Hometown Hero Voting Now Open - VOTE NOW

Pink ‘Beautiful Trauma’ Tour

by Kevin M. Mitchell • in
  • May 2018
  • Production Profile
• Created: May 15, 2018

Audio Crew Navigates Complex Show Design to Provide Great Results

Pink 2018 tour photo by Todd Kaplan

 The Pink Beautiful Trauma tour had the potential to be, from an audio perspective, traumatic indeed. The lighting, staging, sets, gags (including a two story puppet) and most of all, the flying by the artist and her dancers, elevated the overall challenge of serving up a high-quality audio experience.

“From an audio perspective, our challenges are only those created physically by the show design and choreography performance,” FOH engineer David Bracey says. “So the biggest challenge is having so much of the show performed out in front of the P.A. It does require a lot more time as [the system] is a lot further out than any other show I have ever worked on.” The Clair Brothers audio team brings lots of experience to the consoles and handles it brilliantly. But except for a few hiccups, it’s all gone well. (In St. Louis, where FRONT of HOUSE caught the show, one of the two backup singers couldn’t make it, leaving a small hole in the mix — but that was aptly handled. and no one in the audience noticed).

“It was a challenge to design a suitable audio system that would work alongside all other departments’ rigs and prevent any inter-departmental clashes,” says system tech Johnny Keirle. “It took a lot of back-and-forth with show designers and riggers, but we came to a working solution that has been successful so far.”

Audio crew members (L-R): systems tech Johnny Keirle, band monitor engineer Horst Hartmann; FOH engineer Dave Bracey; Pink monitor engineer Jon Lewis. Photo by Todd Kaplan

‡‡         Keeping it Honest

Bracey started mixing audio in Tasmania, Australia in 1978, and by the age of 22, he was behind the board for Psychedelic Furs who were so impressed they took him to America. Since then, he’s been FOH for the Cure, Depeche Mode, Robbie Williams, Bjork, Cher and Adele. Last year he took over FOH duties for Pink, making this his second tour with her. Since 2002, Bracey has mixed exclusively on DiGiCo consoles, using a SD7 on this one. “It is the only console that does what I personally need a console to do for me,” he says. He augments the board with four Bricasti M7 reverb processors, which he first started using on Adele’s recent outings. Pink sings through the Sennheiser 9235 capsule when she has a handheld, and otherwise uses the Sennheiser HSP 4 headset mic. (There are times when she seems to be using both, but that’s only because her action-packed show doesn’t allow her to take her headset mic on and off). On the drums, Sennheisers are doing most of the work, with Audio-Technica ATM450s on the cymbals, hats and one tom. It’s all coming out of a L-Acoustics K1 and K2 speaker system.

Each side of the main P.A. hang consisted of 12 L-Acoustics K1 and four K2 line arrays and eight flown K1SB subs, along with 27 KS28 ground subs. Pink tour photo by Todd Kaplan

At the show, you won’t find Bracey in the traditional FOH spot — he’s mixing left hang. “It’s a personal choice,” he explains. “I did the same thing on Adele. It puts me in what I think is a more honest mix position. Only three percent of the audience are in that center sweet spot between the main hangs, so I am mixing in a spot that allows me to keep the other 97 percent in mind. It is easier and sounds better in the middle, so I am no longer interested in mixing there. Also, with my nice low FOH setup I can go at 100 feet from the P.A. every day instead of moving to the back of the floor. I keep the same reference point from show to show. The only disadvantage I find is being closer to screaming audience members.”

Toward the end of the last tour, the decision was made to bring on a second monitor engineer, so now Jon Lewis monitors it all just for Pink herself. He hails from Wales, and as his dad Kerry Lewis was a monitor engineer (for Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler, among others), the younger Lewis has been touring since he was 16. He did study at Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA), the educational facility that was co-founded by Sir Paul McCartney. Pre-Pink, he’s mixed for McCartney, AC/DC, Cher, David Gilmore, Eric Clapton and Oasis. “I’ve been with Pink since her previous tour, when the decision was made to move to a two-desk [monitor] set up. I also look after the dancers.” He’s on a DiGiCo SD7 as well, with the Bricasti M7 too — which is new to him. “I’ve been a big fan of the TC 6000 processors for a number of years, but I moved to Bricasti because they sound amazing. The depth and resolution is really noticeable.” He also uses a Drawmer 1973 multiband compressor for his IEM outputs. “That is my new favorite piece of outboard gear,” he says. “It gives a smoothness and control to the mix, a sort of mastering-ish tool to an ear mix.” All IEMs are Sennheiser SR 2000 with all RF mics running on the Sennheiser Digital 6000 wireless system. Sennheiser MD 9235 heads are on the SKM 6000 handhelds. “We are really happy with all of this, both from an audio point of view and a RF coordination angle.”

But with Pink, he literally has to hit a moving target. “With so many performance spaces around the stage and the fact that she does so much acrobatics and flying, it’s important to keep a constant mix in whichever position she is,” Lewis says. “Consistency is key to helping any artist [stay on] pitch and keep time, and that’s challenging as so much of the show being in front of the P.A., either on the stage runways or above the audience.” All this makes getting the artist a consistent mix wherever she is the most important part of Lewis’ job every night. And there’s no set-it-and-forget-it — he says each song is different, requiring highlighting different aspects of every song needed for timing and pitch.

