Simon Horn Calls on ChamSys for Anastacia Tour’s Bold Background Without Video Wall

You can’t always get what you want, as Mick Jagger once famously noted, but if you’re a gifted lighting designer, you won’t be deterred by any such setbacks. When one door closes, you can ingeniously open another, and come up with a look that’s every bit as good as your initial plan, or perhaps even surpasses it.

This was the case with Simon Horn when he designed the lightshow for Anastacia’s current tour. Originally scheduled to start in February 2020 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the singer’s seminal hit “I’m Out Of Love,” the tour had to be shelved because of COVID. This year, supply shortages and budget constraints still lingering from the pandemic lockdown made it impractical for Horn to get the level of video he wanted for the tour. He more than compensated for this, however, by creating a captivating background using geometric configurations of light that he is running on a ChamSys MagicQ MQ500M Stadium, which, like his lighting rig, is supplied by 4Wall Entertainment.

“I have always stood by the idea that if you are going to use video, and do it well, it takes money,” said Horn. “There are some shows I’ve seen that were ruined by the desperate desire to use video walls regardless of anything else, even if this meant compromising the budget for the lighting as well as the budget for custom content.

“In those cases, you end up with average lighting and average content,” continued Horn. “I would much rather have a dynamic, strong looking interactive lightshow, than force in some video screen that doesn’t make sense.”

Horn faced this realization when planning the Anastacia tour. “We all wanted video on this tour but coming out of COVID budgets had gotten even tighter,” he recalled. “At one point, I was looking at this show being all about the video. I worked hard looking for a way to work video and lights together, and all though that was achievable, the video would have to be all custom content, and the costs were just too high. So, I moved away from video, and put in the biggest lightshow possible for the budget and truck space.”

Toward this end, Horn created a set flanked in pixel LED, using stock pieces and a little bit of fabrication to add a 3D look to the truss ladders. This opened the door to some captivating looks that pull audiences into the show. For example, at some points he runs chase sequences along the outside ladders and the fixtures on the mid-truss to create a pop look with a distinctive wow flair.

At another dramatic moment, he completely flips the look around, switching everything off and just lighting the stage with some broken beams, then breaking up the LEDs to create a simple almost star cloth twinkle. “That change from a structured look to almost a night sky and a bit of clean texture in the air is a very refreshing almost emotional change in the show,” said Horn.

According to Horn, the Group Cue feature of his MQ500M is coming in very handy during the tour’s festival shows. “Knowing we would be doing a summer run of festivals, it was important for me to make future life easy and go full group cue programming,” he said. “Another thing that I like is how tidy the cue data view is. No longer do I have to scroll through loads of fixtures to see something.”

Given the varied types of venues on this tour, Horn is also finding the MQ500M’s Offset Patch Update feature for panning and tilting to be invaluable. “The offset pan/tilt patch helps me calibrate all fixtures easily and quickly, so they line up straight, thus requiring minimal work on updating positions. Brilliant!”

Ironically, in light of how his rig was impacted by post pandemic supply and budget issues, Horn’s lighting operator came down with COVID shortly after the tour started. Horn then turned to his tour tech to run the timecoded show.

“Our tech on the tour had some basic understanding of MagicQ and had been playing with the consoles,” said Horn. “His success filling in is a testament to the logical arrangement and user-friendliness of the MQ500M.”

So, although the tour has faced its share of surprises, noted Horn, in the end, the shows have been turning out beautifully. Which goes to show that when one door closes, others do indeed open.