HSL Captures the Depeche Mode Global Spirit

Blackburn lighting rental specialist HSL is the main lighting and video worldwide contractor for Depeche Mode’s Spirit tour. HSL is partnering with Creative Technology to deliver the video package.

The raw, stylish, industrial production design is by Creative Director Anton Corbijn, who has always pioneered video as an essential vehicle of live production. Lighting has been designed by Sooner Routhier and Robert Long of SRae Productions and is being directed on the road by their associate Lighting Director, Manny Conde.The Spirit tour is being production managed by Tony Gittins and plays a mix of stadiums and arenas. HSL’s Project Manager Jordan Hanson is working closely with CT’s music and touring specialist, Graham Miller and the HSL Chief of Crew Ian Stevens. They will be travelling internationally, together with the full lighting rig.
HSL’s Managing Director Simon Stuart commented:“We are delighted to be working with Tony and his team on this groundbreaking tour and it’s been a real pleasure to collaborate with Sooner and Manny and ensure they have had all the support they need. The design is innovative and edgy. I am a huge fan of Sooner and her thoughtful, intelligent approach, which captures the mood perfectly. The band are on top form as always!”

Sooner explained that the entire look of the Spirit show was inspired by Corbijn’s branding for their 14th studio album which was released in March. The stage has an upstage walkway with the front clad in LED screen and a long runway on stage left extending into the audience with a shorter one on stage right. The large upstage video wall is a 15.6 metres wide by 6.6 metres high, 7mm pitch rectangle which meets the lower strip along the front of the walkway measuring 15.5m wide x 1.8m high, also 7mm in pitch which looks like one continuous surface from the front. These two onstage screens are packaged in CT’s convenient quick-assembly touring frames.

The IMAG screens are constructed from 8mm pitch Aoto M8E product from CT. The right stage is in a landscape orientation and the left stage is portrait and these asymmetrical elements, together with Corbijn’s request for a stark, edgy feel to the lighting led to Sooner’s proposal of the asymmetric lighting rig.

The workhorse lighting fixtures are Vari*Lite VL6000 Beams, which were purchased brand new by HSL for the tour and work in conjunction with Robe BMFL Spots as the main profile fixtures.These are distributed on three or four upstage / downstage orientated trusses on stage right and three or four onstage / offstage trusses on stage left, together with two flown vertical side torms either side of stage.
“The VL6000 Beam captured my imagination, just as I knew it would with lighting designers. Right from the very first time I saw it previewed at LDI, I knew this product would become a key in my rental inventory.” commented Stuart.“The retro styling and design plus the cleverly thought-out colour system and aerial gobo section combined with such a massive collimated beam of light makes it a total winner.”

GLP X4 LED washes in the overhead trusses kick in for potent back and rear effects.Four of the BMFL Spots – two a side – are positioned on the deck for low level cross lighting onto the band. There is also a row of VL6Ks behind the band and upstage of the backline, and Claypaky Sharbar moving multibeam LED battens.Forty-eight Philips Nitro 510C LED strobes are rigged on the audience end of the stage right trusses and on the side torms, arranged to look like stadium house lights. They are used very flexibly for additional wash light sources and audience blinding as well as for standard strobing and zoned effects.
To add some physical movement and idiosyncrasy, Sooner specified eight specials on Pantographs, which required custom fabrication. HSL sourced eight classic 10K fresnel housings, refurbished them and custom fitted each with two GLP X4S compact LED washes. The zoom on these is extremely tight and can resemble a spot, so the resulting custom unit is quirky and highly effective.
For general stage and set washes, Elation SixPar 200s are used as truss warmers and for band lights and LED PARs on each of the pantographs highlight the scissor mechanism is lit as it extends downwards. The stage left runway is outlined with Martin Sceptron LED battens, which together with the Sharbars, are mapped and fed video sources via a Green Hippo server triggered by Conde’s grandMA2 full size console. “They are super bright and look great,” he commented.
In front of the PA wings and below side IMAG screens each side are 8 Robe MMX WashBeams installed in weather domes. Two Robert Juliat Lancelot follow spots are also on the spec.
As you would expect from a Depeche Mode show, the dynamic range of the music is massive.Corbijn produced eight unique films which play out in the big screen in specific numbers, and other video pieces are composited from his animated artwork, some of it beautifully simple and others cerebrally complex.The content is programmed and run via Green Hippo Taiga servers, selected as the best option for these applications by the design team.The IMAG mix is directed by Richy Parkin, utilising a Panasonic 6000 PPU from CT together with five operated Sony HXC-100 cameras positioned at FOH, in the pit and handheld onstage, plus three Q-Ball robocams dotted around the stage. Other times, the lighting is left to carry the mood and atmospherics of the song. The show starts quite minimally and builds momentum to a full stadium rock finale as Dave Gahan takes enrapt fans on an epic DM musical adventure.

For Sooner, working with HSL has been “brilliant – a really excellent experience, great, very nice people and no requests were ever too much!” Creating a show with an imaginative genius like Anton Corbijn has also been noteworthy. “Not only does he have wonderful and incisive creative vision, he’s an incredibly lovely man,” she concludes.

It is the first time HSL and CT have worked as visual partners on a tour.CT’s Project Manager Jim Liddiard commented: “I’m very impressed with HSL’s delivery and it’s great to discover that we share a similar outlook on packaging, crew and delivery – there is a real synergy!”

Stuart is equally positive about the alliance with CT: “Their operation is top-notch, they have a skilled team of people with a great attitude and I look forward to working on more projects together in the future.”