Carrie Underwood recently wrapped up her powerhouse Cry Pretty Tour 360 with a lighting package provided by longtime vendor, Bandit Lites. Nominated for Entertainer of the Year at the 53rd Annual Country Music Association Awards, Underwood has been thrilling audiences around the globe all year with her all-female tour featuring a stunning ‘in-the-round’ lighting design by Nick Whitehouse of Fireplay production studio.
“This tour is by far the most ambitious design yet for Ms. Underwood and it has certainly paid off in terms of visual artistry,” said Bandit Lites Vice President, Mike Golden. “Carrie has a veteran staff in Tour Manager Geoff Donkin, Production Manager Graham Holmes, Show Producer Barry Lather and Lighting Director Nate Cromwell, and with Nick Whitehouse and the visionary team at Fireplay, this year’s production is unmatched and flawless.”
Drawing inspiration from the Cry Pretty album artwork, Fireplay designed a stage using the eye logo and infusing an impressive pod design that held the majority of the light fixtures.
“When lighting in the round, each side of the stage needs to have key lights, effect lights and audience lights as each person’s perspective of the lighting show will be different,” explained Whitehouse, “so each pod contains just that: an amount of each. The rest of the design came out of the necessity of lighting around the screens.”
Bandit Lites supplied nearly 400 fixtures for the design, including GLP JDC1 Strobes, Martin by Harman MAC Viper AirFX, Claypaky Sharpys, Claypaky Mythos 2, VL 3000 Spots, Scenius Unicos and Robe Spikies. Two grandMA2 full consoles provide Lighting Director Nate Cromwell control.
Every moment in the concert is treated as an opportunity to dazzle the audience visually, and with lighting playing a key role in each song, Creative Director Barry Lather, Carrie Underwood and her creative team provided direction on the colour and type of lighting for each number.
“It was my job to take that, put my spin on it, add some drama, theatricality and dynamics and make sure that the whole show flowed and was cohesive,” Whitehouse said.
Whitehouse used Claypaky Mythos 2’s spread out over six pods, providing massive air effects out wide of the stage, while Martin Viper AirFX units in the pods supply a ‘second siren unit’ and double as stage and audience lighting. GLP JDC1 fixtures in the pods provide big hits into the crowd, and each pod also features a BlackTrax follow-spot Unico in the center for 360 coverage of Carrie as she moves. The remaining JDC1’s, Vipers and some VL3000’s are distributed over two arc trusses that follow the long sides of the stage.
“The looks we managed to get from the pods were massive and awesome,” said Whitehouse.
“It is an extremely dynamic and elaborate show,” said Cromwell. “Over 3,500 cues triggered in a 120-minute set. Nick Whitehouse did the programming himself, and it is cued and laid out brilliantly.”
With so much going on visually during the show, Whitehouse also had to find a way to work in key and effect lighting without blowing out the projected images from the roll drop screens.
“Luckily, I had Nate Cromwell and he spent hours and hours per song making zones for the BlackTrax so that we could avoid these obstacles and also light Carrie perfectly and constantly wherever she moved.”
“Nick worked with us on the fixture selections and produced a beautiful layout for the gear,” added Golden. “Nate Cromwell added his skills and expertise in utilising the BlacTtrax system to its fullest, and Graham Holmes figured out the way to wrangle twenty-one trucks in and out each day all the while making it look easy. Our crew has done an exceptional job taking care of business on the road, and between all parties, this project has been an amazing success.”
“The crew has been outstanding,” echoed Cromwell. “It is a lot of work getting over 350 fixtures in the air every day, and they have done extremely well at all the variables different venues bring every day. The back end support the Bandit shop has provided is also a stand out; we have always had the resources we need to keep the rig going and in top shape.”
“Bandit and their team on this show have been excellent,” finished Whitehouse. “The crew went above and beyond to make this monster of a show feasible to load in and out and keep working despite a tough tour schedule. I have been very impressed with the service we have received from everyone at Bandit.”