Better Than The Rest

Tina Turner is pushing 70. The Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll will manage to avoid that significant turn-of-age while on the road, since she's just a young 69 at the moment, and her tour, which kicked off in the US on October 1, is set to conclude in April 2009, several months shy of her 70th birthday on November 26.

But don't let her age fool you. Turner's high-energy show is a huge production including loads of choreography (by Toni Basil) and costumes (by Bob Mackie) — everything you'd expect from a diva who's been in the business for (gasp) 50 years. Lighting/production designer/creative director Baz Halpin and production designer Mark Fisher of Stufish set the stage for Turner's return after a seven-year hiatus.

One of the goals for the tour was to highlight Turner's prowess and her impressive history in the business. “Her story is truly inspiring, and we wanted to create a show that could in some ways chronologically reflect that,” says Halpin. “We had an arsenal of set pieces, props, lighting, and video effects at our fingertips, but it is vital to note that, whereas some artists require gags and gimmicks, Tina does not.”

Fisher, who has worked with Turner since her first solo tour in 1981, as well as with business manager/music producer Roger Davies on several tours with other acts, says Turner is very involved with developing the shape of the show. “Tina is always full of ideas,” he says. “My job is mostly keeping the lid on the bottle.” Fisher notes that Turner wanted a huge production that reprised her greatest moments on stage, also incorporating her work in film. “What I tried to do was glue it all together visually and give it the scale and muscularity that her performance demands,” he adds. “At the same time, Baz and Roger were crafting the running order so that the show worked both dynamically and creatively.”

Halpin adds that he and Fisher stared working with Turner and Davies in the spring on set lists and production concepts. “As this was a retrospective tour, we wanted to bring back a lot of the historic scenic elements from previous tours,” he says, adding that he structured the show and metered the pace to include all the elements they discussed in a two-hour program.

To recall previous tours, set elements include a steel claw reused from the 1999 24/7 tour and a huge iris from 1999 to represent GoldenEye, for which Turner recorded the theme song. A cage that evokes imagery from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome is new but is meant as a throwback to the 1985 film in which Turner co-starred opposite Mel Gibson. Tait Towers built the stage and set pieces, including those used from previous tours. Nick Evans from Stufish worked in AutoCAD to produce the detailed technical design drawings that included all set, lighting, audio, and video elements, as well as the integration of the rigging. Adrian Mudd at Stufish worked in Lightwave to render the show design animations for presentation to Turner.

Fisher says that, from his perspective, the key elements in the production design are “the big look when the curtain opens and the payoff at the end. The set is strong and simple, and at the start of the show, it hides all of the action that is to come. The production moments that follow — the Mad Max cage, tracking video screens, an unplugged section, and the GoldenEye iris — mark the subdivision of the show into musical sections. The steel claw at the end is the finale. Her fans will remember the claw and the GoldenEye from her earlier shows.”

The claw is what Fisher refers to as “one of the nicest pieces of stage equipment that I have ever designed and that Tait Towers has ever built.” Coming out of storage from Upstaging, it works during each performance's finale to cantilever Turner approximately 60' out over the audience. “She is completely fearless about the way she uses it, strutting around on the spine of the arm in 5“ heels with not a handrail in reach,” Fisher says. “It's amazing to watch, and as a finale to her show, it is hard to imagine doing anything better.”

Fisher also makes particularly creative use of the iris after its 12 years hanging on the wall at Tait's workshop. “We took it down, cleaned it up, and Nick Evans and I worked out a new way for it to reveal and do its stuff in the show,” he says. To accompany the iris and give it a new feel for this tour, Fisher designed a long pantograph staircase that rises up to the center of the iris to allow Turner to make a dramatic entrance through the iris. Evans added “a clever telescoping diving board to get Tina up behind the blades and through them to the top landing of the staircases when the iris opens,” says Fisher. A Tait Towers custom motion control system keeps everything moving.

Halpin says he opted for low profile truss, knowing that vertical space was at a premium, especially considering all the motion control and the number of set pieces. “With a moving LED wall, I had to be careful to ensure both the closed and open positions were free from visual obstructions,” he says. “The Mad Max cage, which is stored in the roof space and 20'-plus wide, meant that lighting trusses would have to live on either side of that. It was a challenge to design a rig that wouldn't look like it had a big hole in it.”

