Story by Kate Lyon
For the last show of Peter Gabriel’s European tour that celebrates his album ‘So’ this spring, the production opted to perform at the Berlin Waldbühne amphitheatre. The venue itself is steeped in something of a controversial history but provides a striking, natural setting for an evening with one of most respected and original artists of the last fifty years. Built for the infamous 1936 Olympics, the venue is a concrete bowl adjacent to the Olympic stadium that emulates an ancient classical Greek theatre and seats a twenty-two thousand audience. Following a riot at a Rolling Stones gig in 1965, which caused massive damage, the Waldbühne lay unused until the 1980s when it became a regular venue for bands. The Stones returned just a couple of weeks after Peter Gabriel’s production played to a full house on 25th May.
Concrete and sound have something of a volatile relationship so the Waldbühne could potentially present a bit of a challenge to a FOH engineer and the PA crew but system tech, Gerry Fradley declares otherwise: “Acoustically, the venue presented us with very few problems – the concrete is very manageable especially once the audience are in place. Rather it’s the access that is really awkward for the PA. The load in is really tight and everything has to go across the stage so both in and the out took much longer than usual.”
Britannia Row Productions supplied the tour with an L-Acoustics system comprising K1s and Kara in the main hangs left and right and K2s in the side arrays. The L-Acoustic K1 loudspeaker is synonymous with outstanding performance in large outdoor environments and the KARA’s reputation for clarity and precision for vocal delivery is unrivalled. Fradley explains how they approached the challenge of the Waldbühne and opted for a slightly different design. “For this venue we used very little for the side hangs; there are few seats in that area and the weight load on the roof had to be respected so some KARA cabinets did the job admirably. For the main arrays we flew K2s under the K1s and there were some K-SBs there as well to supplement the SB-28s on the floor.”
Control was SSL both FOH and on stage, where a single console is dedicated to Peter Gabriel and another one works solely for the band. “This was a great way to end this run of dates,” concludes Fradley. “The natural effect of the bowl and the surrounding trees (Waldbühne meaning ‘stage in the forest’) create a really effective acoustic environment for an outdoor show. The audience itself is the antidote to any possible reverberant issues from the concrete.”
Peter Gabriel, along with Britannia Row Productions, will be back in the UK for another set of dates in the autumn, starting with the LG Arena in Birmingham.