SameDiff BNL

Naked Tarot

By SHARON STANCAVAGE, Entertainment Design, March 1st, 2001.

They're not naked, they're not ladies, and, on a routine basis, they trick audiences round the globe into shouting the word "underwear." They're Canada's Barenaked Ladies, and they have been bringing humor, as well as flying Clay Paky Golden Scan birds and a giant inflatable abstract head, to fans across the country.

The Maroon tour brings together veteran scenic designer Jim Lenahan and longtime Barenaked Ladies lighting designer Brent Lipp for a show that brings a bit ol fun back into the concert scene.

The stage is dominated by a massive blue inflatable head, which serves as an entrance and exit for the band members and is vaguely reminiscent of the abstract art of the 1950s. "The art on their CD is very Miro-esque," says Lenahan. "In fact, it's so very abstract that it's kind of difficult to make in 3D." So Lenahan started doing some research and came upon the work of Andrew Calder. "I originally intended to do some great big Calder mobiles out over the audience," he explains. Instead, the scenic designer looked toward the moving lights on the tour. "I've always wanted to dress some moving lights as butterflies, but for this, I changed it to birds," he says. Consequently, five colorful motorized birds, courtesy of the Westsun scenic shop in Toronto, became part of the show.

As Lenahan continued his research, he came across a book called Fantasy Worlds, and discovered the work of Niki De St. Phalle in Tarot Park in Garavicchio, Italy. "The park is filled with monumental sculptures that are all very abstract figures from the Tarot," Lenahan explains. "I saw those things and said `Wow!' They look like scenery; they have the 3D element that Miro doesn't, but it's still in the same abstract vein as the Calder and the Miro work."

Rather than using one of De St. Phalle's sculptures, Lenahan created his own character, inspired by the works in Tarot Park. "I didn't model this one on the computer, the way I do with most of my sets," Lenahan explains. "I needed to get clay in my hands, so I actually did it in Sculpey first, and the scale of the model was determined by the size of my oven."

Due to the shape of the head, Lenahan realized immediately that it would be ideal as an inflatable. "People always want to do inflatables, but in many cases, the shape just won't work," he says. Lenahan called on the Inflatable Design Group, which made the 30'-tall head, as well as the two accompanying smaller characters, in less than 30 days.

Lipp's lighting design augments Lenahan's set, and adds a visual punch to the show. Lipp has a full complement of both conventional and automated fixtures, including ETC Source Fours, Molefays, PAR-64s, Clay Paky Golden Scans, Coemar HE 1200s, and High End Systems Studio Colors, all provided by Westsun of Vancouver. "The Source Fours are used as specials on each band member, while I use the PARs for a band wash and an upstage wash," Lipp explains.

Although the show features several big audience looks, Lipp is fairly restrained in his use of the automated fixtures. "I do a lot of stationary work with the moving lights," he says, adding that he feels "moving lights should move in the dark and let up for a different look."

When choosing his color palette, Lipp works with the tempo of the song itself. "A song is either a slow song, a medium rock song, or a fullon, `let it rip' song," he explains. "If it's slow, you darken it up, if it's a medium song, you use medium-range colors like light lavenders or reds, and if it's fast, you go for no color, ambers or yellows," he explains.

The show also uses six truss spots — two on the back truss and four on a truss bridge in the audience. "We try not to use the house spotlights; we get a much better angle for the guys when I use a truss bridge," the lighting designer says. "That way, my spotlight color temperature stays the same every night and the spot angle on the bridge is better, since it lets the band see the house at all times." Lipp, along with Todd Martin, programmed the show, and Lipp is out on the road with the Ladies, using a Flying Pig Systems Wholehog(R) console.

The Maroon tour continues on the road until mid-March, and is expected to be back sometime during the spring.