Following the tragic stage collapse on the Radiohead tour in Toronto earlier in the year, LS-Live was called upon to re-design the stage set and re-build certain components in order to get the production back on the road.
Due to our decades of experience in aluminium engineering, structural design and set fabrication, we were brought in during the early stages of the rebuild to provide our expertise. Demanding in terms of time, logistics and complexity, the project challenged all of LS-Live’s resources across a period of three weeks, involving structural assessments, re-drawing detailed components from scratch, reverse engineering, testing, manufacturing, modifications and final assembly.
Richard Kent at Aerial Rigging Techniques and Radiohead’s production manager Richard Young met with LS-Live general manager Ben Brooks at the beginning of August at Elstree Studios to review the damage. Brooks says: “The set had just been delivered back in containers. We were greeted by mounds of bent metal, the remainder of the keys from Thom Yorke’s piano and vacant looking faces. It was one of those moments where you’re suddenly overwhelmed with the thought, ‘I hope this never happens to me’. It puts into question everything that you do.”
Brooks did an evaluation of the damage on site. The production team were under pressure to get the show back on the road as soon as possible, so we were challenged to deliver an estimated quote for the repair overnight.
Once they had the green light, Brooks introduced structural and mechanical engineer Mark Blount, who now works for LS-Live on a freelance basis. He explained what we were faced with: “There were no drawings of the original set available, so we had to start from scratch based on some photographs and what we’d been told.
“We began a detailed review of the damage to four main areas of the set: the winch frames, main truss system, flying video screens, and transport dolly and ancilliaries.
“The six winch frames that had been on the upstage row in the roof had buckled side plates, but the six downstage ones that had taken most of the impact on collapse were completely buckled. We stripped the frames to analyse what was damaged beyond repair, removing all slewing motors and gearbox assemblies in the process. We measured and redrew all the components, incorporating requested modifications to video tile positions and cable routing,” he said.
“We provided full component production drawings for all flying screen parts, which was tricky as all the screens had been smashed.”
The company used new aluminium for the new winch frames, cut using a specialist abrasive water jet technique because they were too thick for laser cutting. After machining, they assembled the complete winch frames, installing fully tested slew motors and NDT (non-destructive testing) crack-checked cable management reelers.
LS-Live also re-designed the main truss system, to improve access and installation of the winch reels. We worked with independent structural engineer Lee Coverley to ensure the new designs could safely accommodate the weight load, before commissioning James Thomas Engineering to manufacture the system.
Finally, we supplied a 60ft by 32ft rolling house stage for the remainder of the tour and two 24ft by 12ft side LiteDeck platforms for the technicians. All was delivered on time and in budget after an emotional few weeks.
Mark Blount gave his lasting thoughts: “All at LS-Live had mixed feelings about this project. We’re very proud of what we have achieved, but Scott Johnson died in that stage collapse; you can mend metal, but that won’t bring him back.”