When rock legends Metallica handed down a creative brief to their design team to “start with a clean sheet of paper” when planning the concept for this summer’s Metallica By Request European festival tour, production designer/show director Dan Braun and lighting designer Rob Koenig needed no second bidding.
Since there were to be no legacy products, both men wanted to use a wide palette of LED fixtures with Braun looking to experiment with a non-discharge strobe for the first time; and so Koenig introduced him to SGM’s new XC-5 low profile RGB strobes and Q-7 multi-purpose RGBW wash / blinder. These fixtures brought drama and punch to the show while at the same time proving easy to truck and place within the set at high profile events such as Sonisphere and Glastonbury; but most importantly, they were extremely low on their energy requirement.
Versatility was a further attribute required since the nature of a By Request tour meant that the set list was never the same two nights running.
Rob Koenig, who has been working with Metallica since 2008’s Death Magnetic World tour, confirmed that the new integrated video/lighting concept, designed to tour all European festivals, had been assembled under the direction of the band. “Dan asked me to take a new approach to our festival lighting while maintaining the standard Metallica fans expect. I chose the SGM fixtures and when I showed them to Dan he liked their performance.”
When Metallica tours festivals they prefer to rely on local vendors rather than carry their own gear. Thus the LD specified 54 XC-5 colour strobes and 13 Q-7 as footlights, knowing that they would probably be the most popular and available.
This compact Q-7, deriving its power from 2,000 RGBW LEDs, was also successfully deployed in strobe mode on a couple of earlier shows — which is when Rob Koenig first became really impressed. “I wanted to experiment further, as I was intrigued by them,” he said. “We were able to cut down on power consumption, and the low profile of the fixture made it easy to place them in any corner and nook."
“The Q-7 offered the punch and output befitting a Metallica show — even the RGBW version — while we also used them as uplights at the mic positions and drum kit.”
These fixtures, he said, were sufficiently compact to fit neatly around the monitor wedges — without interfering with the audio. “They provided a nice [110°] fixed beam spread and I was particularly impressed with the flicker free operation.”
Other plus factors, he said, included the quality of the light source. “And for most shows we were also able to cut a generator by using LED strobes, as opposed to discharge fixtures."
“Even though we did not have to transport or install the items, ease of use was important to my decisions because I believe that is an integral component of reliability. The same goes for the reduced energy requirements on the temporary sites that most festivals occupy; lower power requirements generally mean greater reliability.”
Production managed by Ken Mitchell the tour kicked off at Sonisphere in Helsinki (Hietaniemi Beach) on May 28, following a ten-day programming at Prelite in California — a studio set up to enable designers to get to grips with emerging technologies.
With a new set list every night, the show became a continual work in progress. “This tour provided specific challenges since the fans picked the set list and the band determined what they would play overnight according to internet voting for each specific show,” explained the LD.
“The band arranged the songs so that although the show had a similar feel nightly, we never knew what, for example, the sixth song would be — it remained a mystery until we got handed a set list for the night 10 minutes prior to the start. This had to be taken into account as I built the show. And if that wasn’t enough there was live voting during the performance for what would be the final song!”
Metallica’s festival shows also rely heavily on video, so audience members 300 yards away can see the band, and be involved. “We wanted to be video heavy while there was still ambient light, and we knew that laser could only be used near the end of the show when darkness had settled in.”
Since speed and flexibility thus became a vital adjunct to the show, Rob Koenig programmed his lights on a grandMA 2 explaining, “Cloning is my best friend on festival runs and I need [a desk] that can clone fixtures easily and fast.”
Summing up his experience with the SGM lights the LD concluded, “Throughout the festivals I never had a problem with any of the SGM fixtures or experienced any flicker whatsoever. I am excited where these and the LED strobe market is going, and will be watching SGM closely to see how these lights evolve.”
Photo credits: Jeff Yeager - Metallica.com