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       Art of Rock Concert Lighting

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Bibliography » MTV and the "Live" Metal Concert Video

These sources were viewed or referenced as part of a discussion about the depiction of "live" concert imagery in music video primarily related to the Heavy Metal genre. Heavy Metal is used loosely here to include the widest number of sources within this genre of music.

The term "live" (used in quotes) denotes a video production that attempts to capture or simulate the visual experience of a rock concert. Most of these sources are studio or sound-stage productions. Some were shot on location in an arena with an invited audience. A few appear to contain footage from actual concerts. Many of these sources mix concept footage with "live" footage in different ways.

No attempt is made her to create a definitive list. Some videos were selected because of specific content, themes, or images presented. Others were selected at random.

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Historical Sources

MTV News and Specials. "It Came from the 80's II: Metal Goes Pop" Dir: Abbie Kearse. Writ/Narr: Chris Connelly. MTV Networks 1996.


Produced for MTV this special program is structured around a series of interviews with metal band-members about the transition of metal into the mainstream and it's sudden abandonment by the record labels. There are many short clips of music videos demonstrating the height of ridiculousness of the genre. A couple of those interviewed express anger or resentment about the experience of being launched into the pop-metal genre and then quickly dropped. Most of those interviewed, however, are able to joke about their unlikely short ride into the pop music spotlight.

Dee Snyder of Twisted Sister on the transition of heavy metal into pop music:

There was Twisted, and we were …street urchins, bad boys, ugly, angry--but other bands were starting to smile. And the biggie with that of course was Bon Jovi—you know—the birth of happy metal. Suddenly everybody found out …that some of the bands had teeth… Instead of everybody scowling and being pissed off, they were saying hey, what are we pissed off about, we’re making millions of dollars, we’re playing happy metal now.

"The Decline of Western Civilization Part II, The Metal Years" Dir: Penelope Sphereris. VHS. Burbank, CA. Columbia Pictures Home Video. 1991.

This documentary style film is composed of interviews with metal legends like Ozzy Ozborne and Steve Tyler and up-and-coming bands like Faster Pussycat, as well as seemingly random (well costumed) people (fans?) in a studio interview setting. There is useful live club performance footage of several bands but more than enough gratuitous imagery and discussion of sex, drugs, violence, rock and roll, and general debauchery.

This film capitalizes on the shock value of metal bands and their self-proclaimed life-style. Occasionally Director Spheris gives us a glimpse of an underlying moral soul-less-ness within the whole scene from fan to performer to outraged parent. We see the same contrast here between rebellious adolescent and over-bearing parent that we saw in the news programs about the Hait-Ashbury in the late 60's

Mostly this film is a just another heavy metal shock-value product. It is no less calculated and commercial than many of the metal music-videos considered here. Regrettably this film goes even further into Las-Vegas strip-show style sleaze than even the most sexually-charged or occult-image-filled made-for-MTV music video.

"Dream Worlds 2: Desire, Sex, and Power in Music Video" DVD. Media Education Foundation. Northampton, MA. 1995.

This short "educational" film delivers an hour-long narrative that takes the viewer from an introduction to MTV as an advertising outlet for the music industry to statistics about violence against women. The film makes some strong points about the depiction of women (especially in heavy metal videos) which are relevant here. There are well presented arguments with video clip examples of how women are portrayed in live music videos that can help to frame our discussion of these elements within the music videos we are considering.

Ultimately, though, this film capitalizes on the very sexual imagery it purports to be against. There are more sexually degrading and misogynistic images per minute in this film than in any 50 MTV music videos. This over-use of examples doesn't serve to either strengthen the central argument or shock the viewer into some greater realization. Instead it supports another point made within the film, that is: because of the media saturation of these kinds of images we as an audience have grown numb to them.


Pre-MTV Metal Video Sources

KISS. "Dr. Love" Industry Production (possibly originally produced for Brazilian Television). Unreleased. c.1977.

This industry recording pre-dates MTV and the "music video" format, but depicts many elements of later "live" music videos of this genre. This (probably live) performance produced for video from a several camera shoot sports many of the elements common to most concert tours of the time period: flying truss-configurations full of pulsing par cans; costumes, hair, and makeup; and the light-up band sign--an image we will see endlessly repeated.


