Inspirational godfathers of Southern rock, Lynyrd Skynyrd landed in Europe during June on the latest leg of their Last of the Street Survivors Farewell Tour – a run of 11 extraordinary shows with Entec involved throughout as the lighting provider.
Revered the world over for classics such as ‘Free Bird’, ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, ‘Simple Man’ and ‘Gimme Back My Bullets’, the band’s original line-up is survived only by guitarist Gary Rossington, while the frontman role made famous by the late, lamented Ronnie Van Zant has been covered by his younger brother Johnny since 1987.
Following seven dates on the continent, Skynyrd crossed the English Channel for a series of four packed-out arena shows in Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham and at Wembley’s SSE Arena, each featuring special guest appearances from none other than Status Quo and Lancaster rockers Massive Wagons.
The west London company’s involvement came through its transatlantic partnership with Steven ‘Creech’ Anderson at Premier Global Production (PGP), Skynyrd’s US touring vendor, and backstage during the run, Steve Voudouris, Skynyrd’s tour/production manager of 16 years standing, was brimming with positivity over the arrangement.
Steve commented: “Entec have done an exceptional job, not only with the equipment but also with their choices of gifted touring crew – Tom Crosbie, Richard Hutton, Ellis Canwell and rigger Dave Brierley – and the assistance they’ve given from their office.
“The level of communication between [MD] Noreen O’Riordan, [assistant head of lighting] Adam Stevenson and myself over the last few months has always been very clear and precise, and everything just fell into place so smoothly and naturally. It’s like we’ve all known each other a long time.
“Our own lighting crew chief, Ben Bearden was instrumental in putting together the rig in the States, so he came over ahead of us to work with Entec on some aspects that needed special attention, like our signature video wall arch, to help replicate that side of the production. It was a genuine collaboration between Ben and Entec’s warehouse team. Once everything was ready to go, we had a successful day of production rehearsal at Wembley and then headed over to the Netherlands to begin the run of shows on June 15th.”
Skynyrd’s lighting designer and director, Jonny Tosarello was quick to reveal that his crew nickname was given to him by Def Leppard’s band members and crew in the early 2000s. “Everyone calls me ‘Tosar’ [pronounced ‘Tosser’]… I like it,” he grinned, adding that, “of course, I appreciate it has a different meaning when I’m over here in Britain!”
When the friendly LD took over from retiring designer Steve Owens in 2010, his first move was to consult Johnny Van Zant about how the lighting plot might evolve. “I went through different ideas with Johnny, who is the band’s visual leader, and the conversations eventually led to moving lights being featured a whole lot more than they had been. For this farewell tour, he was very clear that we should ramp it up and I wasn’t complaining. This rig certainly has a lot of firepower.”
Exclusively a grandMA2 console user, Tosar’s current design makes a feature of six truss fingers that are arched upwards and facing the audience, populated by 12 Claypaky Sharpys, 12 Claypaky A.leda B-EYE K20 hybrid lights, 12 Martin MAC Viper profiles, 12 Martin LED Atomic strobes, 24 2-cell Moles and “a plethora” of truss toners.
“Johnny wanted something that was different to the standard three-truss design and he favoured silver truss, however, for practical reasons we’re using black in Europe,” said Tosar. “Having that range of fixtures gives us a lot of versatility. In some songs, I’m just creating a wash to allow more focus on the band playing music. I could just put white light on them and the whole crowd will still want to sing along to ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, such is the power of their songs.”
Other ingredients include a downstage truss formed of three 20ft articulating sections, with 12 MAC Aura XBs for generic washes and audience focuses, and another 12 as specials. There is also a horizontal floor light truss containing six B-EYEs, four Vipers and four strobes, designed by Tosar some years ago to specifically cope with quick set changeovers. He said: “We often encounter a lot of backline with some of our special guest bands and that takes up generous space onstage. By putting all the floor lights on an upside-down truss, we can hoist it up during a set change and then get it back into place for Skynyrd.”
Tosar added: “The great thing about this design is that regardless of any size of venue we are playing on this tour, the flexibility of the rig means that Lynyrd Skynyrd gets every light, every night!”