Tool is a band that doesn’t do anything by half measures. It had been 13 years since their last album before they released Fear Inoculum in 2019, because it had to be just right. This perfection carries through to their shows where a top-class team of personnel has been with the band for many years.


I turned up at the second Sydney show where the band had decided that day to add a song that they have never performed before, a song that lasts 16 minutes. Consequently, the FOH design team of lighting designer Mark Jacobson, video director Breckinridge Haggerty and laser operator Scott Wilson were busy chasing that famous perfection.


Mark “Junior” Jacobson has been with Tool for 23 years since he became their LD at the start of the Ænima tour in 1996. The Fear Inoculum Tour came with a big surprise for him as suddenly, after all these years, lead singer Maynard James Keenan decided he did want to be lit after all. He’d spent the previous decades hiding in shadows, shunning the light.


Mark describes the lighting for Tool as traditionally murky with big moments. The show is a complicated merging of light, video, and lasers, like no other show I have seen.

In Australia, the majority of the lighting rig was from Chameleon including 24 Ayrton Perseo-S, 24 GLP JDC-1, 20 GLP X4 Bar20, 57 Ayrton MagicBlade FX, 13 Martin MAC Aura, 24 Robe Pointe and 36 MegaPointe. From Delicate in LA, the band toured 12 Ayrton MagicRing, 24 High End TurboRay, eight Ayrton Wildsun, and seven Ayrton MagicDot.


The Ayrton Perseo-S were substituted for the Khamsin fixtures Mark usually uses but are not yet available in Australia.

“They are very similar in feature sets, so it was an easy swap-out,” he commented. “They are mostly used as back keys for the band members. I’ve used MagicBlades before as they create a great shaft of light that can be similar to a beam sneaking through window blinds, I suppose. They are also changeable in shape by using selective elements. The fact that there are seven elements is no coincidence as the band has used “7” as a recurring theme over the years.”


Mark has been a fan of Ayrton products for several years but this tour is the first time he has incorporated Robe fixtures into his design. He has Pointes lining the downstage curtain track saying that there are other compact beam futures on the market, but the Pointes added features that others didn’t have. 

“I’d seen the MegaPointe at LDI a few years ago and felt they could add the punch and dominant beam needed in their roles,” added Mark. “To be able to cut through everything else that is going on, we cue them in white light, often going over the band’s heads.”

For the front light, Mark used the good old Martin MAC Aura also using the ‘Aura’ feature in blue as a between-song work light.

“It creates a nice moonlight glow on stage - even from nearly 14 metres in the air - and isn’t reliant on focus position or the setup cue to still do that job,” he said. “The GLP JDC-1s have been on my (and most peoples) radar for a few years now. It’s quirky but quite impressive. I like that you can use it in a traditional strobe role and also as a big wash. Adding tilt to the picture just takes it over the top. We have some on the moving pods and also a row across the DS edge of the stage. They can be blinders and also serve as a solo uplight for special moments. The X4 Bars replaced some of the Blades in places where they didn’t need to pan and took up less of a footprint because of that.”


The 12 aforementioned pods are automated to create a variety of lighting looks above the stage. Each has an Ayrton MagicRing R9, two TurboRays, and a JDC-1 strobe. They are all addressed identically and each occupies a DMX universe. The MagicRings take 256 channels, so each pod is approximately in the 400 channel range. The crew hangs them the same every day, but the pods are all interchangeable as long as they get plugged into the correct cable. 

“I’ve always liked having a large format light that messes with your scale perception,” explained Mark on his choice of the AyrtonRing R9 fixtures. “I think I first saw that with one of Steve Cohen’s designs for Don Henley in the late ’80s and further down the road with Syncrolite and such. 

It’s a modern take on that format and having individual control of the 61 elements gives you so many beam shapes. It’s a goofy light, but so cool at the same time.”


The Fear Inoculum Tour is the first arena tour to use the High End TurboRay, a fixture Mark had had his eye on since early 2019 when he first saw a demo of it.

“I’d not had any High End fixtures in a Tool rig for several years and had recently rekindled my relationship with them,” he remarked. “The first automated lights Tool ever had in 1996 were CyberLights (and Vari*Lite VL5s), and we’d used a number of their fixtures over the years from StudioColors and StudioBeams to x.Spots, StudioCommands, ShowGuns, and ShowBeams.” 


This is the first tour that Mark used MDG hazers. Originally he had seen the purple Atmosphere range at some festivals and wanted to get those. Delicate Productions, their US vendor, suggested The One and he wasn’t about to argue! Describing them as very versatile, Mark was delighted that Chameleon purchased a couple in preparation for the Australian tour.


Mark used his own MA Lighting MA3 at FOH although still running in MA2 mode.


“I was going to make a purchase and couldn’t see any reason to buy an MA2,” he said. “The MA3 platform is going to add a lot to the game once it’s ready. I’m looking forward to what it will become. We are running on 37 universes (about 18,000 MA parameters) over MA Net to the stage where NPUs and Nodes are distributing the signal. We carry a grandMA2 as a spare (and as a test console for the mornings before FOH is set up), and I have a rack-mounted PC at FOH running MA2 OnPC that serves as my immediate backup during the show.”


Like his video and laser compatriots, Mark uses no timecode at all, as the band doesn’t play to a click. As he doesn’t have a bitstream to latch onto, he’s responsible for making everything happen on time the old fashioned way. However having worked as part of the same team for many years, Mark says they can now anticipate each other and much of the show control between the three of them comes naturally.


Chameleon also supplied an Intercom Master, four Intercom Substation, 24 PDS 12 GPO Distribution, four Stagesmart Mains Distribution and eight DD8 Data Distribution, as well as truss, cables, and motors. Montreal's Show Distribution supplied 32 automation controls and motors.


“The Chameleon crew were great,” Mark commented. “Great work ethic, as always. Our universal crew chief, Graham “Db” Jelly, is Australian and has done a lot of work with Chameleon, so he already knew all of them. Over the years he had been the crew chief on nearly every Australian tour I’d done with Tool and several other bands (dating back to Jands and Bytecraft) and we made him our worldwide crew chief in the summer of 2019.”

Photos: Ashley Mar

This article first appeared in the print edition of CX Magazine April 2020.
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