Live's fourth studio release, The Distance to Here, finds the band in a more upbeat mood than their previous album, the darker-themed Secret Samadhi. Working with the band for the first time on its current tour, LD Ethan Weber is helping them lighten things up.
"They wanted to brighten things up a bit, but they were looking for more subtle lighting than the standard rock show. Their few requirements of the lighting were that they didn't want to see it, and they didn't want it to overshadow the music," Weber says. "Most musicians want the light to enhance the music rather than overpower it. So we brightened up the colors and went with the 'less is more' approach. The rig is not huge, but it is pretty versatile. There is a midstage and an upstage truss with some minibeam truss running diagonally in between, and it's all raked, so there are some different layers to it."
Band and management also wanted a working LD. "I've always operated the shows I've designed because I feel that if you're responsible for the lights, you should be there from the beginning to make any decisions that need to be made," Weber says. "Plus, I enjoy the whole process from focusing to loading out."
While having only two days to program the show made for a rough start, the LD has continued to flesh out the looks as the tour has progressed. "I keep adding more elements to each song, and the band will watch the show tapes with me occasionally and request minor changes," Weber says. "But they understand that it's a time-consuming process, and overall they're happy with the direction we're going in. They've been great to work with."
The tour's main lighting contractor is Vari-Lite Production Services and the lighting crew includes Ronnie Beal and Peter Lanza. Lighting equipment includes: an Avolites Diamond III console, 11 Vari*Lite(R) VL5(TM) automated wash luminaires, 16 VL6(TM) automated spot luminaires, 12 Diversitronics strobes, four Wybron 8-light Colorams, 14 Chroma-Q PAR-64 color changers, 122 PAR-64s, four 8-lights, 20 ETC Source Fours, two Lighting & Electronics Broad Cycs, two Reel EFX DF-50 hazers, and one High End Systems F-100(TM) smoke machine.
"One reason for choosing the Vari-Lite package was that we went into a lot of venues where we couldn't bring our whole rig, but it was easy to bring in a few boxes of VL5s and VL6s," Weber says. "It doesn't take any time at all to hang them and then we had the basis of our show. It worked out pretty well and made for a lot less hassle programming-wise. And every time I program a show with the Diamond III, I find new and surprising little tricks. It gets easier every time and it's always a pleasure. Since we played everything from 1,000-seat club venues to 11,000-seat arenas in Europe, the rig had to be really versatile."
The band is currently playing in the US and plans to come out with a larger production for sheds and arenas this summer.