Industry News: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Reunite for 40th Anniversary Tour

by FOH Staff
in Features
Petty performs center stage with a Telefunken M80 dynamic microphone.
Petty performs center stage with a Telefunken M80 dynamic microphone.

For Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ big 40th Anniversary tour, with shows running from April through September this year, FOH engineer Robert Scovill has specified an Eastern Acoustic Works (EAW) ADAPTive sound reinforcement system supplied by Escondido, CA-based Sound Image. Along with the system, which includes Anya array and Otto subwoofer modules supplemented with Anna delay towers for stadium shows, Sound Image is supporting the tour with crew.

Sound Image is providing an EAW ADAPTive sound system for this summer’s tour.

Arenas and Stadiums

The 270° arena rig consists of 56 Anya for the main L-R arrays (hung in a 12-8-8 column configuration per side), a center cluster of six Anya and 14 Otto subs spaced across the front of the stage.

Although most of the tour stops will use this arena setup, for stadium shows, like Wrigley Field in Chicago, Scovill specified a delay ring made up of four towers of 12 Anna enclosures to supplement the main rig.

“As we modeled a couple of stadiums, it was clear that improvements in coverage could be obtained through judicial use of delay towers,” said Scovill. “They are used primarily to reach up under seating levels blocked by overhanging structures.

“The center cluster of Anya provides imaging for the audience on the main floor,” Scovill added. “I do not use any toe-in on the main arrays. This opens the center up, reducing overlap of the main arrays into the rear corners of the venue while also providing a defined area for me to work the center cluster.

“Coverage for the center starts with a blending of the front fills, but ends behind me at FOH. Where the coverage ends is critical, as it has to stop right where the main left/right arrays begin to converge. ADAPTive makes this very simple to adjust, as no physical movement of the arrays or array angles is required.”

The ADAPTive system is designed to be a fixed variable, which means that no matter what the actual coverage requirements are for any venue, the system is deployed “physically” in the same fashion in every venue. This provides consistency not only for the audio team but also for the promoter, who deals with seats and sightlines, as well as the rigging, lighting and video crews. Nothing changes in the physical setup. Instead, Resolution software calculates new coverage requirements day-to-day — even when the venue is asymmetrical.

“Most of our shows will be in arenas, but for the smaller setups like sheds, the system is designed to easily scale down,” Scovill added. “Long, narrow venues like Red Rocks use one Anya column per side. Sheds use two columns, and the arena shows are three columns — all plus the center column. The well-thought-out horizontal arc-segment of Anya makes this incredibly easy. It’s almost as if they designed it that way,” he said, with a smile.

Robert Scovill augments the EAW setup for stadium dates.

Recently Developed Subwoofers

This is Scovill’s first outing with the Otto subwoofers, which he utilizes to help anchor the sound to the stage, especially for the people sitting in the close VIP area.

“I have used subs with previous tours to supplement the mains, but the 2014 tour with ADAPTive was the first time I felt the subs weren’t necessary,” Scovill noted.

“Going into this tour, I knew the mains were going to be fine, so I focused on improvements I could make for the front-fill setup covering the VIP seats.

“The Otto subwoofer had not been developed for the first tour, so I was excited to test it for this one,” Scovill said, adding that “it did not disappoint. Not only was the Resolution software able to deal with my spaced arrangement of enclosures required for the front-fill deployment, but the subs’ compact size and exceptional rear-rejection allowed me to use it without disturbing Tom on stage, who is very sensitive to sub-bass.”

Scovill noted that no special stacking or configurations of Otto are necessary. Once they are set up and the amount of rear-rejection designated in Resolution, they are ready to go. Like the main hangs, the subwoofer arrangement is physically consistent throughout the tour. If different venues required different horizontal coverage angles, that is also handled through the Resolution software.

“This system has surