Talented UK alt-folk-rock band Mumford & Sons are midway through a world tour promoting their fourth studio album, Delta, which dropped at the end of 2018. The live show features a stunning and highly creative lighting design by long term LD Ed Warren and Phil Kaikoura which includes an extensive Kinesys automation system.
The Kinesys Apex System being used on the tour was chosen and invested in by UK-based Brilliant Stages who designed and provided the mothergrid system. Also in use are a series of bespoke spine trusses designed to span under venue score boards. The Kinesys motors are mounted inside Brilliant’s own custom truss sections, with two motors per section of truss that are then attached to the mothergrid spines through connection plates.
The lighting design started with Warren and Kaikoura receiving a brief from the band containing -amongst other things – some cryptic statements about what Delta meant to them, which was followed by several months of back-and-forth, with set/video designers Stufish, Warren and Kaikoura all throwing different ideas and proposals into the mix to see what stuck.
Show designer Ric Lipson from Stufish always planned an in-the-round show which brought many physical challenges for lighting – restricted positions for overhead trussing, sightlines, the band being able to move freely around the space, etc. Setup and rigging time were another major consideration as the dates were booked before the production was finalised!
All of this led to the essence of the lighting design being based on a series of moving pods. These could be varied according to the size and shape of the venues and followed Warren and Kaikoura’s original concept, which was to fill that over-stage void – common to in-the-round stage designs – with practical production elements.
Often, this space might be filled with LED screens, but Warren and Kaikoura explained that the band have never been keen on big LED video looks, so they instead produced a solution to transform the space that could build and change throughout the show and also offer a level of ‘inclusion’ for the audience.
The flat five ft high stage in the centre of the arena measures 12m by 7.5m, and above this are the 14 lighting ‘pods’ – trusses connected by a special cradle – and each one is picked up by the two Kinesys 500kg Apex motors.
The pods were designed to be more sculptural than utilitarian. The shape came loosely from the classic Mumford wings with a slight copper powdered coating reflecting the lights from above when the pods are lowered.
The construction of the pods is designed so they simply split in the middle with a few catches. From the dolly, it only takes a couple of crew to clip each end of the pods together, before they are attached to the Kinesys Apex motor and flown up in a matter of minutes.
The pods are each loaded with four Portman P2s, a single Martin MAC Aura XB and a GLP JDC1 LED strobe and they move into different positions and looks.
There are also six lighting trusses, with the four centremost also each on two Kinesys motors making up a total of 36 Kinesys points.
Warren had previously used Kinesys on the band’s last Wilder Mind tour, but it soon became clear that Delta would be a whole new level in terms of automation complexity and sophistication.
As the design developed and started to involve a huge number of ‘live’ moves happening above the band and the stage space right in the centre of the arena, they wanted a super safe automation product and the new Apex system “ticked this box with its almost endless list of safety protocols and protection,” explained Warren.
On a design note, he adds that it was “also capable of creating the very fluid and elegant moves and subtleties we needed for the different pod scenes.”
A series of shapes are created throughout the set combining the 14 pods and four lighting trusses, varying from asymmetric and a sloping low ceiling over the stage, to pointing the pods out to face the crowd, creating a wall of light. This shifting architecture provides a fantastically dynamic environment for performance.
The pods also move in a wave formation during a couple of songs and a slow corkscrew motion on others bringing additional energy to the show.
For the big pyro moment during “Darkness Visible” all three of the lighting trusses fly in as low as possible to the stage – around 7ft – just above the band’s heads, with pyro comets shooting up into the rig creating a super dramatic look.
In addition, there is a ring of lighting trusses around the stage with Zactrack controlled Claypaky Scenius Unicos which are mapped seamlessly so they fade between zones around the space for key lighting.
Automation proved a perfect visual solution for this scenario where Ed and Phil “needed to get as much variation as possible in a technically challenging in-the-round format,” stated Warren.
With no backlight and working only with lighting from directly above the band, they had to be imaginative and think out-of-the-box to get the best effects.
The 36 Apex motors are being controlled by Luke Williams operating a Kinesys Vector PC based controller – part of Brilliant’s purchase which was masterminded for them by Ben Brooks.
During the production rehearsal period at Fly by Nite’s studios in Redditch, Williams, Warren and Kaikoura created around 30 different and unique pod looks including an all-important V formation – a nod to the classic Mumford ‘wings’, and the aforementioned eye-catching continuous corkscrew movement.
At the top of the set, the pods start in a ‘homed’ flat position. A few numbers in, some pods – still in the flat position – sneak down to their ‘mid’ height flown positions as the first moves start to unfold.
As the set builds, more interesting looks are introduced, including angling the pods from left to right and steep angled pods in both V formations and flat.
One of the most powerful looks is with all 14 pods angled to create a huge raked wall of light that starts off towards FOH and, during the song “Believe”, slowly pans across to point to the opposite side of the arena. Some intense programming was involved to maintain the shape consistently across the pods for the whole move, but everyone is delighted with the results.
It was crucial to the look and feel of the show that the pods move as organically as possible, and Warren knew that the Apex’s slow motor speed and smooth movement was the way to get this degree of precision, together with the reassurance that the stage space below was totally safe.
Joining Luke on the automation crew are Jordan Whyment (Automation Crew Chief), David “Boots’ Callan, Max Pearson and Erin O’Brien. Lighting is being supplied by Neg Earth in the Europe and Solotech in the US and the and LX chiefs are Adam “Moonunit” Morris and Adam “Taff” Morgan.
The Delta tour is being production managed by is Steve Gordon and continues throughout 2019.