Led by drummer and impresario Mike Portnoy, DT have just completed the European leg of their current world tour, before heading to Mexico and North America. It’s a high energy show, and this is mirrored by lighting designer Benoit Richard. The lighting for the whole tour is supplied by Bandit Lites, handled for the European section by their UK office.
The front, back and two staggered middle trusses, are scattered with a mix of fixtures - from Martin MACs to High End Cyberlights and ETC Source Fours with scrollers. There’s also a copious contingent of floor-based fixtures. However, it’s the 12 4-lites with scrollers which are the basic building blocks of the rig.
Richard uses these expressively to create big blocks of colour that he overlays with beams, gobo texturing and sharp highlighting pick-ups from other fixtures. A row of upstage deck-based MAC 600s is utilized for rear lighting and to produce dramatic silhouettes for the moments of respite during what is a pretty intense show!
It is Richards’ first tour with Dream Theater, and he is also a huge fan. Portnoy and he had crossed paths a few times over the years, but he was offered the job after Portnoy caught one of his Yes Symphonic shows last Autumn. "I see things very differently, being a fan," says Richard, and explains how he ‘plays’ the lights in a similar way to a musician with an instrument.
Richard has over 2000 show cues - theatrical style - in his WholeHog 2 desk, and he rides various fixtures ‘live’ on top of these - particularly the 4-lites. The intricate cue structure reflects the band’s complex musical composition - which would be impossible to busk. They also alternate between three equally intense set lists, so organizing his show as a balance between pre-programmed and live axes gives him maximum options. He has the basic underpinnings in the desk, onto which he builds the improvisational aspects of each performance.
Richard worked with Bandit on the Yes world tour last year, and wanted them to supply equipment for DT. He specifically wanted a company that could provide worldwide continuity of equipment, crew and service. "Bandit pays so much attention to the details," he observes, "the rigs are always immaculately prepped, and you know you can rely on being able to walk into rehearsals or pre-rigs and get straight down to programming and being creative."
FOH sound engineer Ian Bond has worked with Portnoy on other projects, so it’s not surprising to discover that Portnoy gives Ian plenty of audiological input at the outset.
The stage is completely clear of backline and monitors - the amps, cabs and other bits are all upstage of the band in iso-chambers, the band are all on IEMs and the keyboards are DI’d - a situation that’s great for sightlines, and for the lighting department to expand their territorial claims. "That’s why I took the tour," states Bond. "Apparently on the last tour, the backline was louder than the FOH. Luckily they decided to do it differently this time!"
Tour sound is supplied by Sound Image, and in the UK and Europe by London-based Major Tom - an EV X-Line (array) rig. Bond comments that it’s a good system, but wasn’t ideal for this European leg where it only fit about four gigs - excluding this particular show in Bologna!
His FOH Midas Heritage 3000 was rammed full of inputs. For system control he used three of the new KT DN9848s, all linked with Stardraw for PC, allowing system parameters like EQ and crossovers to be set without having to look at the devices themselves. His standard outboard effects rack out front set-up was joined by another rack onstage that includes an Eventide DSP for some vocal effects, and contribu