"Madonna had a definite and very strong idea of what she wanted, and the design was driven very largely by that," says LD Al Gurdon, in terms of the ultimate lighting design. "We ended with an amalgamation of our original concepts to deliver her vision, and I knew I would do something different, depending on which songs were sung, and that was decided rather late in the scheme of things."
Gurdon developed a rig to tackle the unique challenges of this particular show, which has a very fast load-in with absolutely no room for error. "In this case, we had the roof of the stadium, so we could fly things in advance, which is not always the case for the Super Bowl, but the sightlines mean that, during the game, everything had to be hung very high up, and then we had to bring it in to a workable height and make it work for the cameras, as well." In fact, some of the rig remained at 175' above the field, so Gurdon had to choose fixtures that would have an impact at that height and find a way to get lights lower to be effective on camera.
"For the choice of fixture, I wanted to progress from the past several years," says Gurdon, who used a series of pods with square truss configuration—some on the ground, some flown in by a Kinesys automation system—with 204 Clay Paky Sharpy units in a tight configuration. "I used the Sharpy fixtures in unison to create one powerful beam or separately for different effects, such as a mirror ball effect for ‘Music.’ They were a very key part of my design."
Chroma-Q Color Blocks provided background lighting in the bleacher section behind Madonna. "I also used them to outline the stage to make it pop from the field," Gurdon adds. In addition, his rig featured Philips Vari-Lite VL3500 Wash FX fixtures, VL3500 Wash units, VL3500 Spots, and PRG Bad Boy Spots, as well as Martin Professional Atomic Strobes, Philips Color Kinetics ColorBlast RGBs, iW Blasts, and iW Cove units.
Once he knew the feel and musical sound of each song, and the history of how it was performed before, Gurdon selected his color palette for the lighting, which was also suggested by the costumes. Gold was used for a Pharaoh-inspired look, with black and white for "Vogue," which Gurdon refers to as "very chic, very stylish, very clean, with black and white photographs." He used a more colorful, nightclubbing feel for "Music" and primarily red light for "Give Me All Your Love," with its cheerleaders dressed in red, black, white, and gold. "The final song, ‘Like A Prayer,’ with rays of sunlight, suggested gold again, so we finished with the same gold as the opening, like bookends of similar looks for the opening and closing of the show," Gurdon explains.
"It was a very complex show logistically, and the lighting directors support me very much in what I want to do and how to make it work," says Gurdon, referring to a team that included Bob Barnhart, who also lit the "National Anthem" segment; Dave Grill, who liaised between Gurdon and stadium staff; and Rich Gorrod, who got plans to their final state and oversaw technical aspects. Gurdon also gives props to Tony Ward of PRG and board op Mike Owen, who used a PRG V676 console running through a PRG Series 400 Power and Data Distribution System. "He is an unparalleled programmer," notes Gurdon. "He puts a great deal of his own creativity into the show, has great attention to detail, and comes extremely prepared. We did pre-viz with [Cast Software] wysiwyg for a week in England before we went out there, so we had the show already in the board and could fine-tune it onsite, not have to build it from the ground up."