The design team divided the show into five sections, with an unplugged interval as the middle section. The first section of five songs keeps lighting effects to a minimum, with a monochromatic look with “a lot of DWEs and tungsten sources to gain as much energy as possible from static sources. It is straightforward rock ‘n’ roll with the video wall acting as faux upstage drape and lighting being quite simple but effective,” says Halpin. The video wall is an eight-section SACO V9 LED wall provided by Nocturne Productions. Five Points Production Services of Nashville provided all the rigging gear.

Halpin says that Turner's presence on stage is more than enough “to captivate even the most discerning of audiences. We use the LED wall for the first time here along with a number of set pieces to end the first half with a huge production number of ‘We Don't Need Another Hero’ in an homage to the Mad Max movies and the Auntie Entity character that Tina played,” Halpin says.

The second section features a more production-heavy set, starting with “Acid Queen,” and what Halpin describes as “intensely psychedelic and lets the audience know that they have moved to a different place in the show.” Halpin uses more saturated colors in the lighting in this section in conjunction with the LED wall. The third section of the show moves into an unplugged, acoustic feel, with little dynamic lighting at all, while section four features more high-intensity looks. The last encore section features Turner in straightforward Lycian M2 followspots for “Be Tender With Me Baby.”

Halpin's lighting rig, provided by PRG Concert Touring Group, includes Coemar Infinity Wash units, Vari-Lite VL3000 spots and VL3500 wash units, and PixelRange PixelLine 1044 LEDs. “I love the Coemar Infinity wash and tend to use them on all my shows,” says Halpin. “Along with the VL3000 spots, they are the workhorses on the tour.” A Syncrolite SXB-5/2 unit is also on tour for backlight for Turner's stage entrances. Mickey Curbishley and Gary Farrell are the PRG Concert Touring Group account managers for the tour.

In the last section of the show, a wall of Clay Paky Alpha Beam 300s, also provided by PRG, is revealed from behind the V9 screen when the screen divides into four, then eight sections. The Alpha Beam 300s are hung from custom brackets along the sides of the split screens, five along each side, for a total of 80 units. “They make an incredible impact without overwhelming the other stage elements,” says Halpin. “We were able to use all of their features in different ways to get a gorgeous variety of looks.”

Fisher also had an impact on the lighting. Halpin notes that Fisher incorporated a line of PAR 64 ACLs on the upstage riser on the stage. “I ended up relying on these lights more than any others in the rig — great location, great look,” he says, also noting that “Mark is incredibly sympathetic to, and knowledgeable about, the interaction between lighting and set. He gave me lots of set practicals and lights in spaces where I needed them.” But Fisher takes little credit: “The integration was very tight,” he admits. “It was all masterminded by Baz. I designed stuff that I knew would light well and put it in places where it could be lit. Baz did the rest.”

Kathy Beer is lighting director and board operator, who worked with Halpin on preprogramming for a week at PRG Los Angeles using ESP Vision. The rig is run via a networked MA Lighting grandMA with one spare console tracking. “Tina plays live, live, live,” says Halpin. “It's possible for her to add a verse, drop a chorus, change this and that during the show. This is a heavily produced show with timed lighting cues, motion tracking systems, moving set pieces, visual imagery, and choreography, but we still needed to maintain an overall flexibility and the ability to follow the artist.” Seth Goldstein is the tour's stage manager, and rigger Bart Durbin calls all the show cues.

For added punch in the visuals, Pyrotek Special Effects provided pyrotechnics designed by Lorenzo Cornacchia. The pyrotechnic designs were coordinated with Halpin throughout the three-week rehearsal period. Pyrotechnic crew chief John Arrowsmith introduces the effects in each show, which include everything from dragons, fireballs, gold flitter mines, red mines with glitter, aqua mines, blue mines, and an all-fire cue of 20×20 firing upstage concluding Tina's hit song, “Hero.” “It's a real powerful song, and we focused on adding a barrage of distinctive looks that truly highlight the heavy riffs,” says Cornacchia.

Once the lighting and set designs were under way, Halpin went to work with Olivier Goulet of Geodezik on creating visuals for each song. “This was a tricky process, as all of Tina's music is live and never played to any click track,” he says. “We had to be flexible enough to deal with different tempos on a show-by-show basis.” Video content on the V9 screen, which runs at about 40% of full capacity, is about a 60-40 combination, respectively, of original footage shot and edited by Goulet and I-Mag run by video director Larn Poland.