Early MTV Metal Concert Video (chronological order)

Iron Maiden. "Wrath Child." Dir: David Hillier. Music Video. Dec 1980.

This music video, produced in 1980, aired on MTV on August 1st 1981--the day MTV premiered. It may have been the first music video to air on MTV from the "live" metal genre. Although clearly produced for video with multiple angle shots and a lot of face-fill lighting on the band, the wide shots and stage shots show what appears to be a live audience.

The straight-forward lighting is characterized by narrow beam PARs flashing rapidly back and forth in fog. Other requisite visual elements include: studded black leather, bouncing teased out hair, angry faces, and a fist-waving crowd.

References and Additional Sources:
Available on: Iron Maiden. Visions of the Beast. DVD. Sanctuary Maiden. Jul 2003.
MTV play list from August 1st, 1981 (from answers.com)
Watch this video here (www.ironmaiden.com)

Def Leppard. "Hello America" Music Video. 1980.

"Hello America," Def Leppard's first music video, is a studio production with abstract scenery and funky video effects similar in style to televised musical performances from the 60s and 70s. It is included here as a reference point for later work. The elements of fog, beams of colored light, and unusual angles of light make some visual references to rock concert style.

References and Additional Sources:
Available on: Def Leppard. Historia / In the Round, In Your Face. DVD. Mercury/Universal Feb 2002.
Watch this video here (www.youtube.com)

Def Leppard. "Let it Go" Dir: Doug Smith. Music Video. Nov 1981.

This "live" music video was shot by the MGMM video comapany at Earl's Court, Liverpool, England before a concert performance on July 22nd 1981. At the same time videos were shot for "Let It Go" and "High 'n' Dry" (see below). The audience members shown in some shots were fan club members from Sheffield, the band's home town. All three aired together on "Don Kirshner's Rock Concert" on the ABC television network.

Def Leppard. "High 'n' Dry" Dir: Doug Smith. Music Video. Nov 1981.

This video, shot at the same time as "Let it Go" (see above) has basically the same lighting elements: groups of PARS in different formations and colors. There is enough variation in the lighting among these three videos that the images never become too repetetive. However, there is nothing cohesive about the use of color or other design elements within each video to give each song a unique look.

Def Leppard. "Bringin' on the Heartbreak" Dir: Doug Smith. Music Video. Nov 1981.

In 1982 MTV began heavy rotation of this video giving Def Leppard greater exposure in the US. A new video for a re-released version of this song was made in 1984 (see below). Unfortunately in these three videos we never get to see the Def Leppard sign light up which is lurking in the dark up stage of the drummer.

References and Additional Sources:
Available on: Def Leppard. Historia / In the Round, In Your Face. DVD. Mercury/Universal Feb 2002.
http://www.defleppardfrequency.com/TimelineHighnDry.html
http://www.deflepparduk.com/defvideo1.html

Motley Crue. "Live Wire" Music Video. 1983.

Def Leppard. "Photograph" Dir: David Mallet. Music Video. Jan 1983.

This video for "Photograph" along with one for "Rock of Ages" was shot in a studio in Battersea London England on Dec 2nd 1982. Both are pure studio productions. The former is combined with concept footage in the loose narrative style of many early MTV new-wave music videos. Although the studio setting for "Photograph" mimicks the look of a live concert the video lacks any sense of live spontinaety. Visual elements include dense fog, concentrated beams of light, trusses, lighting equipment, and unfortunately women in cages. There is an annoying single followspot bouncing around all over the stage through nearly every stage shot. The dynamic sweeping motion of light perfected in later "live" music videos had yet to be mastered and on a reltatively low-budget shoot like this expensive automated lighting equipment was probably not an option.

The video for "Rock of Ages" is not included here because it falls more in the category of a band playing in non-concert related location.

References and Additional Sources:
Available on: Def Leppard. Historia / In the Round, In Your Face. DVD. Mercury/Universal Feb 2002.

Def Leppard. "Bringin' on the Heartbreak (version 2)" Dir: David Mallet. Music Video. Jun 1984.

