Dale Lynch Presents Diana Krall in Living Color

The typical Lighting Dimensions concert story features a big-ass rock band, tons of trussing, and a legion of moving lights performing pulses, chases, strobing, and patternwork over everything in sight. There's often a video screen or two as well. This kind of visual overkill can be fun, and is certainly the correct aesthetic response to the music of Creed or the Rolling Stones. But there are many kinds of touring concert artists, with different aesthetics and different needs.

For example, there's Diana Krall. The young singer has built an extraordinary crossover career with unique piano and vocal stylings of jazz songs. Her current tour, to promote her new album, The Look of Love, takes her all over the world, with a series of US dates followed by visits to Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand, and Italy, with a grand finale at London's Royal Albert Hall. In March, Krall played to packed houses at Radio City Music Hall, a stunningly unlikely occurrence, given the supposed marginalization of jazz music in our culture, in a performance that featured a full orchestra. It also featured a simple yet stylish lighting design by Dale Lynch that provided an ideally sophisticated visual aura for Krall's music.

The Krall tour, Lynch notes, is really two tours in one. The majority of her dates feature the star and her backup trio, in what Lynch calls the quartet show. However, the schedule is dotted with engagements featuring a full orchestra, which is when Lynch's work takes on a whole new dimension. (This article generally refers to the orchestra show.)

The evening begins with a prologue of sorts, featuring Krall and three musicians downstage, in front of a drop, seen in white light. Then the drop rises to reveal the orchestra and, for the rest of the evening, Lynch creates a series of subtle yet effectively moody color washes, while simultaneously carving out a white-light playing area for Krall.

Working with a distinctive artist in an ever-changing show (the song list is constantly in flux) requires plenty of cunning from an LD, a quality Lynch apparently has in spades. His ingenuity begins with the orchestral backdrop. The material, says Lynch, is “a sheer organza, made up of 22 individual panels that Velcro together. We bought the material at a fabric house in Toronto. When it comes apart, the pieces fit into a hockey bag; the whole thing weighs only 22lb [10kg].” The drape concept was created in collaboration with Lynch's sister-in-law, Yola Pulsifer, a professional seamstress.

The first part of the show, featuring Krall and her trio, is lit by PAR-64s, ETC Source Fours, and Source Four PAR units. The look is sharply angular, with the performers carved out of the darkness, and a slightly higher color temperature beam picking out the soloist at any given moment. It's a simple, highly theatrical look that helps establish Krall's rapport with the audience.

Then the curtain rises to reveal the full orchestral look. Placed above the cyc are both ETC units with Chroma-Q scrollers (Christie Lites Vancouver is the show's equipment supplier), while from below, a layer of parachute silk, hung 3' (1m) upstage of the cyc, is lit by Altman Focusing Cycs; also placed in a high position are six Martin MAC 500s. These units are used to create a feeling of depth and movement for some of the numbers. “I chose the colors mostly because they're moody,” says Lynch. “I started with red, amber, and blue, then added a steel blue, then Lee 181 [Congo Blue] for the band washes.” The designer often mixes colors in a single number; for example, “Cry Me a River” begins with a stunning blue-green wash, then fades to total green for the finale. “I've Got You Under My Skin,” is conceived as a mixture of reds and purples.

Throughout, Lynch works subtle but telling changes on this theme. Color mixtures can reverse themselves, or fade from one color to the other, in the course of a song.

Some numbers begin or end with a slow chase of colored beams across the backdrop. The organza takes the light beautifully, offering very dimensional looks, especially when the Martin units are used to cast a UV look through the organza and onto the parachute silks. (There are also a few instances in which barely discernible moving patterns are worked into the color mix.) Keeping with Krall's request not to see moving lights, these changes are rendered almost subliminally, with Lynch working his color changes around the star, who remains in her own white wash of light. “In a way, I'm designing around her,” he says. “It's almost like a TV look, where she's separated out from the rest of the stage.”

Overall, says Lynch, “I actually use roughly the same design for both the quartet and orchestra shows. The orchestra show is an expanded version of the quartet show with 12' [3.6m] of straight truss in the middle to extend the set. I use 17 panels of the drape in the quartet configuration.”

The real challenge of the tour, Lynch says, lies in the fact that the song list changes from show to show. In fact, the designer often doesn't know what the next number is going to be until Krall begins the introduction. As a result, he has developed a distinctively hands-on way of working — that is to say, he runs the board himself, working live with the star. “I do it the old-school way; I get a board with as many subgroups as possible,” says Lynch. “I put all my specials on an individual fader, so I can call up solos easily and switch back and forth. It's really old-fashioned, not like working with a Wholehog and a lot of moving lights, where you generally go cue to cue. Because the music doesn't need anything complicated, it's easier to do it this way. On our last tour in Europe, I got a different console every night — and we were loading in at 1:00 in the afternoon. We'd have an hour and a half to program the show before the doors would open.”

Lynch says he doesn't mind the challenge of working on a different board all the time, “shifting operating systems every day.” However, for this leg of the tour, he's traveling with a grandMA console from MA Lighting (distributed in the US by AC Lighting). “It's a great board for what I have to do,” he says, adding, “it takes up less space in the house,” making it a likely favorite of producers.

Still, not every LD would relish the opportunity to work with changing control equipment on a changing song list, with the added challenge of picking out soloists just as they begin and end their pieces. Lynch, however, approaches this potentially nerve-wracking experience with a Zen sense of calm. “You keep your chops up,” he says, casually. “You stay on top of the show, and, with the different consoles, you get a handle on different ways of approaching things.” He shares part of the tour with another LD, Brent Lipp, who works in a similar way.

Lynch, a Canadian, started out in the early 80s doing sound for rock bands. Moving to Vancouver in 1986, he started picking up lighting gigs. He has designed for such artists as Dido and worked as lighting director for k.d. lang, designing a few one-offs for her as well. At the moment, however, he's enjoying touring with Krall, using light to spin his own jazz improvisations on the singer's musical themes.

Contact the author at dbarbour@primediabusiness.com.

DIANA KRALL LOOK OF LOVE

Lighting Designer
Dale Lynch

Tour Manager
Grant McAree

Artist Road Manager
Pete Buckalan

FOH Engineer/Road Manager
Tony Romano

Stage Manager
Robbie Hannaford

Lighting Crew Chief
Sharon Huizinga

Sound Crew Chief
Eric Laliberte

Lighting Supplier
Christie Lites Vancouver

Equipment

19

ETC Source Four PARs with Christie Lites CL3 Mark 2 scrollers

6

ETC Source Fours 19°

9

ETC Source Fours 26°

20

Altman 3-bay Focusing Cycs

6

Martin Professional MAC 500s

14

racks of 6 narrow PAR-64s

2

26'x44' parachute silks

22

custom organza panels

1

MA Lighting grandMA console

1

grandMA light (back-up)

1

ETC Sensor 96 dimmer rack

1

ETC Sensor 24 dimmer rack

11

Columbus McKinnon 1-ton hoists

9

custom corners 16" box truss