Spectrum Wavelengths: Bono and The Color Red

Bono and the color red have been thrust onto the stage of my awareness from three different sources recently. This Bono – Red Convergence seemed like just the inspiration we needed to start a series we are calling Spectrum Wavelengths, where we’ll pick a color from the spectrum and examine how it’s being used on stage, on camera and in the world around us.

Bono and the color red first entered my consciousness around 3:30 am a few nights ago. My baby daughter is currently two months old, so that means I’m awake at all hours of the night to feed her. ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’ came on my Pandora radio a few nights ago and it sparked my memory of seeing U2 perform that song at their 360 Tour performance at Soldier Field in Chicago a couple of years ago.

Youtube video footage from the U2 360 concert I saw at Soldier Field in Chicago in 2009

I’m not sure how it started, but most of U2’s performances of ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’ have been traditionally lit in red. The lighting elements, from Lighting Director Ethan Weber, that moved me most in Soldier Field that night came at the beginning of the song. Bono described the lyrics of the song to be about “Transcendence, elevation, whatever you want to call it.” The red lights pulsating to the rhythms laid down by The Edge’s guitar establish the exhilaration of transcendence and the pure white tower of light streaking out of the red, toward the sky certainly foreshadows the elevation the song will soon deliver. All of it combined with U2’s ‘Wall of Sound’ made it a performance to remember and a welcome distraction to 3:30 am bottle-feedings.

The color red also blasts across the stage in the Broadway Musical “Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark,” which has also made headlines lately as the show goes into previews. Bono and the Edge wrote the lyrics and music for this show that has Don Holder as its lighting designer. Wendy Luedtke, our Product Manager for Color and Lighting Products, caught up with Don a short time ago to talk about how he used color in the show. Holder says that “red is emblematic” in his design that chose colors for visceral impact, not realism, to emphasize the setting in a comic book world. Holder’s design started with conventional fixtures projecting bold colors, like R26 and R27, and then he matched his supplemental LED fixtures in the rig to those base colors as best he could. He also utilizes leitmotif (or should I say – light motif??) color choices associated to different characters in the show. Each of the six Super-Villains have their own color – Green Goblin, for instance, is R91. Spiderman’s color combo is R26 and R68, so a lot of that emblematic red gets washed on the stage to enforce Bono’s music.

Holder cautions to “use red carefully, it’s very primal. I try not to indicate emotion using color.” Meaning – don’t be so literal that you use red to telegraph anger, or love. Red could be fiery sunsets, moments of great abstraction or in the case of the beginning of “Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark,” a special effect choice to show the city on fire with the orangey red of R22.

For some behind-the-scenes videos of the production, visit the show’s official website SpiderManOnBroadway.Marvel.com

The color red continued to be emblematic on December 1st for World AIDS Day, which is celebrated by lighting cities up in red light. Bono kicked the celebration off this year in Sydney as he symbolically threw the switch on the lights illuminating Sydney’s iconic Harbor Bridge and Opera House red – drawing awareness to the (RED) organization’s fight to eliminate HIV and AIDS by 2015.

Rosco Australia’s Ian Baseby captured these great images of an array of Mole Richardson fixtures and R26, provided by 32hundred Lighting, aimed at the Harbor Bridge to turn it Rosco Red.









The (RED) idea, inspired by the red AIDS awareness ribbon, works with the world’s most popular brands to offer unique (RED) products that give 50% of the profits to the Global Fund that invests in HIV and AIDS programs in Africa. To date, the organization has deposited over $150 Million in the Global Fund to help fight the spread of the disease. By illuminating the world’s most iconic structures on December 1st, (RED) hopes to get more people to Think Red, Think Stop, Think Now! You can join the (RED) movement and see more of the structures lit red around the world this past December 1st, by visiting www.joinred.com

We’re taught as children that red means love and anger, but thanks to the creativity of people like Ethan Weber, Don Holder, the (RED) organization and of course Bono – red can also inspire transcendence, evoke primal forces, convey emblematic concepts and open our eyes to the needs of the world around us.

Do you have any images or videos that showcase creative uses of the color red that intensified your production or event? Please share them on the Rosco Facebook Page.



About Joel Svendsen

Content Marketing Manager: Joel's Rosco career began in Rosco's Hollywood office in 1999 – first in sales covering the Western US and the Los Angeles Film & Television market, and then as Product Manager for Rosco's Film & Television Products. Joel's knowledge about Rosco's products and how they're used in each of our different marketplaces makes him well suited for bringing the stories in Spectrum to life.