Backstage at the grounds of Manchester
City’s football club, Bon Jovi’s Production
Manager, Jesse Sandler, is manning the fort
before tonight’s show. Having joined the
Bon Jovi touring crew in 2000 in the audio
department, Sandler has since worked
his way up to PM. “My father was a tour
manager for many years, so it was a natural
progression for me, kind of like a family
tradition,” he noted. With Bon Jovi, the crew
has remained fairly consistent, with key
players returning time after time. “Over the
past 13 years that I’ve been with the band,
we’ve had about 30 people stay on the tour.
We always try and have a consistent base
and bring back the same guys in Europe so
we have familiar faces wherever we go.”
During pre-production, the design stages
took around six months of virtual planning
with Stageco and TAIT collaborating ideas. The
design was programmed using Vectorworks,
Cinema 4d and MA 3D provided by Early
Bird Visual. The stage’s classic car theme was
decided upon by Show Designer Lloyd ‘Spike’
Brant who was going through various options
when he came across an old photo. “Jon said
he wanted the stage to look just like that. That’s
where the idea all started and we got a pretty
good representation of it built! Trying to find
out how we could set it up, tear it down and
make it work, that was actually the biggest
challenge of the show,” Sandler continued.
“Jon expects a high level of design, and it was
a good concept to start with, so between
Stageco, TAIT, our crew and Spike, we got it
right.” The tour’s other suppliers include long
standing audio account, Clair and lighting and
video titans PRG and PRG Nocturne.
Because We Can Show Designer, Spike from
PEDG - Performance Environment Design Group
Opposite: The Stadium tour has seen success across the world; Bon Jovi frontman, Jon, has been a stage and screen icon since the 1980’s.
(Beyoncé, Green Day) is the mastermind behind
the tour’s final look and has been working with
Bon Jovi since 2000. He told TPi: “We believe
that all the elements of a show need to play
in harmony and that no one discipline is more
important than the other. Everything should
be designed for the good of the show and not
for any personal desires or ego. We enlist our
clients as partners and collaborators in working
towards the end goal of the event or show
PEDG has a very collaborative and diverse
environment that it develops designs from. Spike
continued: “On this project, we worked with
TAIT to build and engineer the scenic elements
and Stageco to create the support structure.
They are both the best in the world at what they
do and we love every opportunity we get to
work with them.
“We created an inception document to begin
the discussion with Jon. He saw the picture of
the car and said, ‘Can you build me that?’ We
then looked at how to transform the front of a
car into a stadium performance environment.”
With a large-scale sculpture design such as
this, it becomes the centrepiece for the theme.
“We had to make some compromises because
of rigging limitations of the support structures
and originally we were planning on projection
mapping over the whole thing. It was too
costly and challenging in the outdoor overnight
environment. In hindsight it would have been
cool, but it is totally unnecessary!” he added.
“This is stadium architecture, something that
is not seen very often in an era dominated by
massive video walls.”
Having worked extensively on all of the band’s
outdoor events, Stageco were brought in by
Bon Jovi because of the company’s experience
in creating completely custom built structures
that support a unique design concept.
Inspired by the photograph of the classic
1959 Buick Electra 225, the 60m x 23m x 26m
Stageco structure was central to the approach
by the designers, Spike’ Brant wanted to move
away from the large -scale video design used
on so many current stage designs that often
include little to no scenic elements.
In keeping with the brief to create a cohesive
and unique design, the stage incorporates the
250,000 tonnes of production elements used
to help create the stunning live experience
that has helped to keep Bon Jovi as one of the
world’s leading live artists. A 165 tonne working
platform / roof hangs above the stage and an
eight metre cantilever was created to fly the PA
system either side of the stage in order to keep
open sightlines.
Project Manager Bert Kustermans
oversaw the meticulous planning required to
manufacture the bespoke stages and implement
the precise logistics a tour of this scale needed,
with five systems and their crews touring
simultaneously around the tour dates in Europe,
America and Australia.
He said: “Working with the whole Bon Jovi
team is at the pinnacle of the live touring sector.
