Carrie Underwood Gets Blown Away by Peter Morse and Bandit Lites

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - Bandit Lites is back on the road with Grammy award-winner Carrie Underwood for her Blown Away Tour, a massive production that is shaping up to be her biggest tour yet.  After a wildly successful 2012, the tour has been expanded into 2013 for additional dates in the U.S. and Canada.

With the second leg of the North American tour kicking off February 13 in Colorado Springs, Carrie’s fans have come to anticipate a certain amount of showmanship during her concerts. Her previous Play On Tour was ranked in the top 25 tours of 2010 by Billboard magazine and in the top 20 of

Critically acclaimed lighting designer Peter Morse, who has worked with acts such as Madonna, Prince and Michael Jackson, brought his immense expertise and knowledge to the Blown Away Tour. Using the initial set renderings and script, Morse mirrored the shapes and movements to design a dynamic set, complete with trusses at varying angles.

“They were quite radical,” said Morse of the rigging. “This was due to necessary clearance of the tracking video walls, as well as the desire to ‘amplify’ the multi-angular look of the set and LED panels. In the end, we had a rather dynamic static look to the rig, and the angles of light totally complemented the angles of the set.”

With the varying angles from the truss, Morse was careful to stay clear of the tracking LED walls and other tracking set pieces while still providing coverage to front-of-house positions by utilizing VL3500 washes and VL3000 spots. Additionally, Clay Paky Sharpys accentuate the overall shapes and angles of the system, direct the eye to locations on the stage and add dramatically to the musical impact of the performance.

“Certainly, the intention was for programming of various ‘looks’ and color selections to reflect the mood and actual visuals of all the songs,” explained Morse. “Complementing the video content was of utmost concern, while still illuminating the stage and the action. While I was aware that the lighting had to be an element of its own, creating additional layers to the overall look, I was also intent on making sure the lighting became part of the video imagery.”

To ease the programming, Bandit provided redundant systems, a plan that lighting director Brian Jenkins cites eases his mind in case worst-case scenarios happen, such as power failures, which actually did happen at one point on the tour.

“The building lost a 400amp service during a show, and because each Bandit rack is labeled with how many amps it draws, we were able to quickly and safely split the affected racks onto two 200amp services,” Jenkins said. “With a lot of sweat and flashlights swirling around backstage, that part of the rig was restored within minutes.”

Everyday challenges came in the form of the large, tracking LED walls, causing the static lighting layout to be far from traditional. Moreover, until the show was entirely loaded and motion control was activated, it was impossible to be sure of the potential sightlines conditions or focus options.

“Indeed, due to periodically total blockage of any backlight positions, when all the walls and ceiling panels were at ‘home-base’ position, many fixtures found a ‘new home’ on the deck!” said Morse. “A lot of on-site ‘maneuvering’ of truss points and actual fixture hang positions took place once we had a look at the actual movement of the set pieces. Additionally, as the motion control was being programmed and/or altered, so was the lighting being adjusted to compensate.”

“All in all, we had a lot of work in a short amount of time,” said Jenkins, “but in the end we delivered a great design.”

While it was their first time working on a project together, Morse and Jenkins developed what Morse refers to as a form of “shorthand”: the ability to anticipate the timing and focuses.

“He also calls a clean show,” said Morse of Jenkins. “As for the Bandit crew, I can't say enough! They were hard workers, and never complained, despite the many changes, at odd hours of the day and night, too!” 

“It was our sincere pleasure working for Peter Morse on his design for this tour and I simply cannot say enough good things about his work and patience as the show design evolved,” said Bandits’ vice president Mike Golden. “Our thanks to production manager Chris Coffie and tour manager Geoff Donkin for a very well-oiled machine traveling across the country and my hat’s off to all.”

“I sincerely have a great appreciation to everyone that was involved with our project,” added Jenkins. “The Bandit boys and girls on the road with us were fantastic, those at the shop who worked quickly to prep (and re-prep!) the rig, and there's the champs that supported us on the road via phone, e-mail, and shipping. It's a huge ecosystem of talent that makes hitting ‘Go’ each night a fun experience.”

Photo by Steve Jennings.

About Bandit Lites, Inc.

Bandit Lites is a global leader in the entertainment lighting marketplace.  From touring productions to fixed installations, Bandit Lites has a full staff of highly trained professionals to deal with all types of lighting needs. Bandit’s global presence will insure seamless transitions no matter where your next show takes you.