The Joanne World Tour is the fifth headlining tour by Lady Gaga, in support of her fifth studio album, Joanne. When the curtain was raised for the opening show in Vancouver last month, the audience was awed by a spectacular set and visual concept masterminded by production and lighting designer, Seven Design Works’ LeRoy Bennett.
The inventory comprises over 500 GLP fixtures. This includes 294 of the new JDC1 hybrid strobes, 147 of the award-winning X4 Bar 20 and 38 GT1 hybrids — all of which play a major role in a tour de force that pushes the boundaries of arena-style production to the limits.
The design is based around a massive back wall, measuring 21m x 3.5m and weighing 12 tonnes, which houses all the JDC1’s and X4 Bar 20 battens, while the GT-1’s are partly flown in the air above the stage and in a row on the floor at front of the stage.
“The main lighting for the show is that wall of strobes and X4 Bars,” the designer confirms, adding that the ability to run low-res video imagery with the added bonus of having strobes that are able to tilt alongside the X4 Bars, gives the wall enormous personality. Due to its size and power requirement, it takes three dedicated 400 amp supplies to run the wall at 60%, since production did not want to tour generators.
Designed into the set are three B stages spread out around the arena floor, and Lady Gaga performs on each, travelling via bridges which drop from ‘cocoon’ like structures — surfaces which are used for some inspired pixel mapping. All structures were fabricated by Tait Towers.
LeRoy Bennett knows exactly how to project the artiste’s stage performances, having been involved since Monster Ball. Much planning went into the latest design following the initial discussions back in November 2016.
Back tracking, he reports that Lady Gaga had basic concepts for what she wanted to do on the Joanne tour that were different from past tours. “The stage concept was basically to put the focus on her,” he reveals. “She wanted to gradually strip away some of the more outrageous branding with which she emerged on the scene and bring it back down to an ‘earthier’ version of Lady Gaga, and really show the world who she is.”
And to help implement the concept, he quickly visualized a major role for all the GLP fixtures; these were sourced from Solotech, who purchased them specifically for the tour from GLP’s Canadian distributor, AVL Media.
Explaining the thinking behind this, he confirms, “The JDC1 strobes were chosen because they had tilt functionality and because of the flexibility in what could be done with pixel mapping. They also formed an LED array that played within the strobe like an old school tube type strobe. It has a lot of personalities — including being very bright — and it needed to have as many effects as possible over the course of the show.”
The X4 Bar 20’s have been brought in to add a further texture and layer by introducing a different pixel size — either used alone or in conjunction with the JDC1. “What I like about the X4 Bars is that they can produce a sheet of light — sometimes it will look like low res video screen, sometimes just a wall of light.”
As for the GT-1 LeRoy readily specified them based on his first experience with Rammstein. “I found them to be a pretty awesome product and was impressed with the stability of the lamps, speed and brightness.”
In this context, they are used both for effect lighting and key lighting the band — and their use as all three modes — Beam, Wash and Spot — was fully taken advantage of during the show. “Part of the reason we were able to have only three trusses above the stage is due to the fact that the [the GT1’s] are so versatile — otherwise we would have needed three times the amount of fixtures up there.”
And this versatility created other benefits, as by far the biggest challenge had been weight, leading to a reduction in the original number of planned trusses and fixtures. “The idea and concept was to have the audience walk into room and not have them know what they were looking at, with the room changing shape over the course of the show through automation, with bridges dropping down. Initially there were overestimates on weight, and so I had to cut back some of the lighting fixtures.” In the event, each of the automated trusses has 52 points.
Harry Forster was lead lighting programmer and director on tour along with Jason Baeri. For Forster, working with the JDC1 has been a joy. “The updated layout pixel mapping software on the lighting desk and functionality of the JDC1s in extended mode worked even better than we had imagined,” he admitted. “After weeks of pre vis, we were all still curious about what it would look like once we finally had the 300 strobes in front of us. It was a joyous moment, when it looked even better than it had in the 3D software! Running them in full mode gives us more flexibility and when Roy asks for a specific area of light behind a musician, we can easily pick out a single pixel of any unit.”
And so all the production crew, which included Solotech Lighting Crew Chief, Eric Belanger, and Account Manager, Dean Roney, can reflect positively on a groundbreaking and dynamic piece of stage scenography.
Summing up his first outing with the JDC1, LeRoy Bennett stated, “These fixtures are great, the flexibility that the product has is wonderful and it gave me all the things I was expecting. Lady Gaga is the first show I have used them on and they have been absolutely fabulous.”
Pictures courtesy of Jeff Vinnick Images