By Steve Jennings
Projection, Lights and Staging News
Like a fine wine, the Fleetwood Mac story seems to improve with age. Since their return a few years ago, Fleetwood’s—and Stevie Nick’s popularity remains unchallenged in a sea of resurged classic rock bands. Vari*Lite’s Curry Grant, who has designed tours for Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks, is once again illuminating diva Nicks on her solo outing. Curry has also designed and directed lighting for many other artists since he started in 1975, from Van Morrison to Crosby Stills and Nash to Supertramp. “I even designed a small touring show for Whoopi Goldberg once!
“Supertramp was one of my favorites. That’s fantastic music to light and different from most of what I had done to that point. Crosby, Stills and Nash was the last time Curry toured with one of his designs before joining Vari*Lite in 1988. “And since then Vari*Lite Inc has always been kind enough to give me whatever time I’ve needed to continue designing for Fleetwood Mac and Stevie.”
For Stevie’s tour, Curry looked for input and collaboration from the artist as well as industry contemporaries. “The basic stage concept is Stevie’s,” Curry explains. “She loves her current album cover photo for ‘Trouble In Shangri-La’, which features her going through an archway with the Pacific Ocean in the background. It looks like she’s about to step through the arch and onto the water. Stevie insisted on the arch being a part of the stage, so that pretty much became the centerpiece.
But I knew that we needed more to finish it, and I always felt like Maxwell Parrish lent itself really well to Stevie’s image. (Stevie’s own art often includes stylized castles, mountains, etc.) The simplicity of the arch left the rest of the concept pretty wide open, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to try to incorporate some of those Parrish elements. That’s where the vine—wrapped columns, the pedestals, and the urns came from.
For this tour, Stevie had some ideas about color, not so much lighting-wise but for the set. She spent a lot of time choosing artwork, pictures and colors for her CD insert and wanted to continue that general palette, which was a lot of muted colors….lots of pale ambers and pale blue-greens.” After the first meeting with Stevie, I went to Jim Lenahan (Tom Petty LD) who agreed to help me get it started. Jim is a brilliant designer himself and does some incredible graphic renderings. We did some rough ideas, experimenting with different styles of arches and different placements on the stage, and trying to incorporate the Maxfield Parrish stuff. Then about a month went by while I tried to get together with Stevie again. Meanwhile, Jim went on the road to do another few weeks of his Tom Petty tour.
When I thought I had a good basic idea, I took it to Louis Mawcinitt. Louis has designed many of Stevie’s past sets and is also a brilliant artist. He actually came up with the final set design rendering that we used. He also supervised the construction of all the pieces. Everything from having the columns made to all the painting of the drops, etc. He was there every day at rehearsals as well, until she was happy with the final product. And we did make some changes in rehearsal. Ultimately I think we ended up with a good combination of all the elements. With the columns downstage as foreground pieces, the pedestals and urns upstage of them, and the arch with the ocean behind it all the way upstage, we certainly did a good job of creating depth on the stage.
“When it came to lighting I wanted to use a little of everything on this show. I wanted to show off all the new fixtures as well. These new fixtures really are the best lights that Vari*Lite has developed recently. The colors you can get from the VL2402 are absolutely amazing. The best color system in a wash light to date, if you ask me. The VL2416s gave us the punch we needed upstage and the lens rotation makes for a great effect.
Curry stressed the collaborative spirit achieved on the tour. “This was a collaboration between myself, Paul Guthrie, who is Sheryl Crow’s designer, and Bryan Faris, the lighting director. Paul and Bryan did the majority of the actual programming. They built the songs. I’ve programmed those songs so many times myself, with different systems. So I enjoy having other people’s input. It’s interesting to see how someone else might interpret the same music. Those guys are incredibly talented and did some fantastic programming.”
LD Bryan Faris whose past credits include No Doubt (designer), John Tesh (designer), Matchbox Twenty (club tour) as well as Megadeth and Whitney Houston (programmer), has been with Vari*Lite since 1989. According to Bryan, “ We’re using our newer luminaires—the VL2402’s, VL2416’s, VL6c’s, and the VL5’s. The 2416’s (1200W source) are really punchy, it’s really like a canon of light. Some of these fixtures I’ve never toured with before and they’re holding up really well. LD Paul Guthrie is involved with the show as well, with great input and programming.”
“I’ve been adding a bit of the flashy rock n’ roll looks to the show over the duration of the tour. We try to keep Stevie’s key light uncontaminated; we either punch the air or the set, only the newer songs have really changed a little over the course of the show. We ran the gamut of colors in rehearsal, and there was no color that was outlawed in the show. It’s a good looking show, and I’m having a lot of fun.”
Trouble in Shangri-La Tour Personnel:
Lighting Designer — Curry Grant
Lighting Director — Bryan Faris
Production Mgr. — Omar Abderrahman
Stage Manager — Chris Malta
Production Coordinator — Nancy Ghosh
Lighting Company — VLPS
Rigger — Seyton Pooley
Carpenters — Michael Garrigan, Eddy Sato
Lighting Crew Chief — Bill Shittaker
Lighting Crew — Mel Dorough, Blake Rogers,
Robert Simoneaux, Wayne Boehning
(14) VARI*LITE VL4 Wash Luminaires
(21) VARI*LITE VL5 Wash Luminaires
(29) VARI*LITE VL6C Spot Luminaires
(12) VARI*LITE VL2402 Spot Luminaires
(13) VARI*LITE VL2416 Wash Luminaires
(1) VARI*LITE Virtuoso Control Console
(8) 3K Diversitronics Strobes
(8) ETC Source Four Lekos
(24) PAR 64’s
(1) Robert Juliat Followspot
(2) Reel EFX DF—50 Foggers
(346′) 20.5″ Medium Duty Truss
(1) 15′ Diameter Circle Truss
(2) CM Hoist 1/2 Ton Motors
(27) CM Hoist 1 Ton Motors