After 12 years of being sponsored by Toyota, the TODAY show’s popular musical performances at Rockefeller Center began a new life as “The Citi Concert Series.” It isn’t every day that such an iconic piece of American TV culture changes sponsors, so it wasn’t surprising that the rechristened program, which is now sponsored by global banking giant Citi, debuted with a bang. From the high-powered superstar on stage, the charismatic Selena Gomez, to the dazzling lighting array made with Nexus 4×4 LED panels and Next NXT-1 moving fixtures from CHAUVET Professional, everything about the inaugural concert conveyed the excitement of the moment.
Dressed in a stylish black cutout jumpsuit, Gomez captivated the audience (both live and TV) with a blend of old and new hits, along with some supple choreography, all set against a glittering background of richly colored light provided by the Nexus panels. Like everything about the new Citi Concert Series, the sparkling lighting display, which was designed by LD Peter Greenbaum and supplied by WorldStage, was bigger, bolder and even more brilliant than its predecessor.
“Quite a few enhancements have come along with the new sponsorship to set things apart from what was before,” said Greenbaum. “It’s kind of like a new beginning. The concert series has really reinvented itself.”
Even the famous outdoor stage has been redesigned to allow fans to get closer to the performing artist. This change was very much appreciated by the large number of people in the crowd who managed to get close enough to take selfies with Gomez. “There’s a much greater sense of engagement with the new stage,” said Greenbaum. “We wanted to build on that with the lighting design.”
Greenbaum engaged the live audience, while framing shots for the TV cameras, by building a massive LED wall along the center of the upstage riser. Made of 50 Nexus 4×4 panels and measuring 10 units across and five high, the wall was affixed to a goal post truss structure. Gomez’ five musicians played on the riser directly in front of and on either side of the Nexus array. Behind the panels were wall-to-wall skyscrapers bathed in Manhattan sunlight.
Seen together, the riser, the band, the Nexus wall, the truss structure and massive sun-speckled buildings presented a multi-dimensional scenic element behind Gomez. This created a sense of context for viewers at home and fans in the plaza, making the visual image more complete and engaging.
“We really used the Nexus 4×4 walls to connect the surroundings to the performer on stage,” said Greenbaum. “Of course by changing the colors on the panels we were able to reflect the mood of the music, keep things visually interesting and create a sense of magic on stage.”
Although Gomez’ performance took place in the morning, Greenbaum was confident that the Nexus’ light would show up in the bright surroundings. “The output of these things is nothing short of amazing,” he said. “The same can be said of the ten NXT-1 fixtures we had on the deck. We used those for eye candy and movement, especially during some of the dance numbers. They’re a very powerful effect, giving us movement and panel looks at the same time, which plays well on television.”
Changing the lighting design of something as iconic as the TODAY show concert series is a serious undertaking, acknowledges Greenbaum. Described by the New York Times as “one of the TODAY show’s most familiar features,” the concerts take place at a Manhattan landmark, are part of one of the longest running (since 1952) TV programs, and have hosted a stunningly impressive list of superstars. Still, Greenbaum was confident that his new design would work for the Selena Gomez performance. “She’s a special artist and we knew that if we created a design that worked with her we would wind up with some wonderful images,” he said.
Few who saw Gomez perform on this bright October day would dispute Greenbaum’s contention. With the successful launch of the Citi Concert Series, the venerable TODAY show entered another chapter in its long and distinguished history.