Last February, as production began for Don Henley's Inside Job tour, set designer Jim Lenahan received a startling request. "As I started getting my own ideas together for the tour, I was told that Don Henley wanted the set to be Gothic," the designer says. "Doing a Gothic set for someone like Ozzy Osbourne - that would be easy. But if Don Henley wants Gothic, now that's hard!"
So Lenahan began work on what was eventually termed a semi-Gothic set, inspired by Henley's Malibu studio. "Don has very specific ideas about visuals," Lenahan says. "In the past, little nuances of color, light, composition, and balance that mean the world to me were concepts I could never really get across to the musicians, since they're usually not very visually oriented. Going into this project, Don knew exactly what he wanted."
Keeping in mind the semi-Gothic theme, Lenahan began doing research. The Gothic period is essentially focused on cathedrals, and ripe with religious symbolism. "Basically, we didn't want to have any religious symbols at all in the set, which is extremely difficult," he explains. But even without the religious symbolism, the Gothic look has certain connotations to it. "When you do a Gothic look, you rapidly realize that everybody is going to be wondering if Don was born again," Lenahan explains. "And he hadn't been, and we didn't want to give people the wrong impression.
"I came up with three concepts, each based on a different Gothic architectural element," Lenahan continues. "One was based on flying buttresses, another was based on Gothic columns, and the third was based on Gothic vaulted ceilings." Henley liked both the vaulted ceilings and the flying buttresses, but in the end, decided on a modified look for the buttresses, which were two vertically oriented pieces that stood stage left and right.
"A flying buttress is, by definition, an angled piece of masonry," Lenahan explains. "And the first thing Don said was that he didn't really like the angle on it, but, of course, without the angles, it's not really a flying buttress!" So the flying buttresses were transformed slightly, but there was still another issue to deal with. "Any time you do Gothic in this day and age, people are going to think `heavy metal band,' " Lenahan says. When he presented the issue to Henley, Henley had a suggestion: soft goods. "Don wondered if we could do the buttresses in just soft goods, rather than using these big heavy truss pieces covered in fabric," he explains. Lenahan considered the soft goods idea, but had reservations. "We could have done them in soft goods, but then you would lose the lighting positions, and then it just becomes a regular old rock show with everything hung overhead, and that's boring!"
Lenahan re-worked the buttresses, transforming them from solid structures that stood firmly on the ground into decaying stone-covered pieces that float above the stage. "Because the buttresses were sitting on the ground, it gave them a heavy feel, which was alleviated when they were snapped off on the bottom and made to float," he says. The buttresses, which include arch holes in them that allow backlight to stream through in dramatic shafts, were fabricated by All Access of Torrance, CA, measure 16' tall by 11' wide at their tallest point, and have a 25' trim height.
To further alleviate the heavy metal symbolism, Lenahan decided to add a drape upstage. "I hate white backdrops," he says. "You can't do a true blackout in the show when you have one, so I avoid them." Instead of white, Lenahan chose a 16oz red velour drape with 100% fullness. "I found a picture in a book on Ludwig, the mad king of Bavaria," Lenahan explains. "The canopy over his bed was a fabulous blue velour with gold rope. I simply scanned it into Adobe Photoshop, and reworked it."
To complete the look of the set, Lenahan also added a stained-glass window filled with Celtic spirals. "The stained glass is Lexjet, a thin Lexan material that can pass through an inkjet printer," he says. There are also 14 gargoyles, including griffins, bat dogs, chimeras, and wild men, courtesy of The Gargoyle Shop in Boston, scattered throughout the set. "They're all accurate, real gargoyles from real buildings," Lenahan says.
While Lenahan was tweaking the scenic elements, lighting designer Seth Jackson had the opportunity to sit down with Henley to discuss his ideas. "At our first meeting, Don said, `I have some very definite ideas about color,' and he does," Jackson says.
Henley also had very definite ideas about the palette of the show; he rather discouraged the use of magenta, as well as all pastels, which posed quite a challenge for Jackson. "The colors that I've relied on in the past - lavender, magenta, and any pastels - were all off my list," he says. "With magenta, flesh pink, lavender, and light blue all gone, I had to re-invent all of my techniques. It was a great creative challenge for me, and really made me think of a whole new way of doing the show."
Although Henley didn't care for the pastel side of the spectrum, he did favor other colors. "Don loves deep, rich colors," Jackson comments. "Ambers, blues, greens and all of the various shades of white - CTB, CTO, arc-lamp white, tungsten white - and the whites actually favor him." Jackson experimented with the different hues, aided by his primary instruments, the new Vari superscript *Lite VL 2416[TM]s, as well as the new Coemar CF 7s and Coemar CF 1200 HEs. "White light out of a VL 2416 is different from the white out of a Coemar CF 7," the LD says. "Even in the dark tones, blues read differently out of all of these lights. I've got such a wide variety of fixtures in the plot that blues, greens, and reds all read differently, which you can use to your advantage." The color mixing, as well as the use of white, makes the show appear quite colorful, despite the limited palette.
The VL 2416s and the Coemar CF 1200 HEs enabled Jackson to work magic on the red velour drape upstage. "If you throw enough foot-candles up there, it will override the color of the drape," he notes. "The first time Don saw the set, he looked at it under white light, and then I hit a button, and turned the red drape green, which is the exact color it doesn't want to be!
"The drape turns every color during the show, which is due to the eight VL 2416s we have to hit it with, as well as the Coemar CF 1200 HEs," Jackson continues. "The 2416 is a 1,200W arc washlight and it's a powerhouse. The beam coming out of it without any diffusion is an ACL beam, and it will cut through anything. The color mixing on it is spectacular, and it also has a full field frost diffuser that enables me to light the drape as evenly as if I had striplights."
Vari superscript *Lite VL 2C[TM] spot luminaires and VL4[TM] wash luminaires provide the backbone of Jackson's rig. "There are colors that nothing else in the rig can create because the color system is so spectacular," Jackson says of the luminaires. "And the VL2C is still a very bright fixture that holds its own again the brand-new equipment." To round out his fixtures, Jackson uses the Coemar CF 1200 HE, as well as the brand-new Coemar CF 7. "The CF 7 has an unbelievable zoom in it," Jackson says. "I have a CF 7 on each corner of the downstage edge, and all I have to do is open the zoom, and one light will illuminate the entire buttress. I can put texture and gobos on a piece of scenery that is 20' tall by 16' wide using only one light," he adds.
Overall, the show has a rich, theatrical feel to it, rather unlike a conventional rock concert. "In a sense, this show is as theatrical as you can get, because I've illuminated it the way my professor taught me back in theatre school," Jackson says. "You're using all of the techniques and the styles that you would use to light a drama, which really fits this production." Henley's Inside Job tour continues on the road throughout November, and is expected to hit Europe sometime next year.