Jeff Ravitz has a long history with designing tours for Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band, with the latest Wrecking Ball Tour being no exception. His role creating the overall production and lighting design for the band goes back long enough that he describes his task as “the one person who is watching the show carefully and critically from out front.”
And what a task that is. Ravitz is the band’s go-to creative lead. “All visual decisions affect my lighting, so I have evolved into someone that’s relied upon for global input,” he says. “Even if there is a set design consultant on board, I am the one most closely working to coordinate the look with that person and with the production manager and tour director.”
After all these years, however, Ravitz wouldn’t ever assume he’s got the gig. “I can’t allow myself to take the job for granted, and it’s not guaranteed to me, “he says. “Like most of us, my job security is locked into the last show of the last tour. If Bruce is still happy, I’ve got a pretty good chance of being invited back. Thankfully, I do have the trust of management and Bruce to deliver the aesthetic they demand, both the static look and the cueing.”
Ravitz notes that he didn’t exactly have a design brief when he started working on Wrecking Ball, as the singer and his band were still putting finishing touches on the new album. “We knew quite little about the actual show when the design phase began, other than we were sure there would be significant changes to the onstage band,” Ravitz says, referring to the late sax player Clarence Clemons. “The word was that it would take the form of an entire horn section. Bruce loves what a full horn section adds to his music, and he’s used this several times over the years. The question was where they would live on stage.”
What the design team did know, says Ravitz, was that the band would feature a full-time two- or three-person backup vocal section, not a consistent component from the last tour. They also knew the new album would feature heavily in the set list, as well as standards. “But, that still left a big portion of the show unknown,” the designer adds. “Finally, our tour director, George Travis, asked us to look at integrating some verticality into the system design. This has traditionally been difficult to achieve because of a mandate to keep sightlines as open as possible. Therefore, the lighting and sound systems trim as high as they can. Projecting lighting structures downward would certainly obstruct some sightlines, so we would need to project upwards. That felt counter-intuitive, but I did several drawings, as did Bruce Rodgers, our set design consultant. The idea morphed several times and finally resulted in two 20’ vertical trusses nestled between some PA line arrays that, amazingly, gives us brand new verticality without compromising sightlines—a small thing that has made a big contribution to the look of the show.”
Stay tuned for more of our interview with Jeff Ravitz and check out his lighting plots for the tour.