Only a year into his professional career, Enrique Iglesias has already won a Grammy for this year's best Latin pop performance, and his music along with his heartthrob good looks have earned him one of the largest and most devoted followings among Latin audiences. With all of this sudden acclaim and possible plans for a crossover into the English-speaking pop scene, the 22-year-old singer is now following in his famous father Julio's footsteps as a touring draw in his debut concert Vivir (To Live).
To plan Enrique's debut, which kicked off this spring, the Iglesias camp enlisted veteran concert designer Steve Cohen, who has created lighting for legends like Elton John and Billy Joel. Cohen says the neophyte performer had few demands for the show. "The only thing he told me in the initial conversations is that they didn't want to play clubs or theatres," says Cohen. "They wanted to hit the touring market with a big production the first time out to say that this kid is coming in with an explosion."
To plan such a tour de force, Cohen was enlisted not only for his lighting design talents, but to serve as the live show producer with the added responsibilities of guiding scenic elements, musical choices, and the overall concept for the show. As producer/designer, Cohen says part of the initial logistics was the decision to kick off the tour in indoor arenas in the US, then play stadiums in Spain and South America. This plan dictated that the design be expandable yet have enough inherent production value to play stadiums without add-ons if the budget did not allow.
With this in mind, Cohen and frequent collaborator Tom Strahan of San Francisco-based Scale Design created scenic elements from the trussing--three arches and a proscenium with a perspective going off into infinity upstage, surrounded by freestanding verticals. While Strahan and Cohen drew inspiration from the work of Spanish architects and artists, they were also led by a more practical need. "I didn't know what kind of roofs we would have internationally, or if we would be able to hang the whole system, so I needed it to be able to break down into individual elements that could get the design across," explains Cohen. He also credits David Mendoza, set consultant and president of Los Angeles-based MagiCraft Design & Fabrication Group, the company responsible for the set and illusion/effects construction.
Once the truss layout and scenic elements were designed, Cohen looked to the lighting and lighting designer/director Joel Young, who he has worked with for several years on concerts including Crosby, Stills and Nash, 10,000 Maniacs, and the Cult (which was Young's first job running lights on the road). "One of the advantages of working with Joel is that he is a lighting designer and a lighting operator and programmer," says Cohen. "He's got a great sense of timing, a great sense of color, and knows how to fly the Wholehog like nobody's business. So when I was involved in the politics of producing, I was able to free my thought processes for lighting. Joel would originate a lot of ideas, and then we could work in shorthand so I could get great looks without agonizing over every cue."
The Obie Company was the lighting general contractor. The lighting system included 22 Coemar NAT MM1200s, 16 Coemar NAT TM1200s, one Coemar NAT TM2500 (with the head removed to be used as a truss spot), 62 Vari*Lite(R) VL5(TM) luminaires, 44 VN PAR-64s with Morpheus ColorFaders, seven 8-Lites with Wybron Colorams, eleven 8-Lites, three Lycian Starklite 1,200W truss spots, two Reel EFX DF-50 diffusion machines, two High End Systems F-100(TM) performance fog generators, two 48 ETC Sensor dimmer racks, two Pro Power racks, one DMX rack, and one Flying Pig Systems Wholehog II. The Vivir crew included crew chief Kevin Tyler, second electrician Steve "Sprout" Crandall, technician Tony "Miho" Magana, original production manager Ed Wannebo, and current production manager Lyle Centola.
"The first thing we knew with a Latin pop star like Enrique, who uses a lot of ballads in his show, was that the instruments had to have subtlety," says Young, adding that the Vari*Lite VL5s and Coemar NATs met this requirement in terms of movement and color range. As far as lighting Enrique, Cohen says: "I'm a big nut for backlight, expecially when you are dealing with the mystique of a star, " he says. "You see him a lot in silhouette."
One such look, actually a favorite of Young's, happens at the beginning of "Revolucion," and involves the VL5s. "It's a vibrant deep blue, and everything starts moving," he explains. "It takes 40 seconds for them to move across the stage, the band, and up into a stage look and an audience look. But Enrique is in nothing but a 2.5k white backlight straight down, and the stage glows around him. It's breathtaking."
Another signature look, when Enrique dangles from a crane above the audience, is just as breathtaking for audiences. Supplied by MagiCraft and last seen on Reba McEntire's tour, the crane (or "grua" as it is called by the Spanish-speaking crew) draws some audible audience responses as it carries Enrique up off the runway-style stage and revolves 360 degrees above the crowd during the song "Experiencia Religiosa."
"When Enrique goes up on the crane, we miss a few big moments if he if doesn't hit his marks," says Cohen. "In those instances, I went back and told him playing around was okay, but there are times when he has to hit the mark to get the proper emotional response. I loved the process of teaching somebody how to have that sixth sense of being aware of lighting and staging, and controlling the performance."
It seems Enrique has picked up on the designers' cues, based on the overwhelming response to the tour. But when the spotlight turns on him, Cohen defers, saying the kid had it all the time.