This production was filmed on location at Jacob's Biscuit Factory, Lake Dublin, Ireland in Feb 1984. The video combines shots of the band playing in what appears to be an industrial tank farm, concept footage of band members in some other locations, and "live" performance footage of the band playing on a concert-like stage within an industrial environment. The last of these locations is the most successful at evoking the kind of industrial-structural concert like look of many concert tours. The moving beams of light (two rear truss spots in this case) are more under control in this video than in "Photograph" above. Other design elements include drummer Rick Allen on a moving elevated platform.

References and Additional Sources:
Available on: Def Leppard. Historia / In the Round, In Your Face. DVD. Mercury/Universal Feb 2002.

Def Leppard. "Foolin'" Dir: David Mallet. Music Video. Oct 1983.

The "live" footage for this video was shot in June of 1983 at the Ritz Theatre, Elizabeth, NJ reportedly before and during an actual concert performance. The rediculousness of band members appearing in concept footage is epitomized here in the image of lead singer Joe Elliot restrained to some futuristic triangular torture device with exploding hand-cuffs.

Concept footage aside, this video captures some sense of a live performance with fog, lighting, visible trussing, stage scenery, pyrotechnics, and even a shot of a followspot operator. It is too bad that the production and design quality of this music video doesn't even come close to the ultra-produced, highly polished studio recording that the video accompanies. (Produced by John "Mutt" Lange on Def Leppard's platinum album Pyromania.)

References and Additional Sources:
Available on: Def Leppard. Historia / In the Round, In Your Face. DVD. Mercury/Universal Feb 2002.


Middle Period MTV

Run DMC & Aerosmith. "Walk this Way" Dir: Joe Small. Music Video. May 1986.

This successful music video presents a vignette that culminates in a clash of musical styles "on stage" at an Aerosmith concert. This was one of several influential live concert style music videos that set the bar much higher for the genre. The concert set and lighting is convincingly portreyed for a studio production and the end result is as polished as the music recording it supports.

That the video pokes fun at itself and the genre only adds to its entertainment value. This self-referential meta-concert quaility was novel at the time this video was produced and will be repeated endlessly in later works. Visual elements include scenic elemements such as stairs and risers; truss and lighting equipment; fog and pulsing lights; screaming fans; and most importantly the light up RUN DMC sign.

References and Additional Sources:
Available on: MTV Networks. MTV 20 Collection Disc 4 of 4 MTV20: Jams. DVD. Image Entertainment 2001.

Bon Jovi. "You Give Love a Bad Name" Dir: Wayne Isham. Music Video. Jun 1986.

This was one of several masterful "live" video productions for the band Bon Jovi directed by Wayne Isham. The videography, editing, design, lighting, and other elements presented in this work are as flawless as any high budget television commercial or film production. From the opening shots of the trusses flying out, the viewer is drawn into the performance. Literally exploding on stage in a pyrotechnic burst, the band appears--coming right at the camera. The viewer is given better than a front-row seat here, we get to litterally go on-stage with the star. This theme is further developed by Isham in other videos for this and other bands.

Visual elements include: internally-lit moving trusses, pyrotechnics, hundereds of PAR cans mounted on different truss shapes, truss spot beams moving around, shots of cheering fans, big hair, layered costumes, and more choreographed rock-star moves than any ten other videos. Instead of the fairly random movements of band members, camera shots, and lightng elements in earlier videos, here everything is tightly coordinated. The rapid sense of motion and pace keeps the viewer's eye moving and holds our attention without ever cutting away to concept or other footage.

Bon Jovi. "Livin' on a Prayer" Dir: Wayne Isham. Music Video. Jun 1986.

In "Livin' on a Prayer" Isham continues to develop the standard themes of the live concert genre. This slick production begins with images similar to "You Give Love A Bad Name" with trusses flying out penetrated by beams of light moving from within. The first half of the video is presented in black and white. It is as if the audience has been transported into the arena to watch elements of the pre-show sound and light check. From the first few shots we clearly experience this from the performer's point of view. There is an "isn't this really cool" smugness from the performers as they perform the song to an empty arena.

