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Philips Vari-Lite VLZs provide cool, beautiful light
for Gary Numan’s Savage tour

Photo: ©The Fifth Estate
Philips Vari-Lite’s VLZ Profile LED luminaires met an unusual variety of stage lighting demands for the recent Savage tour by British electronic music pioneer, Gary Numan.
For a number of special dates on the tour, including a showcase performance at London’s Royal Albert Hall, Numan and his band were joined on stage by members of the Skaparis Orchestra and Kantos Choir. In his fan blog, Numan had promised “the biggest and most extravagant light show that I’ve taken on the road for over three decades, designed specifically for these special orchestral performances.” 

Responsible for fulfilling that ambition was Numan’s lighting designer, Luke Edwards of Cue Design. He says, “To light the orchestra, we needed something with a really nice light quality. But with so many tunable instruments on the stage we also needed a light that wouldn’t throw out loads of heat onto the orchestra. The VLZ Profile was a great option: the optics are beautiful, the colors and the color temperature are beautiful, and it keeps the orchestra members and their instruments cool.”

He adds, “Part of my job as a lighting designer is to make everyone feel comfortable on the stage. If I can light them without making them really hot, that’s a massive benefit. To be able to use technology to achieve that, and not to have to compromise at all in what that technology can do for us, has been incredible.”

Placed on high side-trusses at each side of stage, the VLZ Profiles gave side-light, color and texture for the orchestra and choir in the upstage area, as well as for Numan and the band downstage. “Mostly, we’re using the gobos and prisms to put textured light on the orchestra, to light them in an interesting way,” says Edwards. “But I’m also using the VLZs a lot in open color, just frosting it slightly to soften the light and get everyone lit really beautifully.”


In covering such a broad area Edwards was helped considerably by both the output and wide zoom range of the VLZ Profile. “Output-wise, they’re one of the brightest things I’ve seen with an LED source,” he says. “Being able to light that big a surface area with a minimum amount of fixtures, with that zoom range, is a big plus. I can point them forward and have these nice, tight beams coming from the side trusses, or they can go extremely wide. They’re amazing fixtures to have on the show. Of course, truck space, rigging space and weight all come at a premium, so to be able to do that with such a small number of fixtures is great.”

With its stable, long-life LED source, the VLZ Profile also scores high on reliability in comparison with conventional discharge lamp moving heads. “We’ve not had to swap a single one out,” says Edwards. “That’s great from my point of view, but for the lighting techs it’s even more important, because the last thing they want to be doing is changing fixtures during load-in while they’re trying to get the rig in the air.”

One final quality of the VLZ was also worthy of mention. “They’re very quiet, which is important because of how closely they are rigged to the orchestra, and because everything on that part of the stage is miked up,” says Edwards. “The audio guys are really happy that there’s no fan noise.”

Asked if he would like to use the VLZ Profile in future lighting designs, Edwards says, “I will absolutely use the VLZ again. In fact, there are quite a few new Vari-Lite products that I want to get my hands on, especially the new VL10 WashBeam . . . I think the products Vari-Lite have now are quite exciting and I’m really interested to have a play with everything and see what they can actually do.”

Discussing his experience of the Vari-Lite brand, Edwards says, “I suppose I always have a kind of predisposition to Vari-Lites because they were the first moving lights I ever used - I grew up with VL2500s. Vari-Lite was the standard, and I think their new fixtures reinforce that again. For me, they have some of the best glasswork, some of the best colors, some of the best clarity in gobos that you see across every brand of moving light, so I’m really happy to see that they’ve come out with new products that are so useful to people like me.”

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VLZ Profile
Being able to light that big a surface area with a minimum amount of fixtures, with that zoom range, is a big plus. I can point them forward and have these nice, tight beams coming from the side trusses, or they can go extremely wide. They’re amazing fixtures to have on the show.” 

Luke Edwards,

Lighting Designer

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