Sir Elton John in South America, Mexico beneath Martin MAC Rig

May 19, 2009

In a precursor to his current world tour (Martin gear on that as well - more on that soon), Sir Elton John played a series of benefit dates in South America and Mexico beneath a Martin MAC rig in support of Buchanan's Forever, a charitable organization that raises money for local community enrichment programs.

Three intimate shows took place in late January in Caracas, Venezuela; Bogota, Colombia; and Mexico City. Buchanan's Forever, which also featured renowned Latin American musicians, selected Elton John to headline the cause-related musical experience (Jon Bon Jovi headlined the first edition of Buchanan’s Forever last year).

The benefit shows followed a series of tour style shows that the artist performed in South America. Unlike the touring shows, which were full Elton John and band performances, the private Buchanan’s shows were solo performances - Elton John and his piano.

MAC reliability
Lighting designer for Elton John’s private shows is Andy Pygott, who also helps out as pre-production support on specific tour dates. He commented, “For the solo shows we normally design the rigs to suit the venue and varying size of each event. For this series we used the same main rig for all shows with a number of additions to then suit each venue.”

Layout of the venue equipment was arranged on site through production director and production designer Tupac Martir in coordination with Henry Crallan (Elton's Production Director). “As always we relied on Martin, knowing that the quality of light, colors and overall performance of the kit was as reliable as it can be,” Martir stated. “For the Mexico City show, because it was filmed, we added 20 extra lights to the rig to provide more depth to the entire venue.”

The standard
Because sourcing of equipment locally worldwide is an issue, Pygott says they need to work with fixtures they can get a hold of or easily adapt a show file to work with alternates from.

“As such, the designs for the solo shows are based on MAC 2000 Profiles and Washes,” he says, “which give us the ability to compromise downward in power to MAC 700's which would still be a suitable fixture for the events. The basis for starting with MAC 2000's is also about good CMY color mixing. This makes all changes smoother, and the ability to reach a semi-decent red in the color mixing is much appreciated.

“Also, the ratio of fixture size to light output works well, as with the solo shows it can look unsightly to have beasts of equipment on the floor and looming overhead. The reliability is also very good and the fixtures stay pretty consistently working once the rig is in the air.”

Intimate shows
As Elton John stays behind the piano for most of the show, Pygott says he is fairly easy to light which he uses generic fixtures to do. Then, depending on the scale of the show, he incorporates automated fixtures for effect.

For this series of shows, Pygott had seven floor-positioned MAC 2000 Profiles, five directly behind the piano and two either side of the stage, with two MAC 2000 Wash fixtures on the floor at the rear.

He then had three straight trusses, one front of house with six MAC 2000 Profiles and four MAC 2000 Washes; an upstage truss with six MAC Profiles and seven MAC 2000 Washes; and a second upstage truss flown a little lower with seven MAC 2000 Profiles. In addition, he placed LED battens on the rear two trusses.

“We try to keep the stage fairly small to keep the intimacy fairly close between Elton and the audience for this style of shows,” he states. “This arrangement allows for various pretty states using impressive inward and outward fan arrangements from the rear trusses and array on the floor behind the piano to then build into the audience through the use of the front truss.” He then continues this feel into the house lighting for each venue.

LC Series™ LED panels
Also, due to the slightly larger audience size for solo shows that the Buchanan’s series required, Pygott used an LED backdrop similar to what is used on the larger touring show. “The equipment for this changed at each location, but the first show used the Martin LC Series™ LED panels, which proved the most reliable of the ones available.”

For the last show, Pygott also lit James Blunt who had previously been supporting the touring show.
All lighting equipment for the Buchanan’s Forever shows was supplied locally by VLPS (Venezuela), Moving Lights (Colombia), and Total Pro (Mexico).

Buchanan's Forever
Buchanan's Forever pays tribute to the philanthropic legacy of Buchanan's founder, James Buchanan, by way of ongoing community enrichment programs that form part of DIAGEO's regional Enriched Community educational platform, 'Learning for Life'. In each country, Buchanan's supports a charitable project that directly impacts each community by means of a fundraising campaign. Specifically, these causes include Televisa Foundation in Mexico with Formando Formadores and Becalos; the UMA foundation in Venezuela; and the Antonio Restrepo Barco Foundation in Colombia.

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