Philips Vari-Lite luminaires shine supreme on KISS
Published Friday, February 19, 2010
by Bryan Matthews

On September 25, 2009, rock legends KISS launched the 3-month KISS ALIVE 35 North American tour. Once again the 2010 Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame nominees are donning full make-up and putting on the type of high-powered rock showed expected from a group that has been performing sold-out concerts worldwide for over 36 years. At the helm of the lighting design for the rock icons was Sean “Motley” Hackett and behind his dynamic design are 82 VARI*LITE® VL3500™ Wash and 24 VL3000™ Spot luminaires supplied by Epic Productions in Los Angeles, California.

“As KISS began to assemble their production team for this tour, their regular lighting designer, Bryan Hartley, was unavailable due to commitments with Aerosmith and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra,” began Motley. “I had filled-in for Bryan before on a few KISS shows back in 2007 and 2008 after serving as the lighting designer for the Paul Stanley tour in Australia. Since he had previous obligations, I received an e-mail from tour management asking if I would fill-in once again, so I accepted their invitation.”

Once onboard, Motley began meeting with the production team and management to outline exactly what they were working for in terms of lighting and just how the lighting would influence the overall production. He soon found out that the answer to those questions would lead him to a powerful design that would need to keep pace with the large video portions of the show.

“The show design started with the band wanting a set full of video elements, and it was also requested that the lighting play a crucial element in the show design. The band gave me a great deal of latitude in selecting the lighting gear and I knew whatever I chose had to have the output to keep up with the all video elements.”

Working through his design, Motley decided upon a lighting rig that would measure 64 feet wide made up of seven trusses with 2 foot x 8 foot side truss to give the 106-foot stage a wider look. With the throw distances combined with the intensity of the video elements, Motley knew that the fixtures he decided upon as the workhorses of his design would have to have the perfect combination of lumen output and performance capabilities. After narrowing his search, he decided upon the VL3500 Wash and VL3000 Spot luminaires.

“The lighting is the frame for the big picture. It’s all about seeing the band and the lights are there to make the whole show look huge. After looking at all the lights in the market, the VL3500 Wash, with the VARI*BRITE® Mode, was the only fixture that would cut over all the video. Then, when looking at the throw distances, I knew the VL3000 Spot nd the VL3500 Wash could be zoomed with maximum brightness for all the cues while maintaining the deep rich colors that I would be using throughout the show.”

During the show, Motley would rely heavily on his rig to create strong beams, colors, and tight zooms. All of which he found successfully in the VARI*LITE luminaires.

“There are only a few traditional cues in the show that must be done, but the rest is what I call a ‘1980’s Ozzy Osbourne pub-rock rig on steroids’ with intense colors and hard beams and fast strobes. I have been most impressed with the color, beam and strobe capabilities of the VARI*LITE fixtures and we’ve been getting great feedback from all the industry people and KISS fans alike that have seen the show.”

Reflecting on the overall production, which ended December 15, 2009, and how he first got started in the business, Motley is very pleased with his latest lighting creation and he is enjoying all the moments that come with being a touring LD for one of the greatest rock-and-roll acts of all time.

“I first saw KISS in 1980 in Sydney and came home to tell my mom that I was going to be a roadie and make big rock shows. Today, it seems I have come full-circle. At first it was a bit weird talking to band members in full make-up and 8-inch boots that make them all 7-feet tall, but after years of touring with INXS as an LD it seems sort of normal. I had Lenny Kravitz sitting at front-of-house in New York City and I got a little nervous as I have max respect for him, but once the first 30 seconds of the show were over, I was in the zone. It’s been a great tour so far and the VARI*LITE fixtures are a big part of that success.”

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