Vari-Lite Heads to Sam's Town
Lighting Designer Steven Douglas tours with the VL3500 Spot luminaire
Published Tuesday, April 24, 2007
by Bryan Matthews

Currently embarked on their second world tour, multi-platinum Island Records recording artists’ The Killers are selling-out hundreds of performance venues from festivals to stadiums.  Behind the scenes, Lighting Designer Steven Douglas and Show Designer Bryan Leitch created an exhilarating design to complement both the music and the band.  To achieve his enriching lighting design for the Sam’s Town tour, Douglas chose 42 VL3500™ Spot luminaires.

“This new album and tour are quite themed,” began Douglas .  “It’s a departure, image wise, from their previous album which was more glamour and influenced by European rock.  With this tour, it seems the band wanted to go a bit edgier and grittier.  I think they were tired of being labeled ‘the best British band from America.’, so they wanted to return to their American roots, and revel in the fact that they are from Las Vegas .  They wanted the look and feel to be old Americana .”

Douglas went on to state, “We try to adapt new ideas all the time.  For instance, the lighting rig houses a moving motor system.  We can change the shape and look of the grid for each song, which helps to keep it interesting from a visual point of view for people who at some of the shows can be quite far away from the stage.  It also helps fill in the space that exists in some of the bigger arenas on this tour.”

For the Sam’s Town tour, Douglas created a design that contains no video, no I-MAG, and is strictly lighting based.  Since the band would not be employing the use of video or projection for the tour, Douglas needed to choose fixtures that would be abundant in their attributes while being able to maintain their quality and endure the rigors of the road.  That is what led him to the VL3500 Spot luminaire.

“The band is quite visual.  We like to use the heavier colors, but only about three colors per song.  The color mixing of all the VARI*LITE® fixtures is tremendous, going all the way back to the VL5™ Wash.   I had previously used the 3000™ Series luminaires as the lighting operator on James Taylor.  I remembered how bright they were and how they have so many quality tools for a designer to use.  For example, the optics are so bright and the range of stock gobos are not only fantastic, but they are actually useful. Plus, the lights are very easy to tech and are very road-worthy.  We travel with only two spares for the rig, and our automated lighting tech has had zero issues.”

On the current tour schedule, The Killers will play a number of festivals.  For the majority of this, they will play as the headliner.  In these instances, Douglas advances the lighting design prior to their arrival.  But on festivals where they are performing as co-headliners, Douglas inputs on the festival rig and complements as needed with his VARI*LITE® fixtures.

“At one festival, the house rig wasn’t really up to standard.  So we hung our rig above theirs and we absolutely blew the other bands away.  We didn’t use the festival rig at all.  Quite a few people were impressed by the quality of the VARI*LITE® luminaires.”

“The VL3500 Spot is great for outdoor venues.  The zoom range is so phenomenal I can go from a tight iris beam to looking like I got 80 wash lights.  At the festivals, I sometimes have to play with the shutters and focus the palettes, but then we are ready to go.”

Douglas concluded, “To me, lighting choices really all depend upon the song.  I don’t like to sit down and put in effects, just to be putting in effects.  You can only light the music that the band is playing.  The Killers music is quite diverse, so my lighting needs to be as well.  The VL3500 Spot is unlike any other fixture on the market, and that is why it is perfect for this tour.”

Steven Douglas began his lighting career at the age of 18 working in the theatre.  In November 2004, while living in his hometown of Dublin, Ireland, Douglas was approached by a friend for help.  This friend was wishing to take a day off from his lighting position, and asked if Douglas could both design and operate the lighting rig for an American band in town for a one-night concert.  That band was The Killers, and Douglas agreed to help.

After the show, the band members were impressed by the lighting design and therefore they took down his contact information.  A little while later, Douglas was contacted by the group and asked to join them in January 2005 for their United Kingdom tour.  After that, he signed on as the lighting designer for The Killers, and he has since worked with such artists as James Taylor, Arctic Monkey’s, and Kanye West.


Send this page to a friend