Why We Like Him:
Well before U2 became a contender for title of “greatest rock-and-roll band in the world,” Willie Williams was lighting them up in his singular style. Having worked with the band for nearly 20 years (since 1982), Williams' creative role has continually evolved; he now serves as show director, responsible for the entire visual content of the band's performances. While U2's current Elevation tour is striking in its simplicity, Williams created an almost complete amalgamation of lighting and video by using the entire space of each arena as a projection surface.
"Willie has become one of the great modern show directors."
Photo: Simon Annand
What His Peers Say About His Work:
Renowned production designer/architect Mark Fisher (a previous EDDY Award winner) has frequently collaborated with Williams on many projects — including the Elevation tour — throughout the years. “Willie has become one of the great modern show directors,” he says. “He challenges the formulaic approach to big productions, creating edgy and uncompromising shows that are hugely popular with the public.”
In His Own Words:
“In my mind the most significant part of U2's Elevation show was the video reinforcement, which created a new way of providing camera closeups without being a distraction,” Williams explains. “The continuous feed of images proved to be a genuine enhancement without upstaging the performers. Increasingly I find myself being invited to work on projects that may already have a scenic artist, video director, or even a lighting designer onboard. My responsibility is to offer an impartiality in marrying together visual elements, which might otherwise compete with one another, and make them work as a cohesive whole.”
What He's Doing Next:
Williams' future plans include creating year-end tour designs for Bryan Adams and the Scottish band Travis. For next year, he is working with the modern/classical string musicians Kronos Quartet on a “musical/visual evening” tour that was commissioned by NASA in celebration of Voyager's 20 years in space. Williams will have access to 3,000 pictures taken from outer space to use create a video piece. Plus, he and Fisher are again collaborating — this time it's on a musical based on the music of Queen, which is scheduled to open in London in February.