Queen Latifah is a woman of many crowns: Grammy-winning rapper, Oscar-nominated actress and celebrity spokesperson. Now the hip-hop icon is adding yet another: jazz diva. To that end, Queen Latifah embarked on a U.S. tour in support of her new jazz album, 'Trav'lin' Light'.
Supporting the tour is Scott Warner, Lighting Designer and Director, with an all Vari*Lite rig supplied by TMS (Theatrical Media Services) of Omaha, NE.
Better known for his larger scale design work with such artists as Everclear and the PussyCat Dolls, Scott Warner embraced the opportunity of not only designing, but also acting as console operator for this intimate project that was slated to play mid-sized venues comprised mainly of proscenium style traditional theatres.
Scott had worked with Vari*Lite fixtures in the past on tours such as Everclear in the early 2000’s, but had more recently been working primarily with and specifying other brands of automated lighting. However, at the suggestion of Mark Huber of TMS, Scott agreed to design the show using Vari*Lites which included 16 VL3000 Spots and 4 of the recently released VL3500 Washes.
The tour, 34 dates between Sept 29 and Nov 20, presented several design challenges. The largest of which was the nature of the venues. The traditional style of traveling with a suspended rig and all gear was not a possibility. As a result, Scott was required to design a basic static plot of conventional fixtures that could be pre-hung at the venue in preparation for the arrival of the tour rig. The tour rig was a floor supported design comprised of primarily Vari*Lite automated fixtures supplemented with LED and conventional lighting providing dramatic side and back light effects to offset the fixed front and top lighting of the house rig.
Each venue supplied their own pre-hung static fixtures using their house system and electrics based on a plot advanced per venue by Scott. Then the tour would load-in the day of the show and install their own band risers, floor support truss and main backdrop, then position the automated lighting around the set, in most cases, completely visible to the audience.
“The crowd for this style of show is a more mature and sophisticated audience than the average arena style concert goer,” Scott observes. “This makes it much more difficult in terms of the design elements. I needed to watch every aspect of the show to make sure I did not distract away from the focus of the particular song. At a concert, if a strobe accidentally goes off in the middle of a song, the crowd usually cheers and gets more excited. With this tour, I needed to be confident that every button push on my GrandMA was going to result in smooth movement and be exactly what I expected in order to make sure I did not distract away from the artist and the music – to that end the Vari*Lite fixtures gave me the smoothness of travel and dependability I needed to confidently blend live changes into each show.” said Scott.
And change things Scott Warner does. “My design approach”, added Scott, “is to close my eyes and imagine what the music would look like if I was watching someone else design and then determine what I would expect to see. Luckily, I always seem to hit the mark with show management and the artists. As a result, I am given latitude to make changes when I feel they would enhance the show. Working with the VL products I am completely confident that the technical side of the equipment does not hold back my creativity.”
Having grown out of a garage band beginning to become a designer for many arena scale world tours, Scott says his style is to approach the design for the art as opposed to the effect and then select the technology that best fits the requirements of that design. Using money his parent gave him after high school to pay for college, Scott bought lighting equipment, started renting it to local clubs and never looked back. Reinvesting his earnings back into automated lighting, Scott began to receive requests to design as well. A few strategic business connections helped Scott move further away from the equipment rental side and began to focus primarily on design. He eventually landed design roles for major acts such as Jimmy Eats World, Gwar, Train and Steve Vai.
Working with the Vari*Lite fixtures for the first time after almost a decade, Scott says he finds the creative tools offered by Vari-Lite’s colors and patterns very impressive and supportive of his style of design. Scott concluded, “I really feel Vari*Lite got it right with the VL3500 Wash. In my opinion, they could stop making wash lights right now and I would feel that there is no need to make another wash fixture, the VL3500 Wash is my new favorite light!”