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Stereophonics - ‘Kind Tour’ (2019/2020)
After 28 years of consistent touring, the Stereophonics’ quest to improve their stage sound and gain closer engagement with their audience continues. At the request of the band, and specifically Kelly Jones, their sound techs were sent into overdrive, working on a radical approach for the latest arena tour.
Long-term FOH sound engineer Dave Roden, using his preferred Martin Audio MLA loudspeaker array, sent his mix to a distributed PA system, running the length of a 60 ft thrust from main stage, into the belly of the audience, with a small ‘B’ stage at the end of it.
By opting to play a third of their set right in the middle of the arena (including a solo Kelly Jones set), it would have left the band at risk of absorbing unwanted sounds off the main PA picked up by the vocal mics, had it been set in a conventional L/R configuration. At the same time, performing so far in front of the PA would have required substantial EQ changes, which would have been impractical.
It fell to system tech Nick Boulton, who was making his debut on MLA, to come up with a viable solution. “We did some modelling with the aim of getting as much even coverage throughout the arena while keeping the weird noises off the stage,” he explains. “With the end of the thrust 60 ft into the room it was well within the coverage area of MLA so we simply moved the hangs downstage.”
He was replacing the band’s usual system tech Toby Donovan, who assumed crew chief duties for this tour. However, Boulton had worked previously with Dave Roden on last year’s Tim Minchin tour, using another of Martin Audio’s optimised PA’s. This time around, production was running Dante to the stage and sending AES3 protocol to the hangs, with Martin Audio Unet back-up. Monitor engineer Sam Cunningham was using a DiGiCo SD7 on stage while Roden himself was on an SD5 at FOH.
The tech crew’s solution had been to replace the conventional main stage L/R PA hangs with two side hangs further downstage, comprising respectively two drops of 16 MLA Compact as conventional outfills. Meanwhile, a further eight MLA Compact for infills were mounted on trusses set near the beginning of the thrust, and angled down.
Three hangs of 10 MLA (and two MLD Downfills) - situated in the centre and 90° upstage - formed a concentric arc at the end of the thrust. Three hangs of six MLX subwoofers were set behind that in end fire configuration. This design, Boulton sensed, would reduce the sound bleed at the back of the stage, and help ease the room reflections.
Furthermore, he said, that in view of the stipulation to minimise sound escape at the main stage they made heavy use of the Hard Avoid setting in Martin Audio’s Display optimisation software, not only creating rejection at the back of the stage but also the hard surfaces at the rear of the arena that would cause slapback.
Production manager on this tour was Dave Nelson, while other Capital Sound personnel include Finbar Neenan, Jim Loasby and Oli Crump (PA techs) and Ian Burness (PA/Stage tech).
Setlist (Motorpoint Arena - Cardiff, Wales - March 2020)
C’est La Vie
I Wanna Get Lost With You
Bust This Town
Have A Nice Day
Hungover For You
Local Boy In The Photograph
A Thousand Trees
Make Friends With The Morning
Mr And Mrs Smith
Fly Like An Eagle
Don’t Let The Devil Take Another Day
Handbags And Gladrags (Mike d’Abo cover)
Before Anyone Knew Our Name
The Bartender And The Thief
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