The US and Canadian leg of Deep Purple's Bananas world tour is currently under way, with lighting designer Louis Ball using Robe ColorSpot 1200 moving lights as his main effects fixtures.
Having first used the Colorspot 1200s during the band's extensive European tour in Autumn 2003, Ball has specified them again for the US tour. With equipment supplied by New York-based See Factor, Ball has the 1200s at the core of his rig to light Deep Purple's classic and enduringly popular live rock ‘n’ roll show.
For the show, Ball uses six ColorSpots on the rear truss and another six on the floor for a myriad of effects, including up-lighting the jungle-themed backdrop and the riser scrims, for drum and keyboard pick ups, and to introduce some low cross-stage lighting washes and beam dynamics.
The rear truss Colorspots are used for the bulk of the special effects, beam patterns, and gobo projections. “The Colorspots are very reliable, bright and have a nice, smooth dimmer,” says Ball, adding that the 1200s also mixed and balanced well with the other fixtures on the rig. “The gobos were great, especially on slow, subtle roll effects.”
He describes his style of lighting Deep Purple “to produce lots of big, strong looks, as the music dictates.” With no set pieces or scenery to light, apart from a cyc, Ball layered the stage to communicate depth and texture via lighting. “That's why the lamps needed to be a bright source,” he explains. “The units also needed to be reliable, as I give them a good work out.”
Ball has lit Deep Purple on many previous tours, but he is still inspired by their music to find new ideas and says he thoroughly enjoys lighting the band. Their repertoire includes many classic songs and riffs, he explains, which offer plenty of scope for approaching each song differently.
Still, Ball tries to keep the same feel for certian songs, such as “Smoke On The Water.”
“There is a lyric in there, ‘A few red lights, a few old beds,’ and, while I can't throw any beds at lead singer Ian Gillan, I can show a few red lights. This is one cue in the show he really wants to see,” Ball says.
Lighting for Deep Purple's newer material is determined by musical content, whether all-out rock ‘n’ roll or more bluesy numbers. Using intelligent lighting enables Ball to start with a cool gobo effect and layer on top of that with strong coloration to achieve the required look quickly and efficiently.
Ball recalls how technology has progressed from his earlier years with Deep Purple, when it took hundreds of generics and hours of rigging and focusing time to get similar effects.