LD Jonathan Smeeton with Diana Ross

by Debi Moen
in On the Road
Jonathan Smeeton photo by Debi Moen
Jonathan Smeeton photo by Debi Moen

TOUR: U.S., to Oct. 28

DESIGN: “It’s a simple system, simple plot. I need an apron that’s lit, a riser and key lights for every individual on stage."

"It’s all about a woman with big gowns, with three to four costume changes, and nine to 12 exciting musicians. Sometimes video. The Motown video content is really good. All I carry is a fiber optic fan as a backdrop. It’s got an RGB/white twinkle LED light source. Every day is a different console, not enough time to address lights individually, so I do it in groups and mirror the stage left fixtures on stage right. If it doesn’t look right, I diffuse it with frost.”

 Diana Ross photo by Debi Moen

AUDIENCE: “Fans anticipate Miss Ross’s three or four wardrobe changes. In San Francisco, for example, the entire front row may wear sequined outfits and wigs, doing their own version of costume changes by throwing off their robes or stoles when she does it onstage.”

BACK STORY

HOME BASE: “Leiper’s Fork/Franklin, TN. But I hope to sell my house soon to move to northern California, to the Sierra Nevadas. Thinking about slowing down.”

YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY: 50

YEARS WITH MISS ROSS: Five

FIRST TOUR: Traffic, Free and Mott the Hoople.

DESIGNERS YOU PAY ATTENTION TO? “I don’t want to be influenced, so I don’t go to concerts much. I have enough trouble plagiarizing myself! But Lady Gaga at this year’s Super Bowl was a clever theatrical show, with her starting on the roof of the stadium.”

HEROES/MENTORS/PEOPLE YOU ADMIRE? “Marc Brickman, Allen Branton, Brian Croft, David Milly, Eric Loader, Gail Colson, Tim Murch. They all have a passion for what they do; I admire people with passion.”

WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT WHAT YOU DO? “Touring satisfies my wanderlust. I didn’t tour for most of the ‘90s, so this is me revisiting touring. It’s a good way to make money, to travel and to have fun. I like the camaraderie.”

LIGHTING PREFERENCES: “I like more conventional lights because of their instant access and instant gratification, although I was one of the first to use moving lights back when they first came on the scene. But because I have no time to program, I like it manual and manageable. I like the spontaneity of pressing a button in time with the music.”

MOST MEMORABLE SHOWS: “Over all my years, I did three perfect shows: two were with The Thompson Twins and one was with Peter Gabriel. Each show had a good dose of serendipity, almost impossible to recreate those mistakes even if you wanted to.”

A LOOK BACK: “Big tours like George Michael and Phil Collins were great shows but stressful and a lot of work. I’ve done that. Miss Ross’s schedule is just right — we average 2.5 shows per week, with a month-long residency in Las Vegas later this year.”

LIGHTING MANTRA: “Shadows are more important than the light itself.”

Diana Ross performs in Austin, TX. Photo by Debi Moen

Current Issue