Kings of Leon
Specialz Uses Surgical Skills for Kings of Leon
How does one create a bespoke light unit that can multi-skill as a piece of set with real visual impact, be a versatile source of low level light, achieve different tones of light and colour - and become a dynamic silhouette when lit itself – all without breaking the bank?
The answer, according to Paul Normandale, is to commission a work from Specialz Ltd, the production design and manufacturing house that prides itself on tailoring every job with a sympathetic and knowledgeable eye to the specific requirements of each individual customer.
As both set and lighting designer for the Kings of Leon, Normandale went to Specialz with a very definite blueprint of what he wanted to create. “These units are a theatrical version of old fashioned surgery lights; they are deliberately quite retro in design but of course built on a big enough scale to fit accurately in proportion to the size of the stage. When the video screens are not is use, their silvered finish make them stand out clearly from the black of the rest of the stage so it was important for them to look authentic. The brief was to create this retro look unit with light sources that could supply a warm organic look, matching the other tungsten units in the rig; there was a need to create that warmth in contrast to all the LED and arc sources there are in the rest of the design. The creation of units that stand about two metres high also provides an additional source of low level light that can deliver a surprise source of colour when required.”
Four of the surgery lights are required in the design; they are set on Manfrotto stands and arranged upstage of the band in an asymmetric line. Each unit has seven light sources: after much experimentation the finished article contains three ETC PARS and four 5W LEDs. Specialz’s sales director, Dave Smith elaborates: “When you build a bespoke piece of kit, one of the main advantages is the flexibility to change the specification as you go along if the original idea doesn’t quite work in reality. We played about with the different light sources until we were sure that the final combination would do exactly what Paul wanted. Likewise, the detailed finish on the units was simplified enabling a significant saving on the costings without impacting on the end look of the lights on stage. We also designed the transportation dollies – an important part of the whole service – it’s no good creating individualised pieces unless they are going to be robust enough to weather the rigours of touring and survive repeated load-in and load-outs. If one gets damaged you can’t just ring up and get it replaced immediately. That said, we have now built and supplied Kings of Leon with enough of these units to create two full systems and a spare.”
“The Kings of Leon are doing a wide variety of gigs,” explains Normandale, “and the surgery lights are an integral part of the show whether the band are doing an arena like the LG in Birmingham, a festival slot such as the Global Citizen Festival in New York, a theatre like the Shepherds Bush Empire in London or a TV appearance. As they are now something of signature piece for the band, it made sense to have enough manufactured so the lights can be available wherever and whenever they are needed.”
And is Normandale happy with the final result? “The fact that these slightly random products of my imagination have become a reality and such an iconic part of the band’s stage set is down to Specialz. You take an idea, however ‘out there’ it might seem and Specialz are able to translate that into a three dimensional actuality in a functional and intelligent way. I think that answers the question.”