Bruce Springsteen Tour, North America

The Opportunity

Bruce Springsteen is one of the most successful music artists of all time, with more than 140 million records sold worldwide and numerous accolades including Grammy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Academy Awards, and even a Tony Award for his one-man show on Broadway. Following that acclaimed run of shows in 2017 and 2018, Bruce Springsteen announced his return to the road with The E Street Band, his longtime loyal backing band since 1973. In February 2023, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band embarked on a 90-date tour across North America and Europe, which will conclude in San Francisco on December 10.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band have built a hard-earned reputation for legendary live performances that put a spotlight on the music itself with a no-nonsense, low-production aesthetic. After a long absence from the road due to the Boss’s two-year Broadway run followed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band wanted to increase the spectacle for the 2023 tour’s visual approach.

The Solution

To accomplish this goal, Springsteen’s longtime lighting designer Jeff Ravitz created a fresh and unique rig using a combination of new truss shapes and a large number of cutting-edge Martin lighting fixtures provided by Christie Lites.

To accompany the new overhead truss design, Ravitz researched the latest solutions on the market and selected a range of Martin lighting fixtures to create a versatile rig capable of delivering immersive color washes and powerful visual effects.

In keeping with Ravitz’s quest for the cutting edge, the MAC Aura PXL is the first wash light in the market to feature individual pixel control for main beam pixels and Aura backlight, while the MAC Aura XIP is the first fixture in its class to be rated for outdoor use, with close to zero compromises in weight, size, and aesthetics. Ravitz’s lighting rig features MAC Aura PXL fixtures hung overhead and MAC Aura XIP fixtures on downstage trusses to deliver powerful washes, mesmerizing effects and immersive color palettes across the entire venue.

Pure and simple in concept, the MAC Ultra Wash is a bold, no-nonsense workhorse and the brightest wash Martin has ever developed, making it a suitable fixture for Bruce Springsteen’s brand of no-frills rock and roll. Ravitz included four MAC Ultra Wash fixtures to perform a simple but extremely powerful role in the show.

VDO Dotron is a compact and powerful outdoor-rated video pixel fixture that truly sparks creativity for 3D stage setups. Ravitz utilized VDO Dotron fixtures on the downstage edges of the stage and the runway to further translate the look of the stage lighting in a way that involves the fans themselves.

Ravitz praised the role played by Christie Lites in providing the lighting equipment and technicians, as well as ensuring a successful and reliable touring operation from a planning perspective.

The Impact

“I’m proud to have been Bruce’s LD since the Born In The USA Tour in 1984,” said Ravitz. “They wanted the audience to immediately notice a new and fresh look to this show when they entered the arena. Bruce embraces the idea that he and the E Street Band are really a bar band that plays great rock and roll music with no frills. For this tour, they wanted a more conspicuous feel of an updated look. To accomplish this, we tweaked the shape of the over-stage lighting trusses to give them an off-center peak. This gave the overall system a new sense of height and scale that we didn’t have in the past.”

“We had more time to plan and design this tour than almost any other previous tour, which really allowed me conduct new research and to flesh out the look of the show,” said Ravitz. “I wanted to use state-of-the-art fixtures with all the latest features. I really wanted to give this show a more contemporary look, within the established aesthetics of a Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band show. The aesthetics part means being true to the bar band concept and letting the musical performances be the primary focus, with the lighting playing a supporting role to help project the show past the stage and all the way to the back of the venue. The contemporary part is about using more vivid colors with enough brightness to compete with the video screens. We also wanted to take advantage of the pixel control that is possible in modern fixtures. With Martin fixtures, we’ve been able to change quite a few of the old cues to look bolder with cleaner and more uniform color statements than we’ve done in the past.”

“We have 62 overhead MAC Aura PXL fixtures as the backbone of the lighting system, forming the overall color wash that sets the mood and emotion of each song,” said Ravitz. “I like the clean look of the Aura PXL and that it’s capable of creating exciting pixel effects. The background network of pixels behind the lens is terrific. The MAC Aura XIP fixtures extend the wash looks of the overhead PXL fixtures to further downstage into the house. They were chosen for their weather-proof performance, which is crucial when we’re in our outdoor stadium configuration.”

“We only used four MAC Ultra Wash fixtures, but they’re very important lights,” said Ravitz. “I chose them specifically for their colossal output and quality of beam and color. Three are under stage shooting up through a grating behind Bruce to create an extremely powerful fan of light just behind him. When they come on, you can’t miss it. The fixtures are bright as all-get-out, even in the deepest colors, and provide a very dramatic look. Bruce loves them and plays with having them skim his body or just silhouetting him. Since they’re under the stage, the effect appears to come from the underworld. The fourth Ultra Wash is used when the band walks up the stairs to the stage at the start of the show, backlit by the biggest whoosh of light you can imagine, and the crowd goes crazy!”

“We use a total of 175 VDO Dotron fixtures for the stadium show,” said Ravitz. “The Dotron is a puck light on steroids with full color and pixelization. I embedded them into the face of the main stage pointed out at the audience with 20-inch spacing. The idea was to create bright sources across the surface that would not only echo the color palette of the overhead washes, but also be visible in broad daylight because our stadium shows begin before sunset during the summer. Each light has the frosted dome lens, which helps its visibility from wide viewing angles. It’s paying big visual dividends for the look of the show.”

“The rest of the Dotrons are facing up, built into the edge of the long runway that extends from the stage to the other side of the arena,” continued Ravitz. “Bruce jumps down there to get closer to the fans. As a result, the runway is outlined in color and can reinforce existing cues that pulse, bump and flash. It makes the stage look that much larger and gives life to an otherwise neglected part of the surroundings. Also, the fixtures don’t stick up more than a few inches, so Bruce doesn’t look like he’s behind a wall of lighting hardware. Another important feature of the Dotrons is its IP65 rating. We simply would not have considered this fixture if it couldn’t hold up to the inevitable rains.”

Ravitz spoke to the overall value that Martin fixtures bring to a production, and noted the longtime support he has received from Martin staff over the years.

“I’ve had a very long and positive relationship with Martin and the staff over the many years I’ve been using Martin fixtures,” said Ravitz. “Greg Jones has always gone out of his way to arrange demonstrations, answer questions and hook me up with his best team members to help me understand the fixtures better. In particular, Brad Schiller and I have spoken at great length about the best lights to use for specific applications, which played an influential role on this tour and other shows I’ve designed. Martin fixtures are very good-looking pieces of equipment with a very professional appearance. The audience sees that before the house lights go out. But of course, it’s what’s inside the fixture that matters. Each light was selected because it works mechanically as expected, can output a high quality of light and has enough features and effects to give us the variety we need to get through a three-hour show.”

“This tour had challenges due to its overall scale, and the pressure to live up to the Springsteen standard of quality,” said Ravitz. “I stuck out my neck to vouch for the Martin fixtures I selected, and nobody has disputed that decision. Christie Lites worked hand-in-hand with me to solve a myriad of production challenges. For a show as large as this, the planning stage was critical, and I spent many hours of discussion with Russell Benoit from Christie about the game plan and system details to make them work as smoothly as possible, and they provided the best crew of skilled technicians to make it happen on a daily basis.”