HSL supplied lighting equipment for The Levellers’ recent sold-out “Levelling The Land” tour, marking the 20th anniversary of their ground-breaking album that questioned so many emotive issues and political dialectics of the era, helping inspire a generation of left-leaning activists concerned about the insidious loss of human rights and the potential for emergence of a police state.
Richard Larkum has been the band’s lighting designer for the last 3 years (well known for his award winning work with the Kaiser Chiefs), and he and production manager Phil Winward chose HSL as the lighting supplier, based on both their previous experiences with the Blackburn based company. Winward is also a director of Electric Fly Productions, for whom HSL is a regular supplier, and Larkum has worked with them on several occasions.
HSL’s project manager was Mike Oates, who comments, “It’s been really rewarding to work with both Richard and Phil on such an important and successful tour. The design was refreshingly straightforward and provided a great environment for one of UK’s best and most enduring live music acts”.
Larkum’s starting point for the lighting design was the backdrop, which was a section from the original “Levelling The Land” album artwork chosen by the band’s creative director and bass player, Jeremy Cunningham.
With the album as the show centrepiece and the tracks – including the anthemic “Liberty”, “Beanfield” and many others – played in A side/B side order, followed by 4 greatest hits as the encore, the most important element of the overall visuals was that the backdrop was at the hub of the action. The lighting was arranged generally as a framing device for the drape, which was covered by a projection surface for the video intro at the top of the set. This hard hitting political montage brought some stark reminders of flashpoints from the last 20 years, getting everyone in the mood, before a kabuki dropped the white surface to reveal the backdrop just as the band came onstage.
The rig was also designed to be reduced easily and without losing the impact, as the gig size varied from Nottingham Rock City to Brixton Academy, and truck space was another factor – so Larkum appreciated the expedient size of the majority of the moving lights which were from the Robe ROBIN range and GLP 120 RZ Impression Zooms.
There were 2 trusses – front and back, with the back trussing – 2 runs of ladder beam and 2 x 3 metre high towers on the floor – also framing the backdrop.
On the front truss were 8 of the new Robe ROBIN LEDWash 600s which were used for general stage washes. “They’re brilliant – very bright and very light” states Larkum, who also had 2 x ROBIN 600 Spot for key light on that same truss.
At the back, 24 x GLP Impression Zooms were rigged on the frame truss, bordering the backdrop and used for beam effects. On this frame truss were 12 Robe ROBIN 600 Spots and 12 ROBIN 300 Beams, along with 12 Martin Professional Atomic strobes with scrollers and 12 x 4-lite Moles.
The backdrop was illuminated by 15 Chroma-Q Color Block DB4 LED battens.
Atmosphere was supplied by 2 Jem K1 hazer machines, which, along with all the lighting was run by Larkum off a Road Hog console with a fader wing.
Larkum had lots of interaction with the band in the run up to the tour about how the lighting should work as the set progressed. He produced some classic 1991 looks for certain sections, fused with all the new and contemporary looks and effects that are possible using the technology of 2011.
With the band also embracing the quest for a greener planet, it was also fitting that the rig, and specially the moving lights, were probably smaller, lighter in weight and consumed less power than the average medium sized rig would have 20 years ago!
Says Larkum, “The service from HSL has been brilliant and they came up with a really good deal, enabling us to use some of the latest technology – all of which arrived superbly prepped and in excellent condition”. He also took advantage of HSL’s visualisation suite at their Blackburn HQ to do some pre-programming.
He worked alongside technicians Rob Watson (a long time Leveller crew member) and Ian Marshall, who were hand picked to work on the tour.
Larkum was out with the Prodigy for most of last year and comments, “It was absolutely great to be back working with the Levellers – they are all really friendly and amazing people, and everything just slipped back into that nice smooth touring vibe that we have always enjoyed so much on the road”.
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