Complicating matters a little further is the fact that Pink wears only one in-ear. But Lewis has some reinforcements. “The wedges used are a mix of Clair CM22s and L-Acoustic X15s,” he notes. “These give the big and powerful coverage needed to cover such a large space, and the fact that they are hidden under grills in the floor allow for the clean stage look that Pink and the designers want. I used the Clairs for AC/DC and fell in love with them. They have enough punch and power to do most jobs asked if them and still retain a clarity and poise of a modern stage monitor.”

On the expansive heart-shaped runway, he places 20 L-Acoustics X15 HiQ stage monitors (he also has to make sure the 10 dancers can hear too). “These allow me to keep the same style of voicing of the P.A., and also the factors I need to maintain and push for the artist performance while in front of the P.A., which is a lot of the show. I felt it was important for them to be related to the P.A. as both a major factor in the audio listened to out there. L-Acoustic has a very consistent voicing, so it allows both the wedge and the P.A. to work in unison, minus the obvious timing difference.”

What is in Pink’s one ear is a custom set designed a few years ago by fellow Pink audio engineer Horst Hartmann and Sennheiser. “It is a war piece that allows a headset mic to be attached direct to the ear,” Lewis says. “Therefore, it is minimizing movement and allows her to spin and flip upside down with very little audio loss due to movement of the arm and diaphragm.”

As for Hartmann, he mixes for the band on a Yamaha PM10 Rivage, happy with all the onboard trinkets, so he has no need for additional outboard gear.

Pink 2018 tour photo by Todd Kaplan

‡‡         Flying High

System tech Keirle has been in pro audio for a decade, having previously worked for Pink Floyd alum David Gilmour, Foo Fighters, Adele and Brit duo Royal Blood in various positions. Being the system tech on this show is likely one of his toughest assignments. “As well as dealing with the flown elements, we also had to come up with a suitable sub array under the stage,” he says. “We worked in conjunction with the stage designers to make sure we would have the coverage and impact required, yet fit within all stage pieces, stage legs, prop lifts, quick changes areas, etc.” He says that the physical deployment of the main system isn’t affected much by other elements of the show. “We have established a load-in routine to prevent any clashes. Width of the set means we are sometimes flying above seats, and this is the most difficult scenario. In situations where we have good working space, this doesn’t cause many concerns.” In venues with less working space upstage (e.g., non-collapsible seating, etc.), he says it is more challenging and time-consuming.

Keirle and company are happy with the system and the results happening on this tour. “We haven’t gone for the easiest system design, but rather the design that work best with the set and the show itself,” he says. “Our delay system helps to tighten up the room a lot and offer better directivity in the upper bowl, as well as offering a stereo image in parts of the room normally perceived very much as mono.” All systems are powered by L-Acoustic LA12X amplifiers with optimizations in LA Network Manager. The digital signal distribution taken care of by a Lake system (LM 26 and LM 44). “The whole system runs in the digital domain from console input through to the power output of the amplifier. There are various stages of digital and analog redundancy in case of digital transmission issues. But we consistently have a good-sounding system with headroom and great dynamics which allows the mix to translate nicely to all parts of the room.”

Pink Beautiful Trauma Tour

 

CREW

Sound Company: Clair

FOH Engineer: Dave Bracey

System Tech: Johnny Keirle

Monitor Engineers: Jon Lewis (Pink) and Horst Hartmann (Band)

Audio Crew Supervisor: Guillaume Burquez

Techs: Shaun Ayles and Juan Beilin

Audio Valet: Jack Murphy

 

P.A. SYSTEM

Main Hang/per side: (12) L-Acoustics K1, (4) K2, (8) flown K1SB subs

Side Hang/per side: (8) L-Acoustics K1, (8) K2

Rear Hang/per side: (12) K2

Delays/per side: (8) K2

Ground Subs: (27) L-Acoustics KS28

Ground Fill: (6) L-Acoustics KARA

Amplification: (68) L-Acoustics LA12X

 

FOH GEAR

DiGiCo SD7 console

Outboard : (4) Bricasti M7; Yamaha SPX2000; Waves MaxxBCL

Nearfields: L-Acoustics X8 reference system

System Drive: (7) Lake LM 26 and (2) LM 44

 

MON GEAR

Pink Monitor Console: DiGiCo SD7

Outboard: (2) Bricasti M7; Drawmer 1973

Band Monitor Console: Yamaha PM10 Rivage

Outboard: All in-console Rivage effects

IEM Hardware: (4) Sennheiser SR 2000 stereo transmitters

Wireless Mics: Sennheiser Digital 6000 system with Sennheiser MD 9235 heads on SKM 6000 handhelds, Sennheiser HSP 4 headset mics.

Drum Mics: Sennheiser, with Audio-Technica ATM450s on the cymbals, hats and one tom.

Monitor Speakers: Clair CM22, L-Acoustic X15

 

 

Leave a Comment:

Check Out Some Past FOH | Front of House Magazine Issues