Describing his approach to a Foo Fighters lighting design, Hadley says, “We just try to make a big, fun rock show that doesn’t interfere in the sacred trilogy of the band, the songs, and the fans. There’s never been much reason to attempt overly lofty artistic goals with Foo Fighters, it doesn’t fit.
“Our primary goal is to amplify the connection between the band and crowd so that the fans at the back are able to feel as much a part of the evening as everyone else. If that connection is good and the crowd responds to the band, the band returns in kind, a feedback loop is created. Then we’ve done our jobs to create an experience that fleshes out the music that the fans listen to in their daily lives. We of course try to be creative in our execution and give the fans something exciting to look at, but more important is that they are a part of it.”
Hadley has taken the geometric design on the cover of the band’s ninth studio album, Concrete & Gold, as the core motif of his design, creating a bold, dynamic lightshow that echoes and enhances its angular forms. He says, “When I got the album artwork with the new diagonal square logo I was excited to have some strong geometry to work with and to have a sort of theme of either 45˚ and 90˚ angles. Whatever decisions were in front of me, I had those to start from or fall back on.”
Asked about his level of creative control in designing for the band, Hadley says, “We work with precious little input form the band, so when they do mention things they like we try to exceed expectations in delivering those key things. We get a few goals and will work together to find the best way to work them into the show, without betraying the unwritten contract they have with the fans, and to be able to keep the show flowing no matter what changes of course occur along the way.
“The setlist that Dave [Grohl] writes 15 minutes before the show becomes decreasingly reliable as the night goes on, so we have to be prepared to react to audibles, which means that the design needs to allow for total flexibility. I say this to sort of laugh off the notion of ‘control’. But if we’re just talking about decisions regarding video content, lighting looks, automation cues, etc - that’s all in my lap.”
As always, the creative design of a touring production on this scale is a collaborative process. “Primarily it’s my direct crew of collaborators,” explains Hadley, “Andy Babin managing IMAG effects and content, Scott Wilson for the lasers, Josh Adams directing cameras, and Colin Nevins on automation. I encourage them all to bring ideas to the table, because they’re very talented and excel at their craft, and the show can only benefit from their unique input. That makes it easy to trust them to be autonomous and adventurous: occasionally I have to veto or reel something in but with a little bit of back and forth we build something nice and try to continually develop new looks or improve the existing ones as the tour goes on.”
Speaking of his reasons for choosing the VL6000 Beam fixtures, Hadley says that he particularly likes the fixture’s big reflector and the fat beam it produces. He says, “We have two upstage video walls so I needed to have something that held its own in front of all those pesky pixels, and they don’t struggle a bit.” He adds, “I wasn’t particularly concerned with features as much as I was the look of the beam and the fixture itself, and once I saw the VL6000 I knew there was no substitute.”
“There wasn’t another fixture that I knew of that came close to offering the look of the fat beam and the big reflector - and since these are all used on the floor, the physical presence needed to pull its weight almost as much as the light coming out of it.”
Hadley’s original design for this tour featured 12 VL6000 Beams placed in a ‘V’ formation on the floor upstage of the band, but this has developed further as the tour has progressed. Hadley says, “Once we’d done a few arena shows I was excited to add an additional 12 under the side IMAG screens for the upcoming outdoor shows. We’ve now done a dozen or so stadiums in Australia and South America and they’ve proven to be exceptionally good wing lights.”
Concert touring is a tough environment for technical equipment, not just for the constant rigors of transporting, rigging and derigging, but also for the range of temperatures and weather conditions the show will encounter. Hadley says the VL6000 Beams have been “very reliable, even through some adverse weather in the stadiums, such as a surprise hailstorm in Porto Alegre, Brazil. They’re lightweight for their size and are easy to manage.”
Asked if the VL6000 Beams met his expectations, Hadley replies, “Indeed they did.”