Rush's amazing R40 Tour is in full swing across North America, and the show features the progressive rock icons taking audiences back in time, from the recent and spectacular Clockwork Angels all the way back to the group's formative shows in the early 1970s. The show also features LD Howard Ungerleider using High End Systems Hog consoles to control the band's evening of time travel.
Ungerleider explains the tour's concept: "Producer Alan Weinrib and Creative Director Dale Heslip formulated the concept of going backwards in time, starting at the most recent tour, and ending up where Rush started. Over a three month period, Dale came up with a storyboard and we all worked to put the pieces together.
"There were many challenges involved in how to pull it off," says Howard. "As the show goes backwards, it deconstructs, and the lighting rig changes. There are five different motifs for the lighting. We start with Clockwork Angels, where we left off, and we go back to big arena rock, then to small arena rock, then to proscenium rock - when we were in the theaters, and finally from there to a high school gymnasium with a mirror ball!"
Ungerleider, who was the recipient of the 2014 Parnelli Visionary Award for his outstanding career and many innovations in lighting, had nearly forty years of lighting visuals to consider and recreate for the R40 shows. "I had to do a lot of homework digging up old plots," he says. "The more recent designs that I had on computer were easier than the ones I had to dig up from my basement from the SeeFactor days!"
"The band's not just playing one set this year - they have three set rotations, so there were a lot of songs. Once again, I brought veteran Tim Grivas in for programming . We racked our heads on how to attack these songs over a ten day period in Tulsa Oklahoma, and it was pretty amazing. I have a great assistant, Andy O'Toole, who is assistant programmer and my right hand guy out here on this tour."
Howard gives high marks to his vendors and support team on the tour. "The production company this year is Solotech, who are just fantastic. They provided all the video screens and the lighting rig, and are one of the best lighting companies I ever worked with." The team subcontracted FOH, and Howard's Hogs were supplied through Zenith Lighting and Mainlight industries. "The Hogs that I use with the expansion wing are rare - there's only five left in the world, but it all came together and it's been great."
Ungerleider has been a proponent of the Hog platform for many years. "I really enjoy running the show from a Hog, especially with the expansion wing. The way it's laid out makes it very comfortable to run the show the way I do with manual triggering, and with the newer software it allows me to achieve various things through my programmers. It's definitely my choice for control. We have two Hogs out there side by side and the expansion wing. I'm running the show on the expansion wing and Andy's doing what he needs to do on the main console. For example, he monitors the Catalyst systems. You can see the libraries of the Catalyst on the hog, which is really handy."
While the show is affording Howard the opportunity to use a bevy of new tools, he is also employing six High End Systems' SHOWGUN fixtures on towers to recreate their magic in the production.
David Davidian is once again serving as Video Director; Howard says this year David is the 'gatekeeper' for video content. "David's behind the stage doing video, Geddy is triggering video via MIDI, and we're running a bunch of Catalyst stuff as well, so it's pretty busy!
In closing, Ungerleider says, "We try to create a surreal environment that makes it believable that you are in fact going backwards through time. The amp line and lighting are constantly changing throughout the show to reflect the eras. There are a lot of cool moments in this show. Support on this tour has been phenomenal, and High End Systems' customer service has been really great - everybody's been amazing."