After taking a year off from the road to concentrate on recording, Kenny Chesney has launched “The Big Revival Tour” across North America in support of the album of the same name. A large complement of Clay Paky Mythos, Sharpy Washes and Stormy Strobes; MDG Atmosphere haze generators and grandMA2 consoles have been employed to let Chesney ramp up the excitement at this summer’s arena and stadium dates. A.C.T Lighting, Inc. is the exclusive distributor of Clay Paky, MDG and MA Lighting brands in North America.
Chesney kicked off “The Big Revival Tour” at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena with guests Grace Potter, Taylor Swift, Uncle Kracker, Dave Lee Murphy and Joe Walsh. A four-time Country Music Association and four consecutive Academy of Country Music Entertainer of the Year, Chesney has always worked to make sure his production is as cutting edge as possible.
Production and lighting designer Mike Swinford says the look of the tour is “very typical” of Kenny Chesney’s road shows. “It’s a relatively simple design that’s big and bold,” he says. “Kenny likes big looks with a lot of lights: an old-school, large rock ‘n roll show.”
Lighting programmer Mark Butts, who has worked with Chesney for all of his headlining tours, says, “Kenny doesn’t do anything small. His style has always been pretty hard rock ‘n roll – just pure, raw fire power.”
To achieve that feel, Swinford is deploying 198 Mythos and 44 Stormy Strobe fixtures, new from Clay Paky. Morris Light & Sound in Nashville, the lighting, sound and rigging vendor for the tour, is among the first in the US to offer a big inventory of the new lighting instruments so it could fulfill Swinford’s specs.
“We’re never shy to be the first to do something,” says Morris president David Haskell. “We like to be on the cutting edge. And we know we have A.C.T’s support for the new fixtures. The only problem with Mythos is that we don’t have enough! I get calls daily for them; they’re going to have the same kind of impact on the industry as Sharpy did when it was introduced.”
Mythos is a highly-advanced hybrid light which serves as both an excellent 470-watt spotlight and an extraordinary beam light. When Swinford first saw Mythos, he was “completely blown away by its small package, powerful look and low power consumption,” he recalls. “Mythos is only 470 watts, while everything else comparable is 1500-1800 watts. When you have a rig the size of ours, cutting power consumption by one-half or one-third is a big deal, especially when you’re playing 16 20 stadiums.”
A fan of Mythos’s versatility, Swinford says “It can produce a beam that’s two or three times brighter than Sharpy, and you can zoom it out and turn it into a more traditional, hard-edged spot. You can go from one mode to another very quickly. Mythos even makes a pretty good wash-style light with frost in it.”
Swinford had no qualms about being the first American tour to use Mythos when he specked it for the tour. “I knew it was going to be a game changer for this kind of light. Clay Paky has come such a long way in developing and designing lights that are very reliable and very innovative. They’re doing things that other manufacturers are starting to copy.
“So I decided to dive into Mythos in a big way for the Big Revival 2015. In six weeks of rehearsal they proved to be outstanding, so I felt we’ve already broken them in by the time the actual shows started.”
Swinford explains Chesney wanted the ability to light the audience more effectively, especially for his stadium shows. So the lighting designer employed 20 Mythos fixtures in pre-rigged trusses around the scrims for the stadium package; they are repurposed along the dashers for arena shows. “They give us our audience lighting package and also light the four-foot mirror ball. When you put Mythos on the ball, you get the most fantastic mirror-ball effects you’ve ever seen: It’s so much brighter — and the beams off the ball are so intense.”
Mythos fixtures are also mounted vertically on the spot towers out in the house at stadium shows. A group of eight is positioned in the seats left empty for light placement; six are behind the mix; six more are in the back of the field to create a very layered look.
Swinford notes that there are “a lot of video surfaces” in the show: a 48×17-foot backscreen flanked by 23×17-foot screens plus a 48×13-foot header suspended over the downstage. It’s a challenge, but he notes, “With all the luminance of the screens, the lighting package needs to be pretty powerful. Mythos does very well on that score.”
Stormy Strobes are scattered in ten fingers of upstage and downstage trussing and mounted on the side ladders with 28 Sharpy Washes. “We wanted classic white strobe effects, and we get them with Stormy. They’re very bright and low power, so they’re very friendly. And they make good work lights, too!”
The Sharpy Washes cross-light the band and enhance the video lighting. Morris Light & Sound acquired Sharpy Washes 18 months ago. They continue to be a “highly popular item. “People love the speed and output for the size of the lamp. Clay Paky optics are, in my opinion, the best in the world,” says Haskell.
Four MDG Atmosphere haze generators “are basically always on” creating a continuous level of haze for the shows, Swinford says. “They’re my favorite – I love them! Unlike other brands they are never messy. It’s amazing how well they create atmosphere on the big stage when we’re outdoors in stadiums.”
Mark Butts programmed the tour’s lighting using a full-size grandMA2 from Morris Light & Sound as his primary console and a pair of grandMA2 Lights as back ups. Working early on with Morris’s Matt Geasy to build a stadium model in MA 3D, so they could previs the stadium shows while Butts was building the arena shows.
“Kenny wanted a visual reference, and with MA 3D he could get a view of the stadium looking out from the stage,” Butts explains. “We could hit a button and move the cameras around the stadium. It was a really great previs tool.”
He also praises the grandMA2’s speed and responsiveness. “Kenny is always very hands on – I’ve never experienced that same level of engagement with another artist. This year, Kenny came in on a Sunday and spent maybe five hours at the grandMA with myself and lighting director Phil Ealy. Sometimes Kenny would pick colors out of the palette or make very specific requests. When the star of the show, especially someone as creative and knowledgeable as Kenny, is sitting next to you waiting to see results, you want to be able to work quickly and accurately and replay things in an instant. That’s what grandMA2 allows me to do. It kept up with us – it worked as quickly as all of us wanted it to.”
Butts says that he and Ealy took advantage of grandMA2’s Multi User programming. “I’d pop into a world and look at stadium stuff while Phil was running things on stage. I could pop in and out of worlds and user profiles; we could both work on the same thing at the same time. Multi User is a unique feature.”
With a very short turnaround time before the first stadium show at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, Butts relied on MA 3D to “have the bulk of the programming done when we get there. We’ll just have to look at some focuses and cues.”
Haskell says that Morris Light & Sound “is exclusively a MA house for a good reason: The grandMA2 is the console everyone wants to use. It’s without peer in reliability and its networking capabilities.”
About A.C.T Lighting
A leading importer and distributor of lighting products, A.C.T Lighting, Inc. strives to identify future trends and cutting-edge products, and stock, sell and support their inventory. The company provides superior customer service and value for money to all of its clients.
For more information visit www.actlighting.com.
About Kenny Chesney
Called “The King of the Road” by The Wall Street Journal, Kenny Chesney is the only Country Artist on Billboard’s Top 10 Touring Acts of the Last 25 Years. He’s sold in excess of a million tickets on each of his headlining tours since 2002 – and sold over a million tickets for the Big Revival 2015 before the first note was played. Selling in excess of 30 million albums, the man The Los Angeles Times deemed “The People’s Supertar” has had 26 #1s and by summer’s end will have played 113 stadium shows.