Radiohead Tour


    Photo Credits: Peter Smith at Newberry Smith photography

    Radiohead mesmerizes with cutting-edge stage lighting

    Award-winning English rock band Radiohead have been at the forefront of live performance for more than two decades, dazzling concertgoers around the globe with mesmerizing audiovisual stage displays that create a deep sensory connection between the band and its audience.

    For 2008's "In Rainbows" tour, Radiohead sought to continue this tradition of excellence while drastically reducing the environmental impact of their lighting equipment.

    The band has a history of vocal environmental advocacy, and has expressed discomfort over the massive amount of energy consumed by grandiose rock shows. Seeking to cut carbon emissions without compromising visual spectacle, Radiohead's longtime lighting and stage director Andi Watson turned to LED lighting technology from Color Kinetics.

    Watson and tour production manager Richard Young were shown pre-production units of the ColorReach Powercore luminaire (now specified with ReachElite), which can produce over 5,000 lumens of color-changing light over a distance of 152 m (500 ft) or more. The industry veterans were impressed by the light projection and low power consumption of Reach Powercore. Five luminaires were supplied for the South American leg of the tour by Bristol-based Utopium Lighting, one of the first rental companies at the time to invest in this groundbreaking LED lighting technology.

    Radiohead's production team hired fabrication experts Specialz Ltd to build custom aluminium "yokes" for the luminaires, which allowed the lights to hang securely from the stage's front truss.

    iColor Flex SLX LED strands (now specified with Flex Compact gen3, RGB) were used to edge light equipment pods. The flexible strands of individually addressable LED nodes are designed for extraordinary effects without the constraints of luminaire size or shape, and can be positioned in virtually any two- or three-dimensional array.

    Watson also used iW Blast Powercore luminaires to ensure that each band member was properly illuminated. The versatile luminaires produce intense illumination sufficient for spotlighting on a stage without the heat that can make a performer uncomfortable.

    "Doing away with conventional lighting on set was a massive leap of faith for us. Of course our concerts are all about delivering the music but the fans expect a visual spectacle as well. At the same time, we can't just pollute the atmosphere merely for effect," said Watson. "Having put the LED equipment through its paces we were convinced it was the right way to go. To be honest, not having a single discharge or incandescent lamp in the design has set a new benchmark for us."
    Project credits

    Lighting Design:

    Andi Watson, Lighting and Stage Director and Richard Young, Tour Production Manager / Radiohead

    Rental Company:


    Lighting Supplier:

    Architainment Lighting Ltd.

    Bespoke Fabrication:

    Specialz Ltd

    Share this page:

    Want to learn more?

    Browse our growing library of educational materials to keep you informed about critical and often confusing issues related to LED lighting technology.