… and what the Blackburn, UK based lighting rental specialist couldn’t source from their extensive stock, they purchased for John Mayer’s “The Search for Everything” tour … including brand new VL4000 Beam Washes, which were on lighting designer Nathan Alves’ plot, together with Robe BMFLs and Claypaky Sharpy Washes.
HSL project manager Jordan Hanson co-ordinated everything from their end and three of Nate’s regular crew, chief Chris Coyle, Benji Meserole and Holly Lloyd, went to HSL ahead of the tour and prepped the lighting rig, which was supplied as a complete dry hire package for the European and UK legs of the tour.
The overall production design concept for this new tour by Grammy Award winning John Mayer - an artist who’s crafted a distinctive blend of musical accessibility and critical acclaim - was designed by Sam Pattinson from Treatment Studio, also responsible for the stunning video content.
Once the primary architecture of the stage was established by Sam and the artist himself, Nate started work on the lighting plot, choosing his fixtures and deciding on a framework to hang them that was in keeping with the overall look.
The set has a strong video aesthetic with a large LED back wall, an LED floor and LED top-and-front-clad risers for the band, bringing a cinematic feel. It is also extremely neat, clean and definite in terms of visual lines and perspective.
A serious amount of lumens is output by the LED screen and this was one of the challenges for Nate, who has been working with the artist since 2010.
In addition to finding the right and most effective lights for the high light LED environment, he also had to create the numerous moods needed to help capture the dynamics of John Mayer’s set, which embraces his full guitar repertoire - from funky soul and blues to rock and pop to acoustic guitar - plus a strong vocal presence.
The BMFLs and the Vari*Lites are hung on eight upstage / downstage orientated trusses flown in a grid directly overhead the stage. The linear structure of this keeps the ordered geometric style of the stage design which is a nice juxtaposition with the very organic nature of the live performance.
Twenty-four of the Sharpy Washes are on the front truss where they can wash the band or they can be turned out into the audience, with the other four on the downstage corners for low level cross-stage lighting.
The ruggedly elegant metalwork of the eight over-stage trusses is subtly and effectively illuminated by the ambient light emitted from the video surfaces.
Sections of the playback video material are spatial and abstract. Some of the live IMAG mix cut by Kevin Williams is graded and coloured in a bold pop art style, and video is also used as a base lightsource with lots of single colour blocks and wipes across the surfaces, so lighting this set and performance in a complimentary and interesting way … is very different to a standard lightshow.
The artist and the band have to be seen for both camera and live audience.
The lighting also has to match the screen material with big movements and accents at times, but it’s not a conventional beamy or flashy show. It is more sophisticated, complex and mood-orientated, with lots of drama and climatic interventions.
The show is divided into five sections, each chapter opened with a short title slide - usually referencing the band set up.
Four haze machines and fans are rigged in the roof on top of the trusses, positioned and used judiciously to build up without encroaching on the playing area. The haze philosophy is to produce a layer of atmosphere all around the venue that optimises the space for some epic beamy lighting looks that feature in the fourth section.
Nate is running the show on a grandMA2 full size console.
This is Nate’s fourth tour utilizing HSL as the lighting supplier. “They pay great attention to detail, the kit is in great condition and they are also really friendly to deal with, which is fantastic” he comments.
Nashville, Tennessee based Nate first met HSL on ZZ Top in 2011 when they provided his control system. The company supplied lighting for the 2013 John Mayer tour, and then last year, the collaboration continued with Barry Manilow’s tour.
Simon Stuart, HSL’s MD comments, “It’s always fantastic working with Nate and his designs are fresh and different. We take it as a great compliment that he and his crew are confident sourcing lighting from us and of course, it’s great to continue the working relationship with John Mayer’s production team”.