Queen at the Hollywood Bowl

After more than 20 years Queen returned to the U.S. to play two sold-out shows as a precursor to their 2006 U.S. tour. October 16th saw the band at The Meadowlands arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey and on October 22nd the band played one of the most celebrated outdoor venues in America, the Hollywood Bowl. Bandit Lites supplied the full lighting production and crew for both shows.

Queen hit the road earlier this year for one of 2005’s most anticipated tours, a show for which lighting designer Barry “Baz” Halpin received much praise, and for good reason (see www.martin.com/casestory/casestory.asp?id=1034&sWords=Queen).

The Hollywood Bowl is an historic American venue, an 83 year old cultural landmark with a unique shape all its own. Barry explains his challenge, “The lighting system was built to fit the dimensions of the Bowl. We put the whole European show into the Bowl but our rig is big and square and the Hollywood Bowl is big and round so we had to come up with a plan B, not a compromise but something intentional. We compacted everything down. It was millimeter tight and had to be 100% perfect. With the help of Dizzy Gosnell of Bandit, who drew up the Hollywood Bowl in 3D, we worked it out. We only had one day to go in so we had to know it was going to work.

“We had a big LED wall 20 feet high and we couldn’t put any lighting in front of that. We couldn’t move the trusses as we normally do during the show and we had to get maximum trim out of everything. We really needed to be absolutely sure it was going to fit before we went in there so Diz drew it in 3D. We came up with several options and picked the best which basically followed the contours of the Bowl. The 30 foot straight trusses were short enough that we could angle them to give the impression of following the contours of the Bowl. It was uncanny how close it was to the drawing. We tried to fill everything up and get everything up as high as possible so we could still see all the trusses and gain the effect when we lit the trusses internally.”

He adds, “There are also issues with doing gigs in white buildings because you have spill problems and everything merges into everything else, colors conjoin, etc. But, the Bowl is actually a lot easier since it’s been refurbished. We could take out the halo for example which helped tremendously.”

Barry’s design is immense and the timing is excellent. Queen was renowned for its huge lighting rigs in the ’80s and Barry mimics that same feel but with moving light fixtures instead of PAR Cans. Barry used 16 MAC 2000 Performance and 160 MAC 2000 Wash for the Hollywood Bowl show, the 2K Wash as both an imitation of PAR Cans for classic rock ‘n roll looks and as the state-of-the-art color changing Fresnel it is. The MACs traveled cabled up inside Thomas Swing Wing truss in order to go up fast. Other lighting included 3K Syncrolites, Coemar IFlex, Molefays and Source 4 as well as video elements.

Like the European rig, the U.S. rig featured five 60-foot moving trusses over-stage, split in the middle to make a roof of lights, each dressed with MAC 2000 Wash with one 60 foot moving truss at the back. Barry illuminated the trusses, toned them and let them become a set feature. There were also side-drop trusses to give dynamic side lighting and perspective along with some lights on the floor off to the sides. The show included everything from intimate stage looks to massive ‘wall of light’ mayhem for Queen’s signature power rock anthems.

“The preparatory work was the hard work – that made the load in almost a formality,” Barry says. “We rehearsed in Nashville for five days. I knew at the Hollywood Bowl we wouldn’t have time to do positions – and it would be daylight as well. I flew in and the New Jersey show was hanging. I made sure everything was ok, then I went to Bandit’s facility to program the Japanese show for two days. When I came back each night Bandit had swapped the rig around to the Hollywood Bowl configuration. I was doing Japan during the day and Hollywood Bowl at night. It was invaluable time. After that was done it was pretty much a formality. Diz really pulled it out of the bag with his renderings and he was there on site that day to solve problems which there were very few of. It all came off fine and was a good success.”

Queen at the Hollywood Bowl 2005 will be known as a landmark show. As Dizzy states, “If you get a chance to see this show when it’s in your neck of the woods, call in sick, drive, fly, run, get there anyway you can, it’s really worth it.” Queen will play a 23-date tour of the USA and Canada this coming spring. The tour kicks off on March 3rd in Miami, Florida.

For more information: www.martin.com

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