting package also consisted of a combination of other Martin gear — Stagebar 54™ LED luminaires, LC Series™ 1140 LED panels, and MAC 700 Profiles™ — as well as Vari-Lite VL1000s and VL3500s, and High End Systems Showguns. Lighting supply was by Ed and Ted's Excellent Lighting, now Epic Production Technologies.
The Stagebar 54 LEDs, positioned in four 2'×2' squares and clipped directly onto the truss, lined the inside of the truss fingers and an overarching 40'-diameter semicircle truss as toners. Splitting the five fingers was the semicircle arch truss, “like a horseshoe in a tree,” Lenahan says. ColorBlaze units and MAC 700 Profiles also lined this truss with the interior of the horseshoe filled with LC Series LED panels, floating mid stage, an effect Lenahan describes as “putting a square peg in a round hole.”
Lights were positioned behind the semi-transparent LC Series panels, with an additional curtain of Barco MiPix balls hanging in front of them as well as MiTrix cubes from XL Video, with frames built by SGPS ShowRig, for another layer of video effects. CW Productions provided SAMSC Design Catalyst media servers, as well as six High End Systems DL.3 projectors for the main rear-projected I-Mag content.
Four different resolutions of video were incorporated in the design: full HD, medium-definition via the MiTrix, the LC panels, and the MiPix. “Combining the different resolutions makes for different illusions,” Lenahan says. “It messes with your vision. You can see through a series of layers, and there's lots of depth.” Lenahan also used a variety of light beams in his design. “The idea was to use multiple qualities of light to go with the multiple screen resolutions. It makes for great visuals.”
All video content — a mixture of original abstract and I-Mag — was preprogrammed and sent to the various video screens via an Encore system in conjunction with Control Freak Systems software by Stuart White. This included pan, tilt, and zoom of the robotic cameras. There were four operated cameras, four robotic cameras, and one lipstick cam fed to 14 screens. XL Video also provided the cameras and the engineering package. “There was no video director on the tour,” notes Lenahan. “All camera cuts happened when lighting cues were activated.”
Control was via an MA Lighting grandMA console, including five NSPs, with lighting programming by Stan Green. In addition, a 60-channel two-scene preset Jands console and an Avolites Diamond 4 Vision were in service.
Lenahan makes particular note of his use of the new Martin XB fixtures. “They are incredibly bright,” he says. “In fact, I almost never use them at 100%. They are the real workhorses of the show and have a real richness and saturated color to them.” Additional gear for the tour included Martin Atomic 3000s™, Jem ZR33 Hi-Mass fog machines, Reel EFX DF-50 Hazers, Strong Super Troupers, Martin Atomic Detonator controllers, ETC Sensor+ 2.4kW rolling dimmer racks, Skjonberg 48-way distro, Pro Power distro, Doug Fleenor opto splitters, Gefen DVI 1:8 distribution amplifiers, Beyerdynamic and David Clark headsets, and Clear-Com PSUs, beltpacks, and interfaces.