When archetypal big-haired, spandex-clad metal band Motley Crue released its greatest hits album last year, its tattooed members decided to hit the road once again. LD Charlie "Cosmo" Wilson met with band member Nikki Sixx last September to discuss the tour's design. "They were looking for an LD, and their idea was that they wanted a lighting design that was also a set," Wilson explains. "He wanted something that wrapped around the band, so I envisioned a skeleton of a bandshell for the lighting rig."
While drawing his ideas out, Wilson realized that the design he wanted was three-dimensional and difficult to render on paper, so he cut the trusses out of foam core. "I did the trusses, the drum riser, and the backline and then put it in a box and hung it with black thread, just so I could see what it would look like. Then I showed the model to the band and management and they all fell in love with it."
Light & Sound Design won the tour's lighting contract, and built the rig from Wilson's model. "I was going to use finger trusses coming up and around the band, then connecting trusses in between, but it was too complicated, so LSD had some arches that worked just as well. Originally, I planned to use no intelligent lighting at all because the band wanted a 70s retro rock-and-roll show. But management told them they really should have some automated lighting, so I got eight Icons(R). That was great for me because I got to use the Icon desk, which is my favorite to operate."
After three nights of programming in rehearsals, the band asked Wilson to change some of the colors. "I had a magenta and a bright green, which they thought were too happy. So I put in more white and went to darker hues of the same colors I had already chosen. It's a nice mix. The one effect I created to make the show very Motley Crue was to put in 16 Molefays all pointed at the audience. The first big cue of the show is that: Boom! 16 Molefays. The lighting show is definitely in your face, so I enjoyed operating it. It was a lot of fun."
The show's opening also incorporates moving truss effects. Wilson had wanted a computerized truss controller, but the budget didn't allow for its expense. "I decided we should try it anyway," says the LD. "I told my rigger, who was doing the moves, to let me know how he felt about it. After a few shows, we got the moves down pat, and we didn't need a hoist computer. My rigger was happy and that was my main concern, so we are able to move the trusses around a few times to get different looks."
For the show's first big look, the trusses are all the way down, almost sitting on the stage. "I got some CO2 canisters (for which "Pyro" Pete Cappadocia makes adapters) and then I put them on the trusses--when they rise up, it looks like they're being propelled by the CO2. A lot of bands have done this in the past, but it's an easy and good effect. The first song is 'Dr. Feelgood,' so they're playing that and I've got the Icons flashing, the trusses moving up, and the CO2 coming out."
Besides the CO2, Wilson also has a lot of smoke pumping. "Usually I have to struggle, but they said from the beginning, 'Give us lots of smoke.' So at the beginning when the trusses are down, I flood the stage with smoke," Wilson says. "The band comes on, and I have the Icons going on a shutter-chasing mode, doing a pan and tilt on the stage--and you can't see anybody. When the 16 Molefays come up on the audience, you could just barely see the band through the smoke--it was almost surreal. Since Tommy Lee is back behind the drum kit, I think the audience questioned whether or not he was really there at first. Then the smoke gradually starts to clear, revealing them. That's one of the things I love about smoke. It's quite a good opening."
Wilson designed the show for theatres, but he still had a lot of lights. Besides the eight Icons and the 16eight-light Mole-Richardson Molefays, there are 244 PAR-64s, two High End Systems F-100(TM) fog machines, 15 High End Systems Dataflash(R) AF-1000s, four power beacons, 18 bulkhead lights, and 12 Blue Run washlights. Pyro effects were not considered, because of budgetary restrictions, and because most theatres prohibit their use.
"So I got some confetti cannons (the single-shot type) from Pyro Pete, and mounted six in the air on the top trusses and six on the floor trusses," Wilson says. "In 'Girls, Girls, Girls,' the second song, Vince (Neil, the lead singer) comes out with a handheld cannon and says, 'Let's get this party started!' As soon as he fires, the ones on the floor fire and the stage literally explodes. The band said they wanted a mess onstage from the very beginning of the show. So instead of going into the audience, it only goes into the first 12 rows, and the rest goes all over the stage. People said that watching it was like being on acid, because all of a sudden the stage explodes into all this multicolor and Mylar confetti paper. It looked incredible."
The second confetti cue occurs during 'Kick Start My Heart.' "For that we fired silver and white pieces from the top trusses, and it was a wall of confetti," Wilson says. "It looked amazing. It wasn't pyro, but it was close. I've always been a big fan of Motley Crue--I love their music. It was a bit of a challenge to give them the kind of show that they've come to expect. They're used to playing arenas with gigantic lighting shows and 15 trucks of equipment. But the lighting got rave reviews, mainly because it was very raw."
The tour's lighting crew includes: crew chief Bruce Heard, board operator Mike Tengdon, Icon technician Jeff Spence, and electrician Greg Walker. Tengdon is now operating the show for Wilson, who has gone on to be lighting director for LD Patrick Woodroffe on Black Sabbath's current tour.