Lighting designer Jeremy Roth has pronounced the Philips Vari-Lite VL4000 Spot “integral” to the tour’s ambitious theatrical set design – which is stylistically closer to a Broadway or an opera backdrop than a standard rock and roll set.
Wilco front man Jeff Tweedy’s visual concept for the tour was inspired by a 3D-forest scene theater set in a Masonic temple in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In true experimental Wilco style, Tweedy wanted to emulate this juxtaposition of the natural world and overt theatricality for the band’s show. He called upon Roth, the band’s lighting designer for the past six years, to help bring his vision to life.
“Jeff brought some photos of the temple’s stage set to me and we started discussing how to turn it into a touring production design for Wilco,” explained Roth, who has also worked with the likes of dubstep star Skrillex and country legend Sheryl Crow. Under Roth and Tweedy’s direction, New York scenic artist Valerie Light hand-painted a set of cut-out theater drops on muslin and net. However, Roth struggled to find a lighting fixture to backlight what he describes as her “achingly beautiful” work. He says the process was “long and arduous”.
Matters were further complicated because Roth also wanted to have projected clouds drifting across the hand-painted, muslin ‘sky’ backdrop. “For the clouds we couldn’t use a standard gobo and rotate it – because the clouds would then just be spinning in the sky - so it had to be done with some type of animation wheel. We looked at a lot of different options. In the end, the Philips Vari-Lite VL4000 Spot was the only light we could find that combined the right zoom range, optics and brightness with a custom animation wheel that could be inserted into the fixture and adjusted all the way from horizontal to vertical.”
Colin Kavanagh, General Manager for Philips Entertainment Lighting said: “As Jeremy Roth’s stunning, high concept lighting design for Wilco ably demonstrates, the Philips Vari-Lite VL4000 truly is the next generation of luminaires, offering lighting designers unlimited creative possibilities. Our mission is to continue to transform the entertainment lighting industry by bringing Philips Lighting’s wider technological expertise to the design of entertainment products.”