Everyone is focused on delivering a show that
will have that special ‘wow factor’ for the fans,
and it’s stimulating to be part of that process to
come up with something new that works at an
international level.”
When Spike asked TAIT to create the 30
metre inflatable 1959 Buick Electra, which spans
the length of the main stage, the company
supplied all the staging for the tour, including
a 34 metre wide main stage, a band riser and
a 30 metre rounded b-stage catwalk. The
Buick Electra’s hood sits above the band and
is made of three, cold-air inflatable pieces. The
three separate pieces measure 30 metres in
total length, and are capable of full inflation
in 30 minutes. The inflatable surface has been
scenically airbrushed and UV treated for the
outdoor shows. It is externally lit from various
Below: Lighting Director, Sooner Ruthier used an MA Lighting grandMA2 console for the show’s visual operation; A DiGiCo SD7 was used by FOH Engineer Bill Sheppell.
lighting positions during the show, creating
many different looks.
To complete the Buick’s grill which sits
beneath the inflatable, TAIT manufactured a
grill section which houses 60 custom V9 frames
and custom light poles for four Impressions.
Four scenic car headlight surrounds were also
manufactured to be situated beneath the
Buick. The 2.5 metre diameter surrounds were
scenically carved, hard coated and covered in
chrome vinyl auto-body wrapping to provide the
chrome featured on the Electra.
A four metre by two metre Bon Jovi ‘Garden
State’ (that’s New Jersey to me and you)
license plate with integrated LED sits across
the middle of the inflatable car, adding to the
scenic intricacy of the set. Atop the edge of the
inflatable Buick is a metal rain gutter structure,
created by TAIT to move any water away
from the stage when performing in inclement
weather. The gutter interfaces with the
inflatable roof and is scenically painted to match
the silver blue of the car.
The project took TAIT just 10 weeks to
physically build from start to completion;
reinforcing TAIT’s ability to create artistically
impressive, yet extremely tourable scenic
structures in a short time period.
Spike also spec’d the lighting fixtures, supplied
by PRG. “We chose the fixtures based on what
we had in the arena design.” The lighting kit
included 31 PRG Best Boys, 68 Bad Boy Spots,
40 Clay Paky Sharpys, 66 Clay Paky Atomic
Strobes, three Hungaroflash fixtures, 144
GLP impression X4’s, 90 Philips Color Kinetics
ColorBlast TRXs, 276 Chromlech Elidys and
250 LED PARs. Spike furthered: “The X4 is my
current favorite LED wash fixture, for both
size and output. The Best Boys are the best all
around hard edge fixtures available and the Best
Boys were the big gun of choice for stadiums
and keep working in all the weathers. We used
the Sharpys as a cost effective way to fill out the
outdoor look.”
As Spike wasn’t traveling on the road,
Lighting Director Sooner Routhier took the
reigns for operation. “I got into lighting because
I took dance in high school and I found out
that I could get extra credit if I joined the tech
crew. I started learning lighting design and fell
in love with concert lighting. In college it found
me again, and I started working full time for a
production company,” said Routhier.
On this, her second time working with Bon
Jovi, Routhier is using an MA Lighting grandMA
2 for control. “I use this console more than
anything else, I just like the design of it. I love
that you can choose palettes and effects. The
layouts are my favourite part of the console,
being able to set up the icons on the screen is a
great feature,” she added.
Felix Peralta is the tour’s Director of
Programming, assisting Spike in crafting the
‘art’ for the show. “I worked closely with Eric
Marchwinski (lighting programmer for the
tour), Kirk Miller (Control Freak Systems video
parts, just straight up rock ‘n’ roll lights and
The tour’s Video Director, George Elizondo
of PRG Nocturne joined this Bon Jovi tour
following 18 months on the road with the RHCP.
“There’s a long line of video people in my family,
but I’m the only one who went to the rock ‘n’
roll side, everyone else works in films and TV
where as I really like life on the road, it’s all I’ve
ever known,” stated the VD. “The video for this
tour is pretty massive, but it can be discreet at
times. There’s a fine line between too much and
not enough.” Elizondo uses a full HD broadcast
system for the tour with a Grass Valley HD
Kayak 2 M/E Switcher and a 64x64 router
matrix for control from PRG Nocturne. They
also provided the camera package including six
Grass Valley Thomson LDK 6000 WorldCam HD
Cameras and four Ikegami HL-45 HD Cameras,
two robotic, and two fixed.
