One of the biggest stars of the immensely popular Irish Country music scene, Nathan Carter and his band recently finished a 13-date tour of England backed by an ADJ-led lighting and effects rig. From beams to stage washes, smoke effects to dry ice, Nathan’s longtime lighting designer, Derek Reilly, relies on ADJ equipment to create the backdrop for his jubilant performances.
Born and raised in Liverpool, England, by a family that originated from the city of Newry in County Down, music has always been a part of Nathan Carter’s life. After spending his youth traveling to Ireland to compete in the Fleadh Ceoil singing competitions as well as playing accordion and piano in a Liverpool-based Ceili band, he moved across the Irish sea at the age of 18 to pursue a fulltime career in music.
Over the following decade Nathan has honed a distinctive sound that draws together country, Celtic and pop influences. He has released 11 studio albums, four of which topped the Irish national chart, and won legions of fans throughout Ireland, the UK and around the world. Since 2014, Nathan’s longstanding Production Manager and Lighting Designer Derek Reilly, has been along for the ride.
“I’ve seen the demand for Nathan’s live shows grow consistently over the six years that I’ve been on the road with him,” comments Derek. “Back when I started, we were in small theatres but now the promoter is booking much larger venues and we’re often seeing them sell out. Over the last few years, Nathan’s popularity over here in England, and particularly up in Scotland, has really taken off. We now do more shows away from Ireland that we do local shows back home.”
With extensive experience of life on the road, Derek worked on a number of Irish tours before taking a job with a staging fabrication company. When the company was contracted to provide a set for a run of Nathan Carter shows Derek was sent to build and maintain it on the road, where he developed a strong relationship with the touring crew, band and Nathan himself. At the end of the contract Nathan invited Derek to join his permanent touring crew and he is now the longest serving crew member.
“When I started with Nathan, I had limited experience of lighting, so took on the role of Production Manager with a focus on the set. We had a Lighting Designer who set up the show and toured with us for a while, but he didn’t want to keep doing the same thing every night. So he went on to another tour after teaching me how to run the desk and from there I taught myself programming and learnt everything I could about lighting. When it came time to revamp the production, I took on the role of LD. However, Nathan is very hands on with every aspect of his shows, so he’ll also input creatively into the design. We’ll sit down when a new song is being added to the set list, or we’re changing up the rig, and he’ll share his ideas – let me know where there is a key change or something else that would make for a good lighting cue.”
ADJ’s Vizi Beam 5RX has been a staple of Derek’s lighting designs for Nathan for the past four years. This extremely popular fixture harnesses the power of Philips® Platinum 5R 189W discharge lamp technology, which has output comparable to a regular 575W fixture. It pairs this potent light source with precision optics to generate a razor-sharp 5-degree beam that can be shaped using 14 colors + open, 17 GOBO patterns and an 8-facet circular prism. Throughout the show these are used to create a wide variety of looks, including mid-air effects above the band and beams that shoot out over the heads of the audience.
“We’ve had the Vizi Beam 5RXs out on the road for around four years and I’d say they are as good now as the day we got them. They are really reliable, I’ve honestly never had a problem with them. For the size of venues we are playing, and what we want them to do, they are perfect: punchy, sharp, bright and quick. They are also really good value, which allows me to have more fixtures for our budget. They cut through the background wash really well, and the beams travel all the way to back during the moments when I sweep them out over the crowd.”
The color wash on stage is generated by 10 Rayzor Q7s from ADJ’s sister company Elation Professional. Each of these compact moving lights pack in 7 x 15W Osram quad color RGBW LEDs, which generate a tight 7-degree beam of diffused color. While Derek does utilize the movement offered by these fixtures to achieve multiple different focus positions throughout the show, they are generally used as static washes to create a curtain of colored light over which the dynamic aerial effects of the Vizi Beam 5RXs are laid.
To add impact to certain points within the show, four of ADJ’s Fog Fury Jett Pro units are lined across the front of the stage. Each of these powerful effect generators combine a 1450W vertical fog machine with an array of 28 x 3W colored LEDs to create huge blasts of colored fog that shoot up to 40 feet in the air. Especially when used with ADJ’s Fog Juice CO2 quick-dissipating fluid, this allows for effects similar to CO2 jets to be created but without the associated cost and inconvenience.
“The Fog Fury Jett Pros are very effective and Nathan likes the wow factor they add to the show. We use them during the first song, sparingly for a few other key moments, and then a bit more heavily at the end. Maybe if it was a DJ-led show, we’d use them all the time, but for this kind of concert a ‘less is more approach’ is more appropriate. If we used the effect constantly it wouldn’t have that same wow factor!”
To add atmosphere on stage for some of Nathan’s poignant ballads, Derek and his crew use dry ice low fog effects in the larger venues they visit. To create this effect on cue, they use ADJ’s popular Entour Ice. Unlike other competing models on the market, which feature a manual system for lowering a basket of dry ice into a tank of hot water, this innovative machine utilizes an automated system that pumps the hot water into the dry ice chamber when the effect is required. This not only allows remote triggering of the effect via DMX but also facilitates more precise control over the output volume.
“I saw on Instagram a video of the Entour Ice and it looked good, so we decided to try one and were really impressed. In fact, originally we thought we’d need two, but found that one was enough to create the effect we wanted. It’s a good unit and we’re really happy with how it works and the effect it generates.”
As this was exclusively a theatre tour, Derek utilized the front of house stage lighting already installed in each venue. However, when Nathan plays in venues that don’t have these fixtures readily available, Derek makes use of ADJ’s Encore FR150Z and Encore FR50Z LED-powered Fresnels. The latter is a compact unit powered by a 50W warm white LED engine that shines from a 6-inch lens, while the former is a larger unit featuring a 130W LED source and an 8-inch lens. Both units feature barn doors to control dispersion and offer manual beam angle adjustment between 8 and 50-degrees.
“Back in Ireland, there are not as many theatres as there are over here in England. So, together with many of the bigger theatres, we also play some large hotel function rooms and need to bring in the same level of production and essentially make them look like theatres. Obviously there is no front of house lighting, so we put up a truss and use ADJ Encore FRs. When choosing the fixtures for this purpose, LED was very important for us because power is often limited in these hotel venues. They also make setup easy, as we don’t need to put in dimmer racks and run socapex all over the place. When I first saw the FR fixtures at a tradeshow I was instantly drawn to them; I really liked the output but also the size of them, as we’re often limited for headroom in these hotel venues.”
Nathan, his band and their crew are incredibly hardworking, touring continuously and playing in excess of 100 shows each year. This means that Derek really puts the ADJ fixtures he uses through their paces and is therefore perfectly placed to comment on their reliability and the support offered by the company.
“Kris [Dawber] and Andy [Howarth] at ADJ UK have really looked after me,” Derek states, “not that I’ve ever really had problems with any of the ADJ fixtures. Last year a fuse did go in one of the Vizi Beams and one of the crew broke the housing when replacing it – a very simple thing, but ADJ got it fixed for me very quickly. I’d really recommend ADJ lighting to any touring LD looking for reliable and effective fixtures that fit into even a cost effective budget.”
Following a much deserved rest and a string of Irish Easter shows, Nathan and his band, along with Derek, his crew and their ADJ rig, are due to return to the UK for a run of Scottish dates in April.
Nathan Carter UK Tour 2020
Tour Manager / Lighting Designer + Operator
- 6 x ADJ Vizi Beam 5RX
- 10 x Elation Professional Rayzor Q7
- 4 x ADJ Fog Fury Jett
- 1 x ADJ Entour Ice