Living In The Limelight

By Catherine McHugh, Lighting Dimensions #17, May/June 1992, transcribed by Lance M. Hilbelink

Transcribers Note: The article is mainly about the lighting aspects of the tour, and since this is a magazine for lighting professionals, there is some technical jargon which I will now define for those of you who need it:

Instruments: lighting fixtures; also luminaires
Cyclights: floodlights with bright, even coverage, often used on rear screens, or cycs.
Gobo: a metallic (or more expensive glass) cut-out pattern placed inside certain fixtures to project an image of that pattern onto something such as a backdrop.
Vari-Lite: a highly advanced automated luminaire with remote controlled movement, color and gobo changing, and irising.

By going out on the road with the swminal Canadian hard rock band Rush, LD Shawn Richardson had a hard act to follow--namely that of Howard Ungerleider, who has been with the band since they first started touring.

Because Ungerleider was busy with Queensryche's Building Empires tour he recommended Richardson, a fellow Canadian-born LD who has designed tours for Robert Palmer and Jody Watley as well as co-designed with Patrick Woodroffe for The Rolling Stones and Tina Turner.

"Howard really got me involved with the show-he came up with the original plan for the shape of the trussing system, which was accepted by everyone in the band and myself," Richardson says. "I filled in the instruments according to the specs that I felt would work best for me and did all the programming. So the looks in the show are mine but the structure is Howard's."

To get the Roll the Bones tour moving, Richardson enlisted creative ideas from both the band and the crew, as well as ungerleider. "It was almost a design by committee situation," explains Richardson. "That's one of the main things I learned from Patrick Woodroffe way back: 'If someone has something good to offer, never close your ears to it.'"

Because the three-member band has always used film as a dominant design element in their shows, Richardson had to design the lighting and set around the screen they chose to use and work from there.

"This was the first show I've ever done with a film element in it, and to be honest I enjoy it a lot," Richardson says. "It provides that extra added dimension of having the same effect yet having it differently every time with different film clips. It's also a better fill-in space for that back area than just having drops.

"You have to go to less light in certain situations where you want the film to stand out more-go to darker colors in certain situations or just use followspots because you need to keep the band lit brightly; but you couldn't keep the whole stage lit because the ambient light would destroy the film."

Using projectors provided by New York-based Associates and Ferren, lead singer Geddy Lee put the film work together, which included cartoon and video clips and film footage to illustrate each particular song. Richardson designed the five different drops that framed the projection screen.

"The idea to use different drops was mine and I went through the selection with the band," Richardson says. "We used five different painted drops that reflect artwork from their different album covers."

Richardson chose cyclights to light the drops, which allowed him to create an unlimited number of cloud-like effects. The prominent skull images on the drops were painted on with ultraviolet paint and highlighted with ultraviolet lights. The designer also turned occasional gobo patterns onto the drops to vary the looks, such as a series of lightning gobos in the Vari*Lites Model 2Bs. To create the flashes up in the sky he used the Vari*Lite Model 4s which created a strobe effect onto the canopy over the stage.

After the first week of the tour, Richardson added a trio of Vari*Lites built underneath the back two corners of the quad system, to provide more audience lighting. Plus, the band's signature laser effects were provided by two argon lasers supplied by Laserlite F/X of Toronto with tables located at the bottom back corners of the stage.

The Roll the Bones tour began in October, 1991 and is scheduled to end June 28 in Chicago. -Catherine McHugh

Roll the Bones Tour 1991-92

Lighting Designer
Shawn Richardson

Structural Design
Howard Ungerleider

Vari*Lite Programmer/Operator
Steve Owens

Lighting Crew Chief
Larry Hovick

Mark Franz

Electrician/Taskmaster Operator
Don Lodico

Marty Capariso
Jim Floyd

Vari*Lite Technicians
Kevin Bye
Stuart Felix

Laser Operator
Charles Passerelli

Laser Technician
John Popowycz

See Factor Industry Inc.
Vari*Lite, Inc.
Laserlite F/X

Lighting Equipment:
(1) Celco 90 Gold
(1) Celco 60 Way (Linked to the Gold)
(1) Strand Taskmaster (color changers)
(1) Vari*Lite Artisan Console

(216) VN PAR 64s
(136) 250W ACLs
(10) 1kW 5 degree Berkeys
(6) 5kW fresnels
(4) 1.2kW HMI floods with UV filters
(6) 1kW Berkey cyclights
(27) 8-light Molefays
(38) Vari*Lite 2Bs (Active)
(40) Vari*Lite 4s (Active)

(26) Strand PAR color changers
(12) Rainbox Mole color changers
(6) DeDisti Pangraphs with See Factor Controller
(50) High End dichroic spot filters
(24) High End dichroic PAR filters
(2) 20W argon lasers
(4) High End F-100 smoke machines
(6) Intellabeam mirror heads (for lasers)

400' of truss
(7) See Factor RDLM pods
(24) 1-ton motors
(280) 1kW LMI dimmers
(60) 2kW LMI dimmers
(6) 6kW LMI dimmers