Jason Baeri and Brian Jenkins programmed lighting for Roy Bennett's design for the latest Maroon 5 tour in support of V. Media/video was programmed by Loren Barton, with lighting supplied by Upstaging and video supplied by PRG. We caught up with Baeri, who programs regularly for Bennett and calls this design "in a word, epic," as the tour started.
Baeri says that Bennett's design incorporates some element of "epic" on every song, but it's done in sections and builds, "unfolding different petals of the rig like a giant mechanical flower so that every epic moment can be bested by a physically larger epic moment right up until the encore. Maroon 5 has been around since the early 2000s and has had a pretty good track record of churning out a hit a year since their inception. It stands to reason that this whole tour is somewhat a collection of their greatest hits over the last 12 plus years, so you can’t just save the big looks for the big hits, because they’re all big hits."
The stage Bennett designed, says Baeri, is basically a massive, mirror-lined, Plexiglas fishbowl that can be filled with smoke or low fog and then evacuated. "Upstage there are 19 hollow Plexiglas panels that are staggered in height from offstage to on," the programmer says. "The panels can open offstage to leave just a solid steel 'doorframe,' or they can swing close and fill with smoke just like the fishbowl to turn them into a projection screen." The stage is a V-shape with a long runway that terminates in an arrow-shaped B-stage.
"Every song is the biggest version of that configuration of the rig at that moment it can be," says Baeri. "When you watch the show from the top, the scene looks huge, but if you were to go back to the top after watching the whole thing through, you’d be amazed that so much came from such a small part of the rig."
The main stage is flanked on either side upstage by 20 Clay Paky Mythos that Baeri says act as backlight and sidelight for the stage as well as aerials and set lights. Over the stage are 21 Philips Vari-Lite VL3500 FX fixtures hung on the main grid for band and audience light. Automated linear pods overhead are lined with two rows of Ayrton Magic Blade-Rs. In the fishbowl are 20 Clay Paky Sharpy Washes, with 96 Robe CycFX 8 units lining the runway and B-stage An arrow-shaped truss overhead mirrors the B-stage and holds 60 additional Mythos units for audience and aerials, as well as 20 more VL3500 FX fixtures for stage wash and audience lighting.
Baeri calls the Mythos, "a pretty cool tool, kind of a jack-of-all-trades light. It's damn fast for a light that size, but you still get a pencil beam out of it that can punch a hole in the sky. Then you can flip them around and use them as a spot or a wash that’s still brighter than most of the 1,500W lights out there." He also likes working with the MagicBlade-R fixtures. "The Ayrton stuff is always interesting as well. Physically, it's a unique structure because of how deep the elements are set into the head. You’re looking at the face of the fixture as a scenic element, but you’re also looking at the beam of light as a lighting element, so they pull double-duty as a part of the physical and photon part of the visual terrain of the look." Two MA Lighting grandMA 2 consoles with NPUs and 14 MA Nodes provide the control setup.
The show starts with much of the moving rig and B-stage out of view, "just the [Clay Paky] Mythos and floor lights, and open fog panels with wash lights shooting through them," says Baeri. "A few songs in and then we start to introduce the projectors as aerials behind the band with the panels still open. Then we move the roof and close the doors, and use the projection screen." For the start of the encore, the show focuses in on the B-stage before switching back to what Baeri calls "the rock section at the end of the encore, where we just use every part of the rig and stage, and just tear the roof off the place."
The team prevized using MA Lighting MA 3D, a week in Los Angeles and another week at Rock Lititz Studio. "I don’t want to sound like I’m plugging a product, but it made the whole thing possible," says Baeri. "We had a short amount of time to put this together, and we needed any help we could get. So in previz and then again on site, I would work with the rig while Brian built the next song using preview mode in 3D, and then we’d leap frog. It was invaluable to the process in this case."
When it came to challenges in rehearsal, Baeri notes that the mirrored set provided some interesting moments. "It is a reflective surface on three internal sides," the programmer says. "Every time you shine a light on a band member, you’re shining a light into a mirrored room that bounces back out to a different part of the stage. We got some really cool looks using the effect, but it was difficult to isolate people from time to time." He also says that striking that balance between lighting and video was a challenge at times. "The projectors are such a strong look, but they’re competing with so much in the rig that you really have to pull back a great deal of the lights to make them pop in the latter half of the show. The guys did a great job of making them pop."
Tobias Rylander created video content for the tour, while Mike Green is the lighting crew chief and Aaron Levy, the automation programmer for the pods via Tait Navigator. "Aaron was fantastic," says Baeri. "We asked him for about a dozen looks with the pods, and he was not only spot on with his execution, but was always eager to improve on the looks and add a delicate layer of panache to the way the pods moved."