The 2003 Steely Dan tour is aptly named Everything Must Go; though it refers to the band's recently released CD of the same name, LD Jon Pollak took it to heart, creating a complex design with a simple plot. “It is what I refer to as a lighter, leaner, faster F1-style design,” he says. The gear, taken out of Upstaging, consists of 13 High End Systems Turbo Cyberlights, 24 HES Studio Colors and 17 ETC 19° Source Four ellipsoidals, controlled by a High End Systems Wholehog II. Not exactly the typical rig of a summer rock tour, but then the Steely Dan fan isn't looking for the typical summer rock-event experience.
According to Pollak, the audience was a central consideration. “The audience knows this music better than I do. My idea was to light the musicians as they played the pieces so loved by the audience.” The realization that Steely Dan's fans hold the music in such high regard influenced Pollak's approach to the projections, “The audience has strong perceptions about what the band is singing about or playing and who am I to put any visual Fascism into their heads, to project something that would destroy that? So we made things fairly vague and just used pieces of video that would reflect the pace of the song and maybe the color scheme, but wouldn't force images into anyone's mind.” The LD worked with projection designer Kevin Campbell. “He is such a great sounding board and a real collaborator in the design process,” says Pollak. “The idea that the lighting and video would work as one was a given when we started this tour.” Campbell uses three Sanyo XF45 projectors, two on the front truss and one behind the screen at center stage, to create a panorama effect of images ranging from textural looks to color patterns. There are some literal images — gothic arches, stained-glass windows — but even these are used as abstracts for the music.
Both Campbell and Pollak are returning to Steely Dan from the band's 2000 tour. Pollak used that experience as a reference point for this tour's design, “The familiarity with them gave me the ability to expand my design ideas and it was really very rewarding. The feedback from Walter [Becker] and Donald [Fagen] is brilliant. Production manager Charlie Boxhall is a joy to work with. He is very visual and really is a great person, very supportive.” A cornerstone of Pollak's design is his use of the Cyberlights: “Certain kinds of lights are good at doing certain things. I find moving mirrors are really good at fast and accurate movements. The Cyberlight has always served me really well. They are sleek and sexy; they're well-tried, anybody knows how to fix them. They are just really trustworthy; I know their strong points and their weak points. If you have something that works well for you, you should use it, rather then use stuff that is thrust upon you.” Several cues are beautiful reminders that a Cyberlight can be used for so much more than flash and trash. The lighting throughout is deceptively simple; with complex programming and well-executed cueing, Pollak has created a very rich design to simply light the musicians. That is just the way he wants it, “It is great if the audience walks out going, ‘Wow, that was nice,’ if it all happens subliminally.” The marriage of the lighting, the projections, and the music is so smooth that audience members don't realize how much they are being given; rather, like a great meal, the experience as a whole is a satisfying event.