When Bon Jovi’s Because We Can: The Tour switched from playing indoor arenas to outdoor stadiums, designer Doug “Spike” Brant of Performance Environment Design Group took the opportunity to create an entirely different design. Where the arena design was a dynamic kinetic sculpture, the stadium design is a visually stunning large-scale piece of architecture. Brant’s design offers fans an entirely new way to experience the stadium incarnation of the tour, which kicked off recently in Bulgaria and is playing throughout Europe before coming to the US on July 12 at Soldier Field in Chicago.
Brant has created a stadium-sized automobile front-end, modeled on a 1959 Buick Electra, creatively using entertainment technology in place of windshields, headlights, and the grille. As with the tour’s arena design, the stadium set was engineered and built by Tait. “The stadium show is all about scale,” comments Pat Seeley, project manager for Tait. “Scale was the objective and the challenge on this show, and Spike has done a great job of creating a completely new environment. It is a 1950s powder blue muscle car with lots of chrome on a monumental scale right down to the New Jersey license plate.”
The main set piece, the Electra’s hood, measures over 98’ in width and goes back 9’. It sits above the band and is made of three, cold-air inflatable pieces with a large chrome Bon Jovi logo as the hood emblem. “The hood is an inflatable piece of scenery made of a few different fabrics, including the interior baffling that controls the shape,” explains Seeley. “The base fabric for the hood is a blue, and then it was scenically treated over the whole thing to give it some depth and character. A lot of work went into finding out where to anchor it consistently move-to-move and working on the efficiency of deploying it. It takes not even 45 minutes from being in position, inflated, and looking good. It is like packing an old-time ship sail, with 30 guys on a deck. To load-out we have big 6’ blowout zippers along the back of the inflatables; open them, and it will drop and deflate in about 20 minutes.” The inflatable surface has been UV treated to stand up to the elements for the stadium shows.
The hood sits on top of the stage roof, and the end of that roof is actually a metal rain gutter structure that Tait created to move any water away from the stage when performing in inclement weather. Seeley describes, “The gutter interfaces with the inflatable roof as the chrome hood trim and is scenically painted to match the car. All of the chrome trim surrounds were scenically carved, hard coated, and covered in chrome vinyl auto-body wrapping to provide the car’s chrome details. The challenge for us was the base materials used on various parts of the set was a range of materials so we had to get a covering that blended and stuck to all those surfaces. We then shaded it to Spike’s direction to create the look he wanted.”
The Band, In Relation To The Car
The band is setup below the hood in the ‘grille’ of the car. Utilizing the same 60’ stage section taken whole out of arena set and implanted into this new environment has allowed the band, gear, and the setups from the arena shows to be moved directly over to the stadium shows. This meant that Bon Jovi can change easily and quickly from arena dates to stadium dates. While on the arena stage, Jon Bon Jovi can walk on the automated video columns, as this set offers him stairs to different platforms. “The set gives them a lot of playing levels as well as a lot of movement side to side,” comments Seeley. “The stage has some staircases, and Jon can move up two levels to play and get closer to the audience.” These left and right platforms are referred to as the "headlight platforms," 13’ off the ground, right in front of dual, 8’-diameter chrome trimmed headlights.
The headlights consist of Chromlech Elidy LED panels for lighting and low-resolution video effects. On the extreme stage left and right sides are I-Mag screens consisting of PRG Nocturne V-18 18mm LED video panels. Across the top of the set, above the hood, acting as the car’s "windshield" is a 28’x103’ video screen made up of Tait 30mm LED video product. Behind the band, in the grille area of the car, Brant has employed PRG Nocturne V-9 Lite 9mm LED video modules and GLP X4 impression LED fixtures. Tait manufactured the grill section with 60 of its custom V-9 Lite frames to hold the V-9 Lite modules as well as created custom lighting positions to hold the impressions.
The front edge of the stage is the bumper of the car, complete with the New Jersey license plate. The bumper also serves as the monitor shelf. Seeley explains, “The monitor shelf is decorated in a bull nose that has all been chromed and goes up to the mainstage level. It doesn’t come to a point, but it has a prominent front and center position. There are [Philips Color Kinetics] ColorBlasts along the front bumper, and there are ColorBlasts and impressions built into the monitor shelf. V-9 Lite is used for the turn signals. There are also moving lights along the front of the hood trim, and then you have Bad Boys and Best Boys everywhere.” Spike lights the car from various positions using PRG Bad Boy® and Best Boy 4000® spots to create a variety of different looks across the car and stage.
The project build took Tait just ten weeks from start to completion. The company supplied all the staging for the tour, including the main stage, the band riser, and a 100’ rounded B-stage catwalk that extends out 45’ into the audience. The stadium set was set up and teched during programming in Belgium before it was transported to Sofia, Bulgaria for the opening night of the European leg of the world tour. “We all took some risks on this,” Seeley says, “and I think it is really paying off for the audience. It is a real muscle car. You walk in the stadium, you see this, and you can already hear the bass. You know this is going to be loud and that you are in for a real show.”