March 2001--In the world of Christian music, no one is bigger than Carman. "As far as pop touring shows, I don't think there's anything out in this genre that has the scale to it," comments Carman Lighting Designer Seth Jackson. Carman, who has been bringing his free concerts to fans for the past twenty five years, has music that runs the gamut of the stylebook. From rap to rock to Latin to ballads, Carman has his audiences covered. "If you don't like one song, hang around, the next one will be completely different," Jackson explains with a smile.

The current Carman Heart of a Champion tour is an arena/stadium production that includes a huge set, an 11 piece band on stage and 10 dancers. "The tour is supporting the movie that Carman just made, as well as a greatest hits album that he just released," comments Jackson. "Basically, he wants to showcase 25 years of material, but present it in a way that's very current," he adds.

In the past, Carman, who is personally very involved with his shows, has kept his budget down in the past by performing in the round without a live band. The Heart of a Champion tour is different. "This time, we have a band with us, so it's given new life to a lot of the songs," Jackson notes. Rather than doing another in the round show, this tour is playing at the end of the area, which is also new for Carman.

Carman, who came into the market in the eighties, is a moving light aficionado, who rented one of the largest moving light packages on the road at that time. Today, he's is still a fan of moving lights, a fact that is in evidence at the show. "He loves the technology and loves the automation," Jackson confides. So, when it came time to design the Heart of a Champion rig, Jackson knew that moving lights would be a part of the show. Nevertheless, he also knew that Carman wanted this tour to be out of the ordinary, which called for something a bit different.

So, rather than beefing up his instrument count, Jackson went a different way with his design. "I knew the lights were all going to move, so my first thought was to move the rig--lets automate it, so we can keep the looks changing," he explains. Jackson, who did an articulating rig for Kenny G several years ago, knew that this was a way to add dimension to the nearly two-hour show. "This time, rather than articulate the trusses, I designed a supergrid with pods underneath," he explains. "There are nine pods that comprise the bulk of the system, and those nine pods can basically move all night long,' he adds. The rig is comprised of 22 rigging points on the supergrid, 18 underhung motors for the pods and straight truss pieces of 10' and 16'. The supergrid remains at a trim height of 40' throughout the show, while the pods can move from 38' to 10'. "There's actually one point in the show where we bring the rig down around him like a cave," Jackson notes. "At that point, the rig is actually acting as a set piece," he adds.

For the "Heart of a Champion' tour, Jackson has a rig that's essentially comprised of Martin 22 MAC 500's, 20 MAC 600's, 40 MAC 300's and 3 MAC 250's, along with 3 Molefays and a truss spot, all provided by Bandit Lighting in Nashville. The show, which Jackson programmed on a Whole Hog, is also quite cue intensive. "We not only had to think about the moving light cues of which there are many, but we also had to take into account the fact that the trusses are moving," he explains. "Every time you move the rig, you have to create new focus positions for the moving lights." To coordinate the movement between the moving lights and the rig, Jackson relied on the MotoData software and motor control data program created by Bandit and operated by Jeff Blevins.

The color palette of the show is comprehensive, to say the least. "My personal style is to play around with monochromatic songs," Jackson remarks. "But with this show there are a few songs that are fruit salad," he notes with a chuckle. The show also features video support, and to aid that, Jackson turned to Rosco color in his spotlights. "Rosco 99 (chocolate) isn't really a color correction, per se, but the cameras love it," he notes.

The current leg of Carman's Heart of a Champion tour is on the road, with Board Operator/Crew Chief Tom Fulscher and Bandit technicians Thomas Campbell and Mark Lepetich until the end of April. "It's a great show, and the rig is a lot of fun," Jackson adds with a grin.

Photos: Scott Ragsdale