Story: Steve Moles, Discovery PR & Management Services Ltd
Production Manager Steve Jones chose Britannia Row Productions to provide a complete audio system the recent tour by Mike and the Mechanics. Commencing in February with a lengthy circuit of the UK, this latest incarnation of Mike Rutherford’s band is promoting their recent studio album ‘Let Me Fly’ attracting both public and critical acclaim. Several summer festival dates are scheduled, and a tour of Europe begins in September.
Front of house engineer Gavin Tempany mixes from an SSL L500 console; bar the lines from mic to SSL stage box, the signal path is exclusively digital to the new LA12x amplifiers that power the L-acoustic Kara system. “The Kara is brilliant,” said Tempany. “Super reactive. Because of its dispersion characteristic it is well suited to cover the variety of venues we’re visiting on this tour and with relatively few boxes. We have played some very different rooms on the UK leg. I was pleasantly surprised at the Sage in Gateshead where the system had to be rigged in close proximity to the upper tier seats nearest to stage. When I went up there to check I found nobody would be getting their ears ripped off, yet at the back of the room the levels were just perfect.”
“Britrow has invested heavily in replacing its old LA8 amplifiers with the new LA12x and in my opinion it’s money well spent. Combined with the SSL the system creates a very clean result. For certain instruments, drums for example, the super reactive nature of the Kara system needs to be slowed down or the transients get lost so I apply a bit of compression with fast attack and fast release just to give the drum sounds more tail. The two vocalists need a lot of FoH EQ. They are both amazing vocalists, and both are very distinctive, but not without their own unique idiosyncrasies. As a rule, I always try to leave the vocals channels flat so I can EQ the voice to the room if I need to when the show kicks off.”
Laurie Fradley is Britrow’s system tech’ for the tour. “The system is flown wherever we can, and always with a single sub cabinet at the top of each hang. That’s a single eighteen SB18 sub at the top of the rig, we also use a pair of the twin eighteen SB28s on the floor. The one in the air is to lift the Kara at the low end so Gavin can run the flown system as a whole, using a separate send for the floor subs.”
This is an important aspect for Tempany. “Eventually we will be going into smaller venues when the tour gets to other markets, and we will be using house systems in some places where there probably won’t be flown subs; so I’ll really want that level of control over the subs they do have.”
“This is my first tour with Kara as the main system” continued Fradley, “though of course I’ve used the boxes as part of bigger rigs. Kara has been easy enough to ground stack where we’ve needed to and we’ve achieved good coverage. With the variety of rooms on this tour that sort of flexibility is a gift.”
On stage, it is Graham ‘Blakey’ Blake in charge. “This is my third tour mixing monitors for Mike” he begins, “The band has been more or less the same throughout; Gary Wallis, the drummer is a real professional and carefully moderates his playing to the dynamic variety of the songs. We also have Andrew Roachford on vocals, and Tim Howar; they share vocal duties. Both have distinct voices as Gavin said, and each bring something different to the show. Guitar is Anton (Anthony) Drennan, he and Mike actually exchange lead and bass guitar roles throughout the show. Luc Juby is on keys, as is Roachford. Luc and Mike both do BV duties. All told it’s is a great band and a joy to mix monitors for”.
“They are all on in ears, Sennheiser 2000 series, except Roachford, who still likes a wedge. He has a pair of d&b M4s when he stands and takes lead vocal, otherwise he has a single M4 beside him at his keyboard. It’s not a loud stage. Garry also has a pair of d&b Q-Subs parked immediately behind his drum riser, but you wouldn’t know they were there if you sat front row centre. Lead vocals both use Shure 58 radios; other voices are wired 58s. For mixing I had been using a Midas Pro2 for some time, but I was talked into trying the Digico SD10 by Privet last year.” (Chris ‘Privet’ Hedge and Blake are both long time engineers for Simply Red) “I’ve simply fallen in love with it.”
Blakey had an interesting insight to subtleties of this particular monitor set-up “On David Gilmour’s tour last year, Brit Row’s boffin in residence, Jerry Wing was asked to address the issue of fan noise from the monitor rack. His solution was simple enough, drop the fan speed and add a sensitive temperature monitor to speed them back up if needed. That never happened, though I suppose it might on a festival stage in a hot country, but it worked so well that I have it here on this tour. You just wouldn’t hear it on stage, even during the acoustic set. Brit Row is great for that sort of thing.”
The entire production for the tour fits a single 45-foot semi-trailer, the compact nature of the Kara system being a big contributor to achieving such a dense pack. “You might look at the production and say it’s done on a budget,” said Tempany, “but there’s no doubt money is spent where it has most impact. The lighting and stage set might lead you to believe there were three trucks parked outside. It’s what the audience walk away with that matters and the lasting memory will be of a really nice sound and a great looking show?”