HSL Supplies the Darkness
Leading UK rental company HSL supplied Electric Fly Productions with lighting equipment for The Darkness’s hugely successful UK tour, working with lighting designer Nick Jevons. This saw the band’s return to the major touring circuit after a five year hiatus, ahead of the launch of a third studio album, slated for 2012.
Jevons - known as a master of invention with an aversion to convention – regularly uses Blackburn based HSL to supply his shows and events. He says, “They are the best! Absolutely second to none, a great company, superlative service, spot-on attitude, unwavering dedication to the job …. and lovely people”.
The Darkness was project managed for HSL by Mike Oates, who comments, “We always look forward to working with Nick and his team at Electric Fly. No job is ever predictable or standard, and the results are always visually spectacular.”
This is the first time that Jevons has worked with The Darkness, asked onboard after working with production manager Chris Taplin and The Faces in the summer. He jumped at the chance to design a classic rock lightshow with all the glitz, glamour and fabulousness and none of the clichés … utilising the latest technology and bringing a totally fresh approach.
The amazing results – given the expedient amount of kit – were borne out of the many advantages of having the latest very bright, lightweight moving lights at his disposal. It has been variously reviewed, described, blogged, tweeted and acclaimed as “A truly exciting epic stadium show presented in style and ‘Academy sized’ proportions”.
The band are all really keen to put on the best show possible for their fans, and are extremely good at standing on their marks and working with lighting cues and other effects, all of which added to the runaway success of the tour, fuelling a busy and exciting period ahead.
In spite of having just one truck for the whole production and the venues being ‘variable size’ in every sense of the word, Jevons’ ideas – conceived in close collaboration with the band – were based on rock ‘n’ roll meets the faded freakshow end of the circus scale.
The backdrop was of striking dirty yellow and black circus tent stripes with a big rancid eyeball in the centre, and the backline – minimal for a loud rock band – was also draped in the same material, made by Hangman.
Jevons’ rig was based architecturally on six 8 metre long ‘spine’ trusses made from Tomcat 1 lite-beam, rigged slightly off-centre, running upstage / downstage and raked from back (lower) to front.
They proved ultimately flexible. The lengths could be reduced as needed and the way they were rigged modified as required. One of the biggest technical coups of the tour was fitting the entire rig into Nottingham Rock City (using 3 metre spines) … and filling Hammersmith Apollo with exactly the same rig – and it looking equally cool in both scenarios as well as for anything in between!
With the mix of venues and spaces, the spines and the fixtures rigged on them were designed effectively as a ‘specials’ package that was used everywhere. With most of the venues having in house front and back trusses and a number of lights, these were also integrated into the Darkness’s show each night.
In the eight venues without the additional house production requirements, HSL Chris Taplin and promoters Live Nation cut a deal whereby HSL supplied these elements, which ensured that Jevons had a continuity throughout. The ‘extras’ were supplied complete with additional lighting tech Jake Jevons.
Nick Jevons chose the smallest, lightest brightest fixtures available so he could maximise the amount of lights on the plot – and so Martin Professional MAC 101s and Clay Paky Sharpies became the stars of the lightshow.
There were 24 x 101s and 12 Sharpies, 16 Atomic strobes, 24 x 2-lite Moles, four GLP Impressions plus two Gem hazers in the touring rig. The ‘local’ production, where provided by HSL, saw the addition of six Robe ColorWash and six ColorSpot 700E AT moving lights, six ETC Source Four profiles, and for Hammersmith, two follow spots.
Not a large rig for a massive looking show!
Jevons used his own Martin M1 console for control. As a large chunk of the budget was consumed on the actual design concept and squeezing absolutely as many fixtures as possible into the rig and truck ….. there was no leeway for any production rehearsals. Instead, Jevons visualised and pre-programmed a vast amount using Martin Show Designer (MSD), a tool he describes as “Absolutely invaluable”, some of it in his own studio and some at HSL.
He went to HSL with crew member Mark Callaghan to build the rig in the warehouse and from there straight into the first gig in Mountford Hall at Liverpool University.
Each of the six fingers was loaded (from the upstage end) with two Sharpies, four 101s, another Sharpie, two 2-lites and two strobes, another 2-lite and rounded off with a strobe facing the audience on the downstage end of each.
He laid down all the basic stage washes with the 101s and layered a host of eye-catching, precise and detailed effects over the top using the Sharpies, the two types of fixture contrasting, juxtaposing and working brilliantly together.
Two of the ColorSpot 700s were hung on the back truss flanking the anchoring positions of the spines.
On the floor were the four remaining ColorSpot 700E ATs, the GLP Impression Zooms, six 2-lites and 8 strobes – all scattered around.
Jevons remarks that the 101s are “Amazing’. Apart from their effect as a lightsource, including producing super-bright, tight ACL-like beams, they fit eight to a case and four can be picked up in one – large – hand! He is also equally impressed with the power and punch of the Sharpies.
With the success of the tour under their belts and the public’s appetite for the Darkness definitely still rampant, it looks like Jevons will have the chance to develop his timeless rock show with a twist further and take it into bigger venues and more places over the next year.
Date of issue : 29th January 2012.