LeRoy Bennett has "a few" lights on Nine Inch Nails Tension Tour, supplied by Upstaging. “The music is so diverse, with full-on rock stuff, but there is also very deep, cinematic music that Trent plays, so the idea is that you have all this video and then a lot of lights to push the in-your-face, rock style,” says Bennett.

The main lighting grid overhead holds 16 Philips Vari-Lite VL3500 FX units primarily for key lighting for the band and atmospheric lighting for the higher pod positions. Two sets of side trusses include an outer set of truss with Martin Professional MAC III AirFX units and VL3015LT Spots for band fill. The inside set is a pair of moving trusses with seven Clay Paky Sharpy units each that can be sidelight or act more as architectural lighting.

On the ground are another eight VL3500 FX units and a ring of Sharpy Wash units on either side—downstage and stage right/left—“mostly for sculpting the band,” says Baeri. Last is the wall of light upstage of the video screen, with 144 Sharpy units, Martin Professional MAC Auras, and more than 100 SGM X5 strobes. All Access Staging & Productions built the ceiling pods and risers. Brian Jenkins is the tour’s lighting director.

“Physically, we have a lot of obstacles,” says Baeri. “It’s easy enough to make a pretty light show, but a light show where you can see the band is a difficult aspect.” He adds that there are no followspots, as there are moments where the audience isn’t supposed to see the band. Baeri was able to do some previz in advance with MA Lighting grandMA 3D, but most of the rig was ready to go during the four weeks of rehearsals in Los Angeles.

“We needed all the rehearsal time we had,” says Bennett. “If there’s an issue with just lighting, that’s one thing, but sometimes it’s lighting and video interacting, and you have to wait for the video content to be done to understand how to fill in the spaces. That’s an ongoing, organic process. As Trent is working on arrangements, that drives what content is doing, which drives the lighting. You have to pace yourself, and it takes a little bit of patience to watch how it happens and basically fill in the gaps.”

The rehearsal period really shaped the design, particularly because Reznor is always working on new material and changing the set list. “He really works it to the last minute, and he completely changed the set list at the last run-through before load-out, but it really felt the best,” says Bennett. “We had basically one night in Minneapolis to pin it all back together again before the first show. The basics were there, and it was a lot to do, but we worked it all out, and it was all for the better.”

Bennett doesn’t complain at all about his 15-year relationship with the band, and he thoroughly enjoys the process. The designer, in fact, has outlasted most of the band members. “Trent tends to push the envelope. We all do, and we set where the bar is, and people are always looking to see what we do next,” he says. “I love working with Trent because it’s a great collaboration. When an artist understands it, it enables you to do a lot more interesting things, and it comes off a lot more powerful. He plays off the video and lighting, and he totally understands how to use the lighting. It makes for a better product.” 

Check out more on the Tension Tour.