Some of the younger stars , the first person they talk to is the lighting designer , because they know it ’ s going to sound good . Just recently I worked with Billie Eilish [ at We Love NYC : The Homecoming Concert ], and she ’ s got it great with Tony [ Caporale ], who does her lighting , and all her crew are a fantastic bunch of people . They all look after her and it ’ s a unique , very cool look . She stands out as a new Bowie . She ’ s unique and the kids love her . And then my kids went to see J . Cole the other day , and they showed me some photographs and they were doing a similar thing . It ’ s just really good to see that other people are able to protect an artist in a big crowd .
PL & P : Video is more central to the design of big shows than ever before . I think a lot of lighting designers lament that because screens can suck the life out of lights . How do you balance those in your designs ?
KENNY ’ S DESIGN FOR THE 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS IN EDMONTON
Kenny : Video screens are a light source and I use it as a light source . I ’ m lucky that I ’ ve worked with the best video people and have seen video go from projection to what it is now . So , I ’ ve learned how to deal with it . But I use it as a tool and sometimes it ’ s about just good old-fashioned lighting looks and effects , with shadows and strobes and all that , and the artist would have thought they should use big screens and then they find this power with good lighting that they don ’ t get from screens .
There ’ s a certain 2D-ness with screens . It ’ s two-dimensional for concerts . It ’ s great if it ’ s really good content , but there ’ s only about four or five bands that really invest in the content , some of the hip-hop stuff and some of the older bands do it really well , and there are some new companies out there . So , when it ’ s done tastefully it ’ s beautiful , like the Billie Eilish stuff I saw the other day was fantastic . I also saw Journey the other day and it was simple but it was great .
PL & P : Are you much of a gearhead ? Are there any products you ’ re particularly into at the moment or looking forward to using ?
Kenny : Yeah , I ’ m really a gearhead . I could list all the inventions in lighting over my time . I was fortunate to be in London when Claypaky brought the first Sharpies and I was doing a charity show for The Who and this lighting guy says , “ Hey , these 12 lights arrived from PRG , do you want to use them ?” and I started using them on The X Factor and then everybody saw it there . And same with lots of products like the Robe Points , Robe 1200s , to Chauvet , [ Martin ] MAC IIIs , Elation have beautiful stuff , and I just used some Ayrton stuff . So yeah , I will use all the different types of strobes .
A lot of the [ televised ] shows I do nowadays , you ’ re dealing with a lot of artists coming in with younger LDs or an established LD and I try and have something that everybody likes . So , I love gear . You know that some gear just doesn ’ t work and you just don ’ t ask for it back . But all
KENNY ’ S DESIGN FOR THE 2013 MTV VIDEO MUSIC AWARDS
the [ Vari-Lite ] Profiles are turning into LEDs , like the VL2600 , and they ’ re stunning . I just the used the new Ayrton stuff the other day and the new Chauvet . There ’ s a lot of great lights out there ; just beautiful stuff .
PL & P : When you look back at your designs over the years , is there an innovation you ’ re most proud of in your designs ?
Kenny : Yeah , I think my innovation was bringing real concert lighting into television . I know there was Allen Branton who brought that look in before me , and people before Allen or around the same time . You see it everywhere , every single place I go to , and I was lucky because I came from that music background ; that rock and roll , big , inyour-face thing that every artist wants . I can look back and say that it was me and people always mentioned that .
But I ’ m lucky that I was with bands that the lighting suited and it is all a perfect storm . You can look at anything now and they copy what we do in the music business . Like the Olympics , and every big show is copied from a band ’ s LD using some product . Every theatre thing , every conference , every single thing comes from the music business . It was the music business that put
the money into that . So , just from doing massive concerts , you learn to spread out the look and to spread out the vision of what you got . I think if you can entertain 200,000 people with three trusses of par cans , it only goes up after that [ laughs ].
PL & P : What about key advice for young lighting designers , keeping in mind that it ’ s obviously a very different industry now than when you were young ?
Kenny : Yeah , very different . I grew up in the world where the lighting people were the bastard son and daughter . Now they all understand that it ’ s all part of the thing — lights and video , it ’ s all part of the same package as audio . Audio crews just do the same thing every day [ on tour ], whereas we ’ ve got to come up with new stuff all the time .
But if I was going to tell a young person , I ’ d say just be very fair to the people that you work with , appreciate the people around you , listen to your artists and the management , but surround yourself with great people . Don ’ t be afraid to have smarter people than you always on your side because they ’ re the people who are going to save you .
Michael Raine is the Editor-in-Chief of Professional Lighting & Production .
Winter 2021 | 25
PHOTO : MARK SINGELIS