When Grammy Award-winning Coldplay performed a sold-out show in Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena last October Lighting Designer Sooner Routhier of SOONER RAE CREATIVE used 64 Claypaky Xtylos luminaires that dazzled the audience. The fixtures were the centerpiece of her design for the show that ringed a massive circular truss mounted over the stage.
The stand-alone concert, presented by Amazon Music and live streamed worldwide on Amazon, was part of a global promotional tour of single shows in support of the band’s ninth studio album, “Music of the Spheres.”
For the ambitious Seattle show Routhier and her team “essentially created a full-size arena production for a 20-plus-camera, global live broadcast with three days on site and five days of previs!” she points out. “It really does come down to the team; it’s a massive collaborative effort to get something like that off the ground, and every person on the crew was essential to making the show happen. We were able to do previs in a ballroom at the hotel to minimize our travel (and carbon footprint) while Claypaky and Upstaging collaborated on logistics to get us Xtylos units in previs to play with. That was a total game changer for us.”
The Seattle show’s Lighting Programmer/Lighting Operator Shaheem Litchmore recalls that, “everyone was raving about the Xtylos! The physical style and design of the fixture fit the aesthetic of our show flawlessly, while the impressive laser source output allowed us to keep our power consumption low.” In addition, “no challenges presented themselves while programming this show,” he says. “I was very impressed with the Xtylos’s versatility. It can go from a tight, razor-sharp beam to a nice wash output and can also give you the opportunity to create lovely room filling gobo looks. Simply perfect.”
A prime example of Xtylos performance at the Seattle show was its use on the song “People of the Pride,” which progressed from a color to a black-and-white look. “The band wanted to feel the energy of this song on stage: The beat of ‘People of the Pride’ is very heavy and quite uniform in the hooks. It has a different feel from the rest of the more melodic setlist,” explains Routhier. “We needed this song to stand out and were happy that director Paul Dugdale wanted to shoot it in a unique way. The idea to go from color to black and white on camera was all him. We just made sure he had the proper light to keep his vision alive!”
“The Seattle show came off beautifully, with all the disparate elements combining to create a stunning final result,” says Claypaky Strategic Marketing Manager, George Masek. “What was most impressive to me was the way everything was achieved with such tight timelines and logistical limitations.”
With such a positive experience with Xtylos under their belts it’s no wonder that Routhier and her team wanted to use Xtylos again when Coldplay commenced their “Music of the Spheres World Tour” in April. “They were the perfect fixtures for our current creative on the tour,” Litchmore, who serves as the tour’s Lighting Operator, points out.
Routhier explains how Misty Buckley and Phil Harvey, the Co-creative Directors of the tour, developed a production design and creative direction inspired by Pythagoras’s Music of the Spheres theory. “There’s a specific diagram that displays the arcs and movement of the solar system and its celestial bodies that we leaned on for inspiration,” says Routhier. “Thus, the architecture for the lighting design and the cuing of the system is heavily based on spheres, circles and arcs.”
Seventy-four Xtylos are deployed on the tour with the majority placed on a large upstage arch directly behind and above the upstage videowall, she points out. Some also are suspended from delay towers and onstage audio towers.
“We love color! And the Xtylos provide such a beautiful beam in stunning, vibrant color,” says Routhier. “They also provide a nice, solid beam of light over extreme distances – perfect for a large stadium show.”
Routhier and Joe Lott particularly like the rainbow color effect programmed across the Xtylos for the song, “Adventure of a Lifetime” while Litchmore cites “Something Just Like This” as a favorite showcase for Xtylos. “During the chorus, the Xtylos in the arch position perform a grand circle effect that illuminates the entire venue and loses no impact to the arrangement of lasers going at the same moment,” he says.
Lott, who serves as the tour’s Lighting Programmer with Matthew Kemp, notes that, “With the show having such a wide and often saturated color palette the Xtylos always stand out with their ability to mix deep saturated reds and blues without dropping any noticeable output. It’s very impressive and allows us to create really strong looks like in the song ‘The Scientist,’ where we use the Xtylos in a deep saturated blue combined with the prism while still creating a very bright aerial effect – a look which would be difficult to achieve with any other fixture, especially one this small.”
Routhier also cites the Xtylos interaction with a stunning mirrorball with laser units inside created by Misty Buckley and David Kennedy, SFX Designer with Strictly FX. “The Xtylos hitting the mirrorball is an effect I’ve never seen before,” she says. “Sure, we’ve all seen fixtures hitting a mirrorball. But there’s just something really incredible about the light that is emitted when a mirrorball is hit with a bunch of Xtylos.”
As the tour enters its sixth month, Litchmore reports that the Xtylos “continue to amaze.”
“Despite difficult weather conditions, including extreme heat, rain and more, the Xtylos never fails. With our outdoor show the fixtures [are subject to] the usual wear and tear one would expect, but I’m never worried. Come showtime, they are always ready to go and continue to be one of the essential pieces of our show.”
The support that Routhier and her team have received from Claypaky for the tour is nothing short of “amazing,” according to Routhier. “We’re always so well taken care of when George Masek is our representative. Claypaky does an incredible job of following up with us throughout the tour. And they were extremely helpful with FAA and FDA regulations giving us assistance to make sure we were all squared away with permits.”