Bruce Rodgers of Tribe inc, known for his work as production designer for such mega shows as the Super Bowl Halftime Show for the past few years, as well as countless concert tours, was brought in for the Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band’s Wrecking Ball Tour to serve as production design consultant. Rodgers worked alongside the band’s longtime production/lighting designer Jeff Ravitz of Intensity Advisors, for what he calls “a design that is all about supporting the lighting design and the way the audience feels and sees Bruce and The E Street Band.
“I worked with the entire Springsteen team to collectively refine, explore, question, create, and solve the designs for this production. This is a classic process where we all think of ideas and ‘what ifs,’ and mix new ideas with the knowledge and experience that each team member brings to the table,” says Rodgers, adding that the team is led by “the great tour director George Travis,” also working with other Springsteen/E Street veterans, including FOH sound engineer John Cooper, production manager George Stipanovich, lighting director Todd Ricci, Peter Daniel of Pete’s Big TVs, video director Chris Hilson, and video engineer Paul Whitfield. “These guys have done so many shows with Bruce that they are well aware of the needs for their departments, and they know the venues that the tour will visit along the way. It’s always fun to throw in crazy ideas that I know may not ever work, but it’s fun to rattle these great minds.”
Because the band comprises legends that Rodgers calls “larger than life,” he notes that the music itself and the band members’ personas “provide enough entertainment value for ten concert designs, so the design must serve as a foundation for their presentation.” For Rodgers, that means keeping sightlines clear, giving the band close proximity to the audience, and allowing for stage tech visual contact and access. “The vibe goal was to remain raw and old school—1970s back to the basics—with nothing flashy or literal but everything detailed and strong in feel,” he says. “Personally, I used visuals of motorcycles, the photography of Danny Clinch, and vintage rock photos for inspiration. Ultimately Bruce and the band, George, Jon Landau, and I determined the placement of the band member’s home positions, but ‘The Boss’ figures out the show moves and sets the natural feel of each performance.”
For visuals on the tour, Pete’s Big TVs has provided its new DigiLED MC7 high resolution LED panels, built specifically for this outing, mostly for I-Mag to give a more intimate feel to the performances. “Unlike most I-Mag shows, video director Chris Hilson and video engineer Paul Whitfield have turned this basic task into an art,” says Rodgers. “The way they manage the shots is tied perfectly with the lighting design and performance. Their challenge is following and covering this performance, which changes nightly and is super difficult when the goal is to keep each shot and transition magical and seamless.” Charlie Terrel advises and supports potential content. The team from Pete’s Big TVs includes award-winning camera operators David “Legs” Driscoll, Kim Hampton, Mike Colucci, Will Farnham, and Matt Travis, with Rob Villalobos on robotic camera. Phil Summers is the LED tech.
One of the challenges in touring this iconic group is the various arenas, theatres, festivals, and stadiums the tour visits. “George T. and George S. are so fast and knowledgeable, and drive how the production adapts and moves from site to site,” says Rodgers. “It’s amazing to watch this team work, because they’ve been at it for many tours and have always brought a high level of excellence to their road shows. It’s a real honor to just be part of this group of people. The goals are to always keep the layout familiar from one site to the next. This is also a testament to the excellent thought put into the stage build by Tait Towers, led by Aaron Siebert.
“Our constant default that Bruce looks back for is the audience, which does look great on those big screens,” adds Rodgers, who notes that he uses Vectorworks, Autodesk AutoCAD, Autodesk 3ds Max, Adobe Photoshop, “plus hand and pencil” for his design concepts.