One of rock 'n' roll's living legends, Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, kicked off their 2023 World Tour February 1 in Tampa, Florida, with lighting design by longtime collaborator and Emmy-winning designer Jeff Ravitz. Ravitz, who has been with Springsteen since the "Born in the USA" tour in 1984/85, chose a selection of Elation Professional lights for the current tour, including luminaires from the company's market-leading IP65 Proteus series. Lighting supply is by Christie Lites.
The 2023 tour marks the first time since 2017 that Springsteen & the E Street Band have toured together. As part of an overall lighting system, Ravitz is using Elation's groundbreaking Proteus Hybrid moving heads and newly released Proteus Rayzor 1960 LED wash/mid-air/specialty effect lights, along with Proteus Rayzor 760 for stadium shows. The rig also features Elation Cuepix 16 IP LED matrix blinder and effect panels, and compact Smarty Hybrid moving heads.
Crafting impactful pictures
According to Ravitz, a Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band concert must be crafted with both maximum power and maximum flexibility in mind. "There is a lot of creative territory to cover, considering Bruce's broad catalog of songs," he comments with reference to the artist's 50+ years in music, 21 studio albums and legion of hits. "But the fundamental approach is to create impactful stage pictures that carry the audience through the music, lyrics, and Bruce's and the band's high energy performance. The aesthetic is driven by the idea that we sculpt each band member out of the darkness in a way that's right for every song, and then surround them with a strong color statement that is my/our impression of what feels in alignment with the sounds, words and rhythms. All of this is punctuated by keeping pace with the tempo and musical hits. Finally, a healthy dose of fun slathered over the top of it all."
Starts with IP65
Not surprisingly, Ravitz says there were many features he was looking for when choosing his lighting rig but that his search started with the need for IP65-rated fixtures. "I knew the show was moving outdoors and I wanted to plan for that even though we didn't need that capability for the arena shows played at the start of the tour," he said. "The Proteus line was appealing because I knew we would be subjected to lots of rain during the stadium tour. And the fact that they're terrific lights didn't hurt!" The designer says this is his first use of Proteus lights in an outdoor setting, although he says he has used them indoors on a couple of TV shows.
Proteus Rayzor 1960
The lighting over the stage consists of three primary trusses-upstage, mid-stage, downstage-plus a truss further downstage and a follow spot truss that hangs about thirty feet from the downstage edge. There are also side trusses right and left. For the arena shows, four trusses, each at a 45-degree angle to the room, hang from the four corners of the venue.
Ravitz has the Proteus Rayzor 1960s with their 19 x 60W RGBW LEDs trimmed high over the audience on the four corner trusses. "They are used to duplicate and extend our over-stage washes to the farthest reaches of the building - to stretch the look of the stage and lighting to the walls," he said. "I like the 1960s because of their larger size - a good look for high trims and stadiums - substantial output, and good color. A bit less of a priority for this specific show, but still important were the effects it can do, both with individual LED pixel control and the SparkLED."
The Proteus Rayzor 1960 is an 18,000-lumen big brother of Elation's popular Proteus Rayzor 760. It can zoom tight or spread wide for even stage coverage and designers can use its individual pixel control to create a variety of aesthetically unique eye candy looks. Like the Proteus Rayzor 760, it houses Elation's exclusive SparkLED™ technology, a background sparkle look used for mood generation and an additional layer of effect.
Since the show is sold in a 360-degree configuration, there is audience everywhere - front, behind and to the sides of the stage. Ravitz comments, "To highlight them and bring the entire crowd into the performance space, we have Cuepix 16 IPs on every truss that has a clean shot to the audience: back, sides, front and the four corner trusses. That gives us a lot of coverage." He says he landed on the Cuepix 16 IP after an exhaustive search for the right audience light for the show. "Their smooth field, clean look, good color and fun pixel effects convinced me."
Eight Proteus Hybrids on the floor, offstage-four per side-are used to provide accents and strong beamage and air graphics from a normally dark corner of the stage area. "This, like the 1960s, also widens the appearance of the stage," Ravitz said. "The Proteus Hybrids are true beasts with enough output to cut through any amount of ambient light, even if gobo'd, or in deep color."
Finally, four Smarty Hybrids work from on the offstage corners of the far downstage runway, which is a full cross-stage run that drops down one foot below the main stage. Ravitz remarks that he needed a smaller light to work in harmony with the Proteus Hybrids to do air fans and moves, "but not be a big, bulky fixture."
The European leg, which kicks off on April 28 in Barcelona, marks the start of the outdoor stadium tour and according to Ravitz the show grows substantially. The European package mirrors the North American with the addition of several more Proteus Hybrids, Rayzor 1960s and Cuepixes, and the introduction of the Proteus Rayzor 760s to the setup.
For the stadium setup, a bigger downstage runway extends right and left even further than for the arena show, going all the way to the side edges of the field. Out on those runways to the right and left of the stage, are enormous video screens. Ravitz explains, "For that setup there are more Proteus Hybrids under the screens on the deck, aiming up in the air, plus the 1960s that were on the corner trusses indoors move down to that same deck-level area, to make a really powerful line of washes and spots. Finally, we have more 1960s way out in the house on our follow spot/audio delay towers."
The Proteus Rayzor 760s will be a new element for the stadium setup, and will be on the deck in a line across the center of the stage at the very bottom of the lower downstage runway. "They will add a powerful outline of lights to that section, to match and extend what the 1960s are doing offstage right and left," the designer says. "I chose the 760s because they fit better into the narrow space available in that area. In previs, the entire combination of 1960s and 760s is looking amazing."
Ravitz says the SparkLED effect in the Proteus Rayzor 760 and 1960 is in the plans for the stadium show, where the lights will be very close to the audience and directly behind Bruce when he works the lower offstage runway. He says they've been playing with the effect in the stadium show previs and are excited about its potential. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band's 2023 tour plays U.S. dates through April 14 followed by European shows until July 25 before returning to North America for a fall leg. The tour is scheduled to conclude on December 10, 2023, in San Francisco.
Jeff Ravitz - Lighting Designer
Todd Ricci - Lighting Director
Brad Brown - Lighting System Tech Coordinator / Console #2 Operator
Russ Benoit - Christie Lites Coordinator
Chris McMeen - Christie Lites Account Rep
Hadyn Williams - Lighting Crew Chief
Kitty Hoffman - Lighting Lead Tech
John Hoffman - Lighting FOH Tech
Evan Barnes - Lighting Follow Spot/Network Tech
Sam Blakemore - Lighting Follow Spot/Network Tech
Adam Beasley - Lighting Tech
Paul Gierczak - Lighting Dimmer Tech
Evan McElhiney - Lighting Tech
Andy Welch - Lighting Tech, follow spot system coordinator
Photos: Rob DeMartin