Designer Steven Douglas breaks away from the norm for “Day & Age”
Published Thursday, May 21, 2009
by Bryan Matthews

As The Killers embarked on their latest tour to support the release of their third album “Day & Age”, it was a primary goal of designer Steven Douglas to capture the essence of the bands latest compilation within the lighting design. Serving as both the scenic and lighting designer, Douglas knew that he had an interesting challenge ahead of him; to keep pace with the bands use of several different sounds and sensations throughout the production. Douglas needed automated lighting instruments that would give him both creativity and flexibility, and he chose the VARI*LITE® VL3000™ Spot and VL3500™ Wash luminaires.

“The previous ‘Sam’s Town’ tour we did was much more theatrical with an old western Americana vibe to it,” began Douglas. “This album and tour are much more polished with more sheen into the sound. I met with the band last May when they were in the studio recording the album, and they played me some of the songs and we had a discussion about where they were headed with it. From there I went out and did a few set and lighting design drawings and over the course of last summer we went back and forth and ended up with what we have now. It sort of has a 1980s feel to some of it, so in the lighting design we wanted to go with big color and a lot of LED more than anything.”

As the design elements came together, Douglas created a 60’ x 28’ LED wall upstage, with palm trees and cactuses as set pieces. Downstage were wooden boxes with RGB neon strips on the front. Douglas and his team wanted to make the design a bit more fun over the previous tour which they felt carried a more serious tone.

Douglas continued, “This tour and design was all about fun. We’ve got confetti, pyrotechnics, and at one point we even had bubble machines. The band really wanted to bring fun back into arena shows. Arena shows have just gotten too serious and stone-faced in the last couple of years, so we wanted to inject a bit of humor and life into this one. I’ve worked with these guys for over four years and this is the 5th different design over the three albums that we’ve done. It really does change from show to show. The last tour had a lot of very classic tungsten looks, but this one is all about fun so there are a lot of bright colors. They really gave me free rein to go and make things a little stranger and do things a lighting designer might not normally do.”

With free rein being given, Douglas was able to choose any automated lighting instruments he felt had the most complete set of attributes to assist him in creating the exact look and feel the band desired. After contemplating many variations, Douglas ultimately chose to use 21 VL3000 Spot luminaires and six VL3500 Wash luminaires.

“The VL3000 Spot is the best profile light there is with its optics and color-mixing. It’s just a fantastic light. I don’t have to swap out any gobos because the stock gobos are always great and it’s reliable. They never look like they’re being overpowered by anything else. I can light an entire stage with only the profile fixtures without having to bring any wash lights on which is always good. The zoom is so big that 20 of them take in the entire stage. They also do audience sweeps with big washes around the arena.”

Capitalizing on the zoom capabilities of the VL3000 Spot, Douglas was now looking for an automated luminaire to serve as a backlight for the band. Due to the construction of the set design, space was limited, but Douglas had previously worked with the exact fixture he knew would solve this challenge; the VL3500 Wash luminaire.

“I used the VL3500 Wash on the Alicia Keyes tour last year with Nick Whitehouse. On this tour, we have limited space on the floor because of the curved LED wall and all our pyrotechnic equipment which is downstage of that. I needed my floor lights to be upstage of the LED wall in order to shoot through it and into the audience. With the limited space, I needed to use as few lights as possible, but I still needed the tremendous punch. This light is so good I only had to use six of the VL3500 Wash luminaires to backlight 60’ of stage. Plus, I am able to take each light from a huge arena-filling wash light to a tiny little spot beam of light.”

As the tour continues on its way to a closing performance in Phoenix, AZ, in September, Douglas couldn’t be happier with the automated luminaires from Vari-Lite. For him, they incorporate the best in lighting instrument capabilities with performance reliability.

“On this tour, we have had no problems of all with the VARI*LITE luminaires. I love the bright beam and the aperture wheel on the VL3500 Wash which give the show really nice aerial effects. And the VL3000 Spots were used because they’re simply my favorite profile light. If I’m having any sort of a profile light on a tour, the VL3000 Spot is where I start.”

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