Lighting Designer Liz Berry is using a grandMA full-size to control lighting on the current Sisters of Mercy European tour. The maverick UK alternative rockers are back on the road again, continuing an impressive live performance career spanning nearly 30 years, with lead singer Andrew Eldritch and drum machine Doktor Avalanche being the constants in the line up.
Berry had previously lit â€˜The Sisters' on a handful of festival dates, and was delighted to be asked onboard for the tour in February. When the itinerary was revealed, along with the decision to utilise house rigs supplemented with a small but very precise specials package, she decided the time was right to try the grandMA control platform.
“I'd seen the console more and more on shows and festivals,” she comments, “And thought this would be an ideal opportunity to learn it, specially knowing that we'd be dealing with a wide selection of different moving lights every night, so I knew that the fixture cloning and exchange facilities would be a great asset.”
The lightshow is a moody, heavily back-positioned mix of colour, beams and movement, with plenty of subtleties that require meticulous programming and execution, a task that Berry finds very straightforward with the grandMA once she'd grasped the basics. She also likes the flexibility of being able to set the desk out exactly as you want to suit the style of operation.
The band are extremely keen on immersing themselves in the lighting during their performance. Whilst Berry was given a free imaginative rein, Eldridge will also articulate ideas and enjoys working highly interactively with light, particularly using it as a concealment. Together, he and Berry weave the light into the set as a magic element of the performances as he walks partially into or out of it, playing with the beams amidst the impressive meteorological haze of smoke that has always characterised their show!
For Berry, this has been the primary creative challenge – and also extremely rewarding. She says, “Andrew has pushed me hard creatively, making me think about light beams as physical objects for him to interact with, and it's been absolutely brilliant.” While the band had certain stipulations about the lighting, to further challenge herself, Berry also introduced her own visual rules – including using a maximum of two colours per look, plus black and white.
The European touring package – supplied by west London based Panalux consisted of 6 x Clay Paky Alpha Beam 300s, 4 x Martin Washlights, 2 x smoke machines and a hazer - an expedient rig which she made go a long way.
Berry's show is almost entirely improvised, so that's how she's set up the desk to work, finding it “completely rock solid”. Each song has a non-positional orientated preset on the spots programmed into a Cue Stack, with all the Wash and Beam activity busked and added over the top. Spot positions are also added live, in order to offer Eldritch opportunities to play as he prowls the stage, but should he choose not to be seen, a dark area upstage centre gives him a place to hide.
For the European section of the tour, the grandMA was supplied by TDA, from Essen, Germany.
A.C.T Lighting is the exclusive North American distributor for the grandMA. A.C.T Lighting can be reached at 818-707-0884 or www.actlighting.com.
Photos: Copyright – Louise Stickland
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