Video control is separate from that of the lighting department. Poland notes that Goulet's original content runs through Doremi Labs V1 VDRs for playback, controlled via a Medialon Show Control System, and then goes through a five-layer Vista Spyder Video Processor. “Systems engineer David Boisvert looks after and runs most of the manual cues through the Medialon system to the Spyder to the V9,” says Poland. “Throughout the entire show, we have just two time-coded songs that are synched up to the music, and necessarily so, and the rest of it is a manual cue from David.”

Poland runs his content via a Grass Valley HD Kayak system, using some of the effects in the system, but he also added his own effects to the Kayak system, particularly for one sequence, using four different DPM (Digital Picture Manipulation) keys. “There are still a few moments every night where I have to turn the music off and really concentrate for about 30 seconds to make sure I get the number of key punches right,” says Poland of the 25-button sequence. Barco SLM G8s, FLM R20s, and SLM R12+ projectors, along with five Ikegami cameras and a Folsom ImagePro HD Video Scaler, round out the video gear list.

At stage left and stage right sit four Stewart Filmscreen screens, one 16'×12' and one 12'×9' per side, two for rear-projection and two front-projection, dedicated entirely to I-Mag. For a three-minute interval during the show, a roll drop screen also descends in front of an encompassing stage curtain at the downstage edge for a video of recap of Turner's life and career.

“It is an ever-changing show in terms of looks,” says Halpin. “We have the colossal pieces that, when they do come in, dominate the stage and change the appearance. Poland, Goulet, and I worked together on every song to ensure that, even when the screen is used for I-Mag, it always has a style or effect appropriate to the song. Video and lighting are balanced together and work as a single tool.” Halpin adds that video and lighting were often programmed at night together to ensure that “the end result was symbiotic.”

As for mishaps, Halpin has little to report. “From a technical side, there were very few challenges,” he says. “We had preproduction rehearsals in Hershey, PA, and under the guidance of production managers Malcolm Weldon and Jake Berry, we ensured that 90% of the work was accomplished before we ever started rehearsing in Kansas City.” But the talent is another story. “Trying to keep up with Tina is a challenge,” he says. “She is a constant driving force and has more energy than your average 20-year old. She is, without a doubt, the hardest working woman in show business.”

Fisher sums it all up: “No matter what Aretha says, Tina is the Queen of Rock.”



