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Robert Plant, the legendary singer of Led Zeppelin, returned to Australia along with his band, The Sensational Space Shifters, to headline Bluesfest and play a few sideshows including two sold out nights at the Sydney Opera House.

This year marks the incredible milestone of 50 years since Led Zeppelin’s first album was released. Lighting designer Carl Burnett has worked with Robert for over four years on what is basically a continual tour which he does in ‘dribs and drabs’, which suits Carl just fine.

“We’ve just done a five week tour in the US, followed by two weeks off and then three weeks in Australia, followed by six weeks off,” he said. “Being a bit older, it’s very nice and gives me time at home with my other business – doggy day care!"

Carl began working for Robert midway through a tour when their lighting designer left. “His tour manager at the time saw me pop up on his Facebook feed and thought he’d ask me,” said Carl.

“On paper I got the gig but the final hurdle was going to meet Robert at his home which was ever so strange. He likes to see if he has a vibe with you.” Usually Robert does not get that involved in the lighting design although he has done for this tour, questioning Carl all the way!

“He wanted the lighting for this tour to be different,” added Carl. “We used to have a few truss towers on stage but this time he didn’t want lots of metalwork, preferring a neat stage. He wanted it to look beautiful and so straightaway I thought of drapes.”

The draped background is also used for projecting onto although only three songs feature projection and it’s not unknown for Robert to play only one of those.

“Once it was confirmed we would have projection, I talked Robert out of having screens, as the drapes were more suited,” Carl remarked. “The projection artwork is a variety of animations created by Lucky Frog but as I said, there’s not a lot of it.”

“With his heritage, Robert doesn’t want a big metal show and he often reminds me that he has done all that in the past. Consequently a lot of the show is understated, when you might expect a bunch of blinders flashing in your eyes, they’re not. It’s a bit more static than you’d expect it to be.”

Carl said that his entire rig is specified as Martin MAC Vipers however at the Sydney Opera House he had to make changes. In the air were MAC Viper Profiles and Viper Wash DX whilst on the floor there were Robe BMFL’s; five BMFL on stands, another six on lower stands and one in front of each leg.

The front truss held MAC Performances. Chauvet Colorado Quad Zooms lit up the borders on each truss with Carl commenting that “you can zoom them and they’re really bright plus they’re neat and small.” Two Unique hazers run either side of stage to pick up beams.

Carl was recently converted to using MA Lighting consoles, and at the Sydney Opera House was supplied with an MA2 light. “I was a Hog man up until September last year mainly because I’ve never had the time to train on an MA and then go straight on a tour with one,” he commented.

“Last year I did the training and then two weeks later I was on tour with Little Steven for five weeks. That’s a simpler show so it gave me five weeks to get comfortable with the console. Afterwards I went straight onto programming this show which isn’t a simple show.”

This article first appeared in the print edition of CX Magazine May 2018.
CX Magazine is Australia and New Zealand’s only publication dedicated to entertainment technology news and issues. Read all editions for free or search our archive

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