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Lighting Designer
Sooner Routhier (Sooner Rae Creative)
Photo Credits
Todd Moffses
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British rock band Muse has hit the road with its North American tour, “Will of the People,” on which more than 150 Claypaky Xtylos enhance the band’s post-apocalyptic staging non-stop.

The tour is named for the band’s most recent ninth studio album, which gave Muse its seventh consecutive No. 1 on the UK albums chart and topped Billboard’s Alternative and Rock Albums tallies.  The “Will of the People” tour began in Chicago’s United Center on February 25 and concluded the U.S. portion of the tour on April 20 in Salt Lake City, after which it will move on to Europe.

“The band and I really wanted to go in a very different direction from their previous tour to give this one its own identity,” notes Jesse Lee Stout, Creative Director and Co-Production Designer.  “We developed a post-apocalyptic, near-future world as a metaphor for our ‘New Normal.’  In the past couple of years a pandemic wreaked havoc, an insurrection stormed the Capitol, anonymous activist hackers attacked governments and corporations, and people began tearing down monuments across the globe.  We all quickly grew accustomed to wearing masks and proposed a story of an extreme leftist group of vigilantes resetting the world to ground zero: The Great Reset.”

Lighting Designer Sooner Routhier of Sooner Rae Creative, who also served as Co-production Designer with Stout, created a rig that echoes “the skeletal nature of a post-apocalyptic, near-future world.  It consists of grids of the same lights that put the band inside a deconstructed building: simplistic, industrial and homogeneous. This became the visual identity of the [limited] underplay [theater] tour that Muse did last October and has carried through into their arena tour in 2023,” she explains.

Routhier chose Claypaky Xtylos to deliver the vast majority of the show’s looks because she “wanted beams of light to extend beyond the stage to help further the idea of the skeletal building structure.  They needed to be strong with minimal degradation in the beam shape and brightness. 

“We also have tons of mirror products on the show,” she notes.  Mirrors are “a theme of the current album cycle, and the Xtylos fixtures are able to bounce off the mirrors and create a near perfect beam reflection.  With the mirrors moving overhead in the rig, we’re able to create different bounces and geometric shapes.”

The production developed a set consisting of two inflatables, each more than 30-feet high; a clear stage that exposes gear, lighting and other industrial materials; a 15-foot animated flaming monogram logo of “Will of the People;” and six giant kinetic mirrors suspended from the ceiling.

“One inflatable, dubbed ‘WILL,’ wears a Perspex mirror mask,” says Stout.  “I immediately knew I wanted to bounce light off of these mirrors as an identity for the show.  We later added the ceiling mirrors to continue the theme.  The content helps explain a narrative of vigilantes unifying after witnessing a non-violent protester brutalized by a pack of authoritarian figures adorned in golden armor and bull skull-shaped masks.  This figure appears as a 40-foot inflatable for the encore.”

Routhier set a series of vertical ladders in a horseshoe configuration around the stage, which track around the band to different positions upstage.  Each ladder contains the same number of Xtylos fixtures for a total of 128.  “When everything is on together it forms a massive grid that creates three walls of our skeletal building,” she explains.

“We also created a stage that’s 75 percent Plexiglass.  The entire floor lighting package, including 24 Xtylos, sits below the decking, which has a grid of structure for support.  It makes for a very clean stage surface, and when lit from below adds to the skeletal feel of the stage.”

The Xtylos offer Routhier and her team a number of unique advantages they can’t find in other fixtures.  “I love the mirror bounce we get with the Xtylos,” says Routhier.  “The beam bounces with very minimal beam degradation and great saturation in all colors.  I’ve never been able to achieve that with any other fixture.”

Associate Lighting Designer and Lighting Programmer Aaron Luke finds that “the Xtylos’s laser engine, combined with great optics, produces a beam that just seems to keep going. It feels just as bright at the back of the arena as coming out of the front of the fixture.  The laser engine also allows for great saturated colors without compromising on intensity,” he observes.

At the tour’s halfway mark, Luke says the Xtylos have been a “great success.  With 152 fixtures, we’ve had very limited issues.  Since this is my first time working with a lighting fixture with a laser engine, I’ve had to learn their ‘personality,’ so to speak.”

He notes that Claypaky’s Strategic Marketing Manager for Entertainment Lighting Solutions, George Masek, “has been a very valuable resource. From sending literature about the specialized handling of ‘safe zones’ and answering my questions to making himself available around the clock, I’ve felt like he and Claypaky are doing everything they can to ensure the success of the show.”

Routhier concurs, saying, “George Masek is incredible.  He’s always such a great resource for information and guidance about the regulations surrounding the fixtures.”

Claypaky’s George Masek concludes, “It’s such a pleasure to work with Sooner and her teams – they always embrace the latest technology and are willing to take the time to learn about it.  Aaron picked up the specifics of running the Xtylos immediately and this ensured that no time was taken away from the creation process.   Sooner’s shows always have a powerful, unique element to them – this time, the most dramatic one is the kinetic mirrors which give the Xtylos beams a very particular look and feel unlike anything I’ve seen before.”

Joe Lott is the tour’s Lighting Programmer and John Bahnick and Josh Wagner at Upstaging are the lighting vendors.