Lighting/Production Designer and Creative Director: Baz Halpin

Production Designer: Mark Fisher, Stufish

Video Content Designer: Olivier Goulet, Geodezik

Pyrotechnics Designer: Lorenzo Cornacchia, Pryotek Special Effects

Assistant Production Designer: Nick Evans, Stufish


Production Managers: Malcolm Weldon, Jake Berry

Stage Manager: Seth Goldstein

Production Coordinator: Dori Venza

Show Director/Head Rigger: Bart Durbin

Video Director: Larn Poland

Lighting Director/Board Operator: Kathy Beer

Video Crew Chief/LEDs/Cameras: Shawn Worlow

Lighting Crew Chief: Ian Tucker

Video Systems Engineer: Graham Holwill

Video Playback: David Boisvert

Dimmer Technicians: Thomas Bider, Doug Eder

Moving Light Technicians: Drew Johnston, Michael Merle

Lighting Technicians: Steve ”Six” Schwind

Riggers: Steve ”Elkie” Chambers, Paul Ingwersen

LED Techs/Cam Ops: Tracy Calderon, Nicholas Weldon

Video Tech: Nick Ruocco

Pyrotechnics and Special Effects: John Arrowsmith

Head Carpenter: Timothy ”TK” Woo

Carpenters: Chris Woo, Robert Gallegos, Daniel Witmyer, Jesse Thayer

Carpenter/Automation: Jacques Richard


Lighting: PRG Concert Touring Group, Syncrolite

Video: Nocturne Productions

Set/Stage Fabrication: Tait Towers

Pyrotechnics: Pyrotek Special Effects

Rigging: Five Points Rigging

Sound: Clair Brothers




2 MA Lighting grandMA Console

6 MA Lighting grandMA NSP

2 ETC 96×2.4kW Sensor Rolling Dimmer Rack

2 ETC 48×2.4kW Sensor Rolling Dimmer Rack

88 Clay Paky Alpha Beam 300

8 Clay Paky Alpha Beam 300

28 VL3000 Spot Fixture

8 VL3000 Spot Fixture

38 VL3000 Spot Fixture

9 VL3500 Wash Fixture

18 ETC Source Four 19° Ellipsoidal 750W

4 ETC Source Four PAR NSP 575W

4 ETC Source Four PAR VNSP Lens

4 Lighting & Electronics 1,000W Mini-Flood

4 Mole Richardson 650W Nook Light

6 5kW Sky Lite Sky Pan PAR36 650W DWE

33 4-Lite PAR36 650W DWE

40 2-Lite Fixture w/Horizontal Yoke

13 PixelRange PixelLine 1044 4' LED Batten

5 Lycian M2 2.5kW HMI Short Throw Followspot

5 PRG Series 400 Power and Data Distribution Rack

24 PRG S400 Module 15A×12 208V

4 PRG S400 Module 15A×12 120V

50 PRG S400 Breakout Box 15A×6 L6-20 208V

6 PRG S400 Breakout Box 15A×6 Edison 120V

7 PRG S400 Ethernet Switch

3 PRG S400 400A Disconnect

1 PRG S400 FOH Power and Data Cable 350'

3 PRG S400 FOH Breakout Box

2 PRG S400 FOH Module

2 PRG Virtuoso Node Plus

1 Goddard Design Lil' DMXter

1 Dadco PD 2 in/6 out Cam-Lok

2 208V 20A 24 Veam Power Distribution

4 Buck/Boost Transformer 30A 208V

2 Clear-Com 2-Channel Base Station

20 Clear-Com 1-Channel Beltpack

11 Clear-Com 2-Channel Beltpack

20 Clear-Com Double Muff Headset

2 Clear-Com Single Muff Headset

4 Motion Labs 8-Way Hoist Distribution

3 Motion Labs 8-Way Pendant

1 Motion Labs 16-Way Pendant

6 Motion Labs Control Cable, 50'

20 1/2-ton Hoist

1 Lex Products Power Distribution 3ph 30A×2 L21-30

1 Power Distribution 3ph 30A×6 L21-30, 200A

6 Reel EFX DF-50 Diffusion Hazer

3 Jem ZR33 Fog Machine

7 Jem AF-1 DMX Fan

17 Martin Atomic 3000 Strobe

44 Mark XII ACL Beacon with Clear Dome

20 James Thomas Engineering 15”×30”×8' Low Profile Truss

10 James Thomas Engineering 15”×30”×10' Low Profile Truss

12 Swing Wing Truss 30“×10'

3 12“×12“×5' Box Truss

5 12“×12“×10' Box Truss, Black

9 20“×20“×10' Box Truss

13 Fall Protection Life Line Shock and Tension Assembly

26 Fall Protection Carabiner

26 Fall Protection Steel Anchorage Sling

5 Full Body Harness

5 6' Dual Shock Absorb Lanyard

4 Safety Rope 100'



5 Ikegami HL-65W Video Camera w/ Fujinon Lenses

11 Exview B/W CCD Camera


1 Doremi Labs RCV1 Remote Control

2 Doremi Labs V-1 Dual-Channel Hard Disc Playback & Record

1 Folsom ImagePRO HDVideo Scaler

4 Grass Valley Group BPS CP Button Per Source Control Panel

1 Grass Valley Group Concerto HD32×32 HD Router

1 Grass Valley Group Encore Router Controller

7 Grass Valley Group Geko 8900FFNDA/Converter/A-toD Tray

1 Grass Valley Group Kayak CP Kayak Control Panel

1 Grass Valley Group Kayak HD 150C1.5 ME HD Switcher

1 Henry Engineering Matchbox II Interface Amplifier

9 Intellinet Ethernet Router

1 Sigma VEQ-2605-A1×6 Video DA

1 Sony DSR-1800DVCAM Record & Playback Deck

2 Sony PVM 8040

1 SonyPVM-4114x B&W Monitors

1 Tektronix TG700 Test and Sync Generator

1 Tektronix WFM 7120HD/SD Digital Scope

1 Casetronics Travla C1471 RU 2 CPU Rackmount Computer

1 EAW DX8108×10 Digital Matrix Audio Mixer


2 Clear-Com Intercom Power Supply

2 Clear-Com Intercom User Station

6 Clear-Com Double Beltpack RS-602Z

8 Clear-Com Single Beltpack RS-601Z

6 Clear-Com Double Muff Headset

6 Clear-Com Single Muff Headset

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