In the 2nd vere of the song Jon BonJovi runs out into the center of the enpty arena and then becons the viewer back to the stage. With the start of the second chorus, like Dorothy stepping through the door into Oz, we are transported to the concert with screaming fans in color.

There is nice coordination in this video between camera movement and the movements of the performers as they turn, slide, and run towards the camera on cue. The sweeping motions of the lights through the frame enhanc these mostly lateral movements. Banks of PARs and flying trusses provide a background layer for all of this motion.

Bon Jovi. "Wanted Dead or Alive" Dir: Wayne Isham. Music Video. Jun 1986.

Poison. "Cry Tough" Dir: John Jopson. Music Video. 1986.

Poison. "I want Action" Dir: John Jopson. Music Video. Mar 1987.

Bon Jovi. "Never Say Goodbye" Dir: Wayne Isham. Music Video. Jul 1987.

Motley Crue. "Wild Side" Music Video. Aug 1987.


"Wild Side" is one of Motley Crue's efforts to jump on the "live" concert video band wagon. Though with a slightly rougher meaner feel, the video duplicates many of the elements perfected in the Isham Bon Jovi Videos.

The rig for this cocnert (presumably the actual rig from the tour) is immense and contains the requisite banks of PAR cans as well as a significant number of moving lights. The image of the band name sign, this time created with narrow beam lights, appears again. One visual stunt from the concert tour highlighted in this video shows the drummer's platform rising up and flipping over in the air.

Aerosmith. "Dude Looks Like a Lady" Dir: Marty Callner. Music Video. Oct 1987.

Poison. "Nothin' but a Good Time" Dir: Marc Reshovsky. Music Video. Apr 1988.

Directed by Marc Reshovsky, the video for Poison's "Ain't Nothin' but a Good Time" epitomizes the genre. The "performance" is bookended by concept footage showing an over-worked young man with a lousy job escaping into a fantasy concert world. He looks through a door, like Dorothy looking into Oz, or ALice into Wonderland. From his dull gray static world the camera moves into the bright, colorful, fast moving world of a rock 'n' roll escapist fantasy. There are over 180 individual camera shots containing nearly every cocnert performance gimick ever invented.


This video was clearly shot on a soundstage or in a wharehouse or airplane hanger. It contains a range of lighting elements including trusses lit up with neon (as well as a "Poison" neon sign); a generic PAR can rig; large moving beams of light controlled by operators hidden up in the trusses behind the band; automated units located just above head height around the whole rig; and copious amounts of dense fog and pyrotechnics.

Def Leppard. "Armageddon It" Dir; Wayne Isham. Music Video. Apr 1988.

This video was shot on location five months into the first leg of their North American Tour at McNichols Arena, Denver, CO Feb 12&13 1988.

Def Leppard. "Pour Some Sugar on Me (US version)" Dir: Wayne Isham. Music Video. May 1988.

Shot on location with "Armageddon It" above.

Aerosmith. "Ragdoll" Dir: Marty Callner. Music Video. May 1988.

Poison. "Fallen Angel" Dir: Marty Callner. Music Video. Jul 1988.

Bon Jovi. "Bad Medicine" Dir: Wayne Isham. Music Video. May 1988.

Poison. "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" Dir: Marty Callner. Music Video. Feb 1989.

Ratt. "I Want a Woman" Music Video. Mar 1989.

Bon Jovi. "I'll Be There for You" Dir: Wayne Isham. Music Video. Apr 1989.

Bon Jovi. "Lay Your Hands on Me" Dir: Wayne Isham. Music Video. Jul 1989.

Aerosmith. "Love in an Elevator" Dir: Marty Callner. Music Video. Sep 1989.

Aerosmith. " Janie's Got a Gun" Dir: David Fincher. Music Video. Nov 1989.

Poison. " Unskinny Bop" Marty Callner. Music Video. Jun 1990.

Motley Crue. "Same ol' Situation" Dir: Wayne Isham. Music Video. Aug 1990.

Motley Crue. "Home Sweet Home" Dir: Matt Mahurin. Music Video. Nov 1991.


Late Period MTV

Aerosmith. "Crazy" Dir: Marty Callner. Music Video. May 1994.