Published Thursday, September 6, 2012
by Philips Vari-Lite

Born in the USA singer, Bruce Springsteen is a rock star that loves to play live. For his lighting designer Jeff Ravitz, keeping the visual excitement real can be quite a challenge. Although Springsteen has sold more than 120 million albums worldwide, he is notorious for his unofficially extended concerts and its Ravitz’s job to stay one step ahead of his, sometimes unpredictable, program.

For example, just this summer an over run in Hyde Park, London saw Springsteen unceremoniously switched off. This however did not deter him from concluding his 2012 European leg in Helsinki in true Springsteen style playing a personal record-breaking four hours and six minutes. Such capricious behavior means Ravitz has to be quick thinking, focused and have a lighting design and system that offers maximum flexibility, power, and of course subtlety.

Forming the backbone of his lighting rig is a battalion of Philips Vari-Lite luminaires including 21 VL2500 Spots, 22 VL3000 Spots, 15 VL1100TSD luminaires and a VL3500 Spot. As Ravitz points out, “I have to be ready for anything at any time. I endeavor to craft each and every song as a unique mini-design in itself, ensuring that the look responds directly to the emotions, rhythms, and melodies.”

Fixtures are strategically positioned with each luminaire’s placement carefully calculated. “I've always been a fan of the Vari-Lite optics, punch and overall quality of movement. The effective results of those features alone can make or break the design. In addition the Vari-Lite stock gobos are really useful, and we also add custom gobos as well,” comments Ravitz.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s show is a slick well-oiled machine of musical energy and personal messages but like most live concerts, there’s no theme that conveys a single idea throughout. “Bruce’s show is 25-30 individual mini productions,” explains Ravitz. “Each has its own beginning, middle and end. I want to deliver a design that does justice to his performance - a mixture of introspection, love, lust, friends, politics, etc – each with different tempos and volumes.”

Ravitz uses a wide variety of fixtures each strategically positioned to cover all the musicians but also placed to fill the air with the color and composition that best visually expresses the voice of Springsteen's music. “Sometimes I will sculpt the band members and Bruce with a single thin line of light, sometimes reveal them fully,” he describes.

“Each band member has VL1100TS keylight and VL2500 backlight, which I use to vary the color, intensity and sharpness of the look. The VL1100 is a great workhorse. We use the tungsten version because we favor the natural, warmer color temperature. However when we want to shift the color, it's easy. The shutters are important to me and we use them to the max to get the most out of the light and still keep it clean off of scenic elements.”

Surrounding them are VL3000 Spot luminaires to set the environmental tone, while uplighting enables Ravitz to accentuate the drama and create theatrical effects on the band - especially Bruce.

Bruce reportedly watches DVDs of the video of the concert and regularly comments on everything from the cinematography to the camera and lighting approach.

Ravitz says he considers himself extremely lucky to be the designer for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. “Bruce is the ultimate performer,” he says. “He's rock, folk, a bit of metal, a great comic, and vaudeville all wrapped into one package. The music is fantastic, the lyrics are inspiring, and the show is off the charts. Literally, there are times when all our planning goes out the window, when Bruce and the band jump the tracks and just ‘make it up’. That gets my heart pumping, and even when I'm a bit frustrated and bewildered, I'm still smiling.”

Morpheus Lights, based in Las Vegas, supplied all the equipment and crew for the UK and European legs, as well as in the ongoing US Tour. Ravitz concludes: “The reports I get from the backstage tech department is that the lights take to the road well and don't require excessive maintenance, despite being bounced inside a truck and then being hung in some pretty unfriendly environments on a daily basis.”

Send this page to a friend