Japanese pop group Exile’s Tower of Wish tour hit all the big indoor stadiums for multiple gigs around Japan in 2012, bringing with it 300 performers, a modern production design with hints of traditional Japanese culture, Cirque du Soleil inspired side shows, and, even a mammoth inflatable dragon, all traveling in 120 trucks.
Combining all of these elements was the task of Kuniyoshi Ichikawa, show director/designer of the tour. For this tour, one of the words Ichikawa got back from the Exile team was the word “Wish.” From that, he began sketching ideas for a tower, made up of four legs that merge at the top and then expand again slightly to hold a large globe, rising up to 45 meters tall, or 148 feet. Two LED screens encircle the tower at the halfway point and again about 2/3 of the way up; the smaller screen is 35 feet in diameter with a height of 15.7, while the large one is 48’x21’. Inaddition, all four legs of the tower are covered with LED on three sides, as is the globe.
Underneath the tower is a mainstage approximately 69 feet wide with four separate moveable components; three of the pieces move horizontally while the outer piece spins. (Exile is composed only of singers and dancers, and the band plays in the pit, so the main stage is not hindered by musical equipment.) An outer ring encircles the main stage approximately 125 feet out and is connected via four bridges that move manually by the crew. Lining the outer stage are a series of eight smaller towers containing speaker arrays, followspots, moving lights, and even a large contingent of Par-Cans, all topped with fabricated suns that can are lit with LED fixtures.
One of the highlights of the show is a giant inflatable dragon that wraps itself around the tower and pops its head around the top. “I was thinking that we needed something on the top of the tower, something similar to King Kong at the top of the Empire State Building,” Ichigawa explains. “I settled on a dragon, which is considered a god in Japanese culture as it signifies, among other things, rain for the fields at harvest time.”
Lighting designer Koji Sasaki had his own sets of challenges. “The number of performers increased without notice almost every day,” he explains. “So I needed to make sure every performer is both visible from the audience when they need to be, but also relatively invisible when they don’t.”
Helping to alleviate that challenge was a series of 24 Strong Xenon followspots located throughout the space. Automated fixtures were a mix of Vari-Lite and Martin units. Sasaki opted for 118 VL3000 spots; an additional 48 VL3500 Wash units were needed to add light from the outer ring and other accents. Martin MACIII’s were chosen for the side of the main stage because of their animated gobos while 76 MAC301 Wash units were added for their zooming ability.
- 118 Vari-Lite VL3000 Spots
- 48 Vari-Lite VL3500 Wash
- 76 Martin MAC301 Wash
- 24 Martin MACIII Fixtures
- 24 Strong Xenon Followspots
- 600 PAR 64 Fixtures
- Production Designer/Show Director: Kuniyoshi Ichikawa
- Lighting Designer: Koji Sasaki