Entec tours the UK with the Laurel Canyon legend

Throughout June, L.A. singer-songwriter legend Jackson Browne was in the UK to play seven sold-out shows with Entec proudly supplying a lighting package to LD Steve Comer. Showing no sign of running on empty, Browne, the beating heart of the original Laurel Canyon scene, offered rich pickings from one of the most celebrated careers in American music history with back-up from long-time band members Val McCallum (guitar), Mauricio Lewak (drums), Jeff Young (keyboards), Bob Glaub (bass), multi-instrumentalist Greg Leisz (guitar, lap steel & pedal steel) and backing vocalist Alethea Mills.

Preceded by a four-date residency at Dublin’s Vicar Street, the UK run included a much-anticipated midway stop at the Royal Albert Hall in London where, typically, Browne’s set included such classics as ‘The Pretender’, ‘Doctor My Eyes’, ‘In The Shape Of A Heart’ and ‘Take It Easy’, the song he co-wrote with Glenn Frey that catapulted the Eagles to worldwide stardom in 1972. “The Albert Hall is one of the most prestigious venues in the world, so it’s a real privilege to light a show here,” said Steve Comer.

Originally an audio technician, Comer was soon drawn to the creative potential of lighting and joined the Browne crew after touring with the likes of country singer Wynnona Judd. One of the youngest in a crew that is mostly populated by colleagues who have served the artist for more than 20 years, the LD commented: “Jackson tours for about six months each year – three weeks on, three to four weeks off – which makes it impractical to work for other artists in between, however, I’m very fortunate to be part of this very tight family unit.”

Entec’s lighting package was supported by technician Ian ‘Mac’ MacEwan and, later in the run, Andy MacGeorge, who has previous experience with this crew. Said Comer: “Mac has been my crew chief over here since I first came to Europe with Jackson in 2008, so whenever I’m putting a UK or European tour together, he will advise me on the lighting companies we should approach. That’s how I came into contact with Noreen O’Riordan. She sent in an Entec bid and it was obvious from the start that this was a lovely company to work with, so we were happy to go forward.

“Our production manager, Dennis Scrimo said to [promoter] Kilimanjaro that if we needed to bring in equipment at any point when we got to the UK, we should use Entec and I’ve had a very consistent package for the last three shows which has been fantastic.”

Jackson Browne

At the request of Browne’s management, transport was narrowed down to a single truck with an eight-foot space in which to accommodate the lighting. “I specified a floor package to light the backdrop, and key lights because Jackson doesn’t like spots,” informed Comer. “I figured that if I had consistency with the front and back light, I could make anything else work in the middle.”

An eco-friendly focus on LED fixture use has been a work-in-progress since Comer took over from his predecessor David Davidian. While he specified GLP X4 Bar 10 LED battens and Martin MAC Aura XBs for the floor, and a pair of MAC Viper Profiles for key light, the flown rig – supplied by Entec for the remaining shows – included additional MAC Vipers and Aura, plus 12 Thomas PixelPar 44s. Comer elaborated: “I ask for two supplementary trusses in all the venues and request 10 Vipers, 10 Auras and 10 LED PARs from the supplier in each territory. I don’t always get that but I was delighted that it wasn’t a problem for Entec.”

Comer harnessed these elements with an MA Lighting grandMA2 full-size console, supplied with an MA2 light back up. “I moved over to the MA platform about eight years ago after operating Hogs for a long time, and the MA2 is now my premier choice,” he said. “You always see it at festivals; I can have the same show file and interchange anywhere I go, and I know it like the back of my hand. They’re pretty much available around the world so it all makes sense.”

The design concept created by Comer was partly driven by the elegant set of drapes shipped over from America to form a stylish backdrop. “Knowing that a large portion of the audience come to relive the period when they first saw Jackson in the ’70s or early ’80s, I wanted to present a classic look that accents the music and helps takes people back to those times,” he explained. “I use the backdrop strictly for creating moods through the use of a variety of colours.”

Out of a possible 250 songs, Comer has 28 programmed. Of course, it would make life very simple for the LD if they happen to be the songs performed on any given night, but that’s not how Jackson Browne works, claimed Comer. “When I receive the set list just before the show, it’s often a rough guide. Some nights, he’ll stick to it; other nights it can be so different that the song choices are surprises even to the band. It’s become almost a tradition for the audience to be very vocal with requests and it’s quite normal for Jackson to honour them.

“I build the show on a song by song basis. I don’t approach it like a performance that needs to develop dynamically from the first to the last number; it’s about whatever the song suggests. We are now at the tail end of the cycle for Jackson’s last album, Standing In The Breach [released in October 2014], and I’ve been manipulating my show file since we first went on the road with it. In a general sense, I’m creating an atmosphere around the music rather than running a light show – that may sound very simplistic but it’s really how it should be for Jackson because the musical performance is always sublime.”

Photography by Mark Cunningham