“The Stadium version was a much smoother experience. No moving
parts, just straight up rock ‘n’ roll lights and video!”
programmer) and Sooner to help tell the story.
It was a very collaborative effort by a bunch of
very talented, passionate people,” said Peralta.
Before the tour hit stadium capacity, the arena
shows proved challenging for the lighting crew
due to the ‘newness’ of technology being used.
“To integrate the show elements - lighting,
video, automation - there were a lot of moving
parts to that show. We relied heavily on our 3D
models leading up to the first shows. We only
had about five full days of integration with the
real rig,” noted Peralta. “The Stadium version
was a much smoother experience. No moving
“Jon is a true professional,” stated the VD.
“It’s been a pleasure, it’s been challenging
and fun. Jon knows what he wants in most
applications so we’re not second-guessing what
he, as an artist wants to see. This band makes
my job easy; they keep putting on great shows
night in, night out.”
Video Crew Chief, Carson Austin, manages
the crew and equipment, which includes two
PRG Nocturne V-18 18mm LED video screens
on each side of the stage and over 250 V-9 Lite
9mm LED video modules in the centre, which
makes up the custom car grille and turn signals.
Below: Control Freak Systems Troy Giddens and Kirk Millar; Audio Crew Chief, Carson Austin; Video, Eat Your Hearts Out’s Steve Bond.
TAIT provided the large 37.5mm LED screen that
serves as the car’s windshield. Having worked
with PRG Nocturne for over 10 years, this is
Austin’s fifth time on the road with Bon Jovi. He
likes to keep the same crew with him, as “Jon is
a hard working guy. It’s enabled this tour to be
very ambitious, both in terms of the scheduling
and technically. We here in video world work
very closely with the Control Freaks to get all
the screens synced up. As the tour goes on, we
do a little more along the way to fine tune,” he
said. In total, there are 10 video crewmembers
from PRG Nocturne.
Working alongside them is Control Freak
Systems (CFS), a video control solutions
company. Dirk Sanders, Technical Designer
for CFS, worked on both the arena and the
stadium versions of the tour, putting together
the complex video control systems. He’s worked
with Spike on many projects including many
with Bon Jovi. Sanders explained, “The stadium
is very different; this was more of a traditional
system design that boiled down to flexibility.
We do however continue to build on the control
integration; throughout the show we blur the
lines continually between the lighting and the
video control.
“At CFS, we are very much about the right
tool for the right artistic idea,” said Sanders.
“Often we will use multiple layers of different
software and hardware tools. The [PRG] Mbox
is really our workhorse server on the stadium
shows. It was about the right tool for the right
job, Mbox gives us the right paintbrushes to
route video effectively. Overwhelmingly the
Mbox is used as a traditional media server,
but there are times we are using it almost as
a screen -mapping processor where it’s being
used to manipulate live input coming in, in order
to make it work for the uniqueness of the grille
The CFS team on tour includes Kirk J.
Miller, CFS Programmer and Operator and Troy
Giddens, CFS Crew Chief and Engineer. Miller
discussed some of the equipment choices for
the show: “We have our own CFS Freakulizer
visualiser software which helps us to visualise
the screens almost in real time. It’s really handy
to let us work before the screens are up during
load-in. CFS has put together a control solution
that let’s this tour go beyond just cameras to
screens, so we can integrate pre-produced
content along with the cameras seamlessly.
The two content design companies, Moment
Factory and Meteor Tower generated all the
content under the direction of Spike. We use
a lot of PRG Mbox Extremes, which is PRG’s
flagship media server, and we use our own
Control Freak CFS ADAMS system [Audio Driven
Awesome Media Server] and the CFS MultiTap server for visual effects control. We have
three Barco Encore processors that let us blend
the cameras and media servers together so I
use timecode and a lot of Macs. I use the CFS
Encore DMX Bridge, which allows me to control
the Encores from my grandMA2 console via Art
Net at FOH.”
“Getting inspired by the songs, we had some
ideas, Jon had some initial ideas and so did
Spike. We took this into consideration and
built a mood board and proposed around 20
different looks, some specially attached to
songs and some that were not. We got the
design approved and integrated it into the show
with all the lights and all the set to make sure
that everything was aesthetically approved,”
explained Moment Factory’s Event Director,
Daniel Jean.
“For the stadiums, it was important and a
challenge in some ways to reuse the content
that was made for the arena tour which was
projection based. Some content was just
impossible to adapt, so to give meaning to the
car look, we created an intro with the car and a
height builder towards the end for the encore.”
One of the challenges Moment Factory faced
was to adapt the content that existed from the
past tour, but as there is a different set up for
stadiums, the content needed some tweaks.
“We are very blessed with the collaboration we
had on this tour with Spike and Control Freak
Systems. As things move along there is still
modification to make as the band are on the
road. We need to make sure they have Moment
Factory support to adapt or change the content
whenever needed. Kirk Miller represents our
work in operation and we need to make sure
he is happy at all times. If there are any glitches
or any mistakes, we need to be here to respond
so that the next show is back to being perfect
Clair’s Frank Principato, the tour’s Audio Crew
Chief and System Tech, first worked with Bon
Jovi when the band was playing in small clubs,
yet he hadn’t worked with them since the
1980’s up until he rejoined the crew for the
Because We Can production. “I was a musician
and since I didn’t become a rock star because
I didn’t write a hit song, I stayed with the guys
who did and made them louder!” Principato
enthused. “I keep everything moving forward. I
have to get it up in the air and get it all ready for
the engineers every day. This tour is very busy,
but we get it done!”
The PA system used for both the arena and
the stadium legs of this world tour is a Clair i5
system. For the stadium set up, the main PA
comprises 18 boxes per side, the two side hangs
are made up of 14 per side. For subs, Clair i5Bs
are used in two columns of 18 per side with
i3’s for front fill. The system was driven by Lab.
gruppen PLM 20000Qs, the only amplifier
Clair deploys, having its own engineers help to
design the amp with the Swedish manufacturers
R&D dept.
Over in monitor world, Glen Collett has
been with the Bon Jovi crew since 2005 and
interestingly, only uses analogue consoles with
the band. “Working with Jon and mixing a band
that I consider to have ‘producer’s ears,’ they
know what they like, and audio quality comes
high up in priorities.
“We did a small promo tour where we just
carried a little bit of equipment, and when we
did rehearsals for three days in Nashville I was
meant to use a small digital console but chose
to use an analogue too. We gave it a good shot
and at the end of the three days, we talked
about the shortcomings of digital vs analogue.
Everybody in the band had their own way of
saying the same thing and it was decided that
we’d never be without the analogue again!
“Bon Jovi are one of the few artists that I get
to use analogue with - they’ll pay to haul this
thing around, it sounds great and they’re very
happy with it - we tried digital and went back to
The desk of choice for Collett is a Midas
Heritage 3000, which is his current desk of
choice. Having worked for Clair since 1999,
Collett keeps with the Midas brand, using an
XL3 for Bryan Adams and a 3000 for Bette
“When we have guitarist Ritchie Sambora
with us, we have a combo of in ears and
wedges. Old school guitar players who are used
to big speakers, often like to feel the sound
behind them, where as with in ears you can only
feel it to the left and right. Ritchie’s monitor mix
is mixed individually on an Avid Profile where as
everybody else is on in ears only.”
With Collett describing this tour as ‘a no
nonsense rock ‘n’ roll tour!’ Being very hands-on
with the audio decisions, Jon Bon Jovi himself
also carried out a test when Collett started
mixing the band to find the perfect in ears. “He
settled on Sensaphonics, but the drummer and
bass player use Futuresonics, which basically has a real
transducer - basically like mini speaker - a hard acrylic
ear mold style in ear piece. Ritchie uses Jerry Harvey
(JH Audio, previously of Ulitmate Ears) custom made
At FOH, engineer Bill Sheppell uses a DiGiCo SD7,
his desk of choice. Shure Axient is used for Jon Bon
Jovi’s vocals, which has gained huge respect in tour’s
RF camp. Wireless mics are a mixture of Shure models,
“Everything should be designed for
the good of the show and not for any
personal desires or ego.”
which Sheppell knows he can rely on. The Beta 58a
make up both the hardwired and wireless vocal mics.
Backline mics include Heil PR 31 and a PR 22 for
snare, a PR 31 for hi-hats and Beta 98 AMPs for toms.
Shure KSM 137’s and KSM 32’s and SM57’s mic, the
strings and Heil PR 30 and a Shure KSM 313’s are
applied to the cabs.
Below: Clair i5’s provided the sound and PRG Nocturne and CFS were lighting and video suppliers.
Below: Production Manager, Jesse Sandler; Monitor Engineer, Glen Collett; Director of Programming, Felix Peralta; Bon Jovi’s Head Rigger, Mike Freece; System Tech, Frank Principato.
Mike Freece, the band’s head tour rigger has
been keeping Bon Jovi structurally safe on tour
for 21 years and has hand picked his team of
riggers for the road. With two systems of four
riggers working together at once, Freece also
uses 16 local riggers in each city to manage the
show’s needs.
Using a total of 120 Columbus McKinnon
chain motors, supplied by California’s Stage
Rigging, Freece explained that this was the kit
he knew he could rely on. “I’ve used them for
over 20 years now, they always perform for me
and I’ve never had any issues with them, so why
would I ever change?”
For control, Motion Laboratories direct hoist
control systems are used to individually control
the rigging set up. Tomcat truss is used for the
structural rigging and PRG provides its own BAT
truss for the lighting rig. Once the set pieces
are in, Freece and his team take five hours to
complete the rig.
Besides the typical weather complaints
(though we talk during an uncharacteristically
hot and sunny Manchester afternoon!), Freece
described the cultural techniques of each
countries an interesting challenge:
“Overseeing the riggers in each new country
can be difficult because each country learns
differently. In Italy for example, we found out
that a lot of the riggers actually used to be rock
climbers, so they’ve learnt quite a different
Overall however, this ambitious production
has so far been a very smooth operation for the
experienced Freece. “It’s all pretty much status
quo in our department, which is good… quiet is
always good!” he concluded.
Steve Bond of Eat Your Hearts Out, the tour’s
catering service is travelling with Bon Jovi for
the second time on what he describes as a very
community based tour. “I’ve worked with the
band before and I can say that everyone really
looks after each other, right from the very top
to the bottom, everyone gets on and will help
out one another. It’s a lot of fun!”
Feeding 100 during breakfast, 140 for lunch
and 200 for dinner, Eat Your Hearts Out has
a busy team working in multiple cities as the
tour travels for load-ins. Working in a leapfrog
system, whilst Bond is in Manchester, another
team is in Birmingham preparing for the next
show and as this takes place, Bond and his team
will go to Cardiff.
With six tour busses to stock for long drives
- in Europe journeys can be 20 hours long Bond’s team will also ensure that the vehicles
are stocked with enough to keep the band and
crew satisfied.
“We locally source fresh fruit and veg,
meat and fish from our suppliers in the UK
and at specialist supermarkets. We make a lot
of healthy options, and serve anything from
organic egg whites to different nuts and seeds
but we also have the Danish pastries and full
English breakfasts! Tonight we have a full hog
roast and roasted salmon, so there’s always a
good selection.”
The food is so good in fact, that some of
the crew put 50 dollars into a pot at the start of
the tour, weighed themselves and at the end of
the tour, the one who has lost the most weight
wins all the money! As TPi is talking to Bond,
various roadies are en route to find a work out
space. “They train and they eat healthy, so it
keeps them fit!” he laughed.
With around 89 trucks in use, including two
generator trucks supplied by EST (now part of
Transam), the Because We Can tour has a hefty
convoy of portable set and steel structures to
transport. Buses are provided by German based
Coach Service, freighting was supplied by Rock
It Cargo and power services by Legacy Power.
Photos: Louise Stickland and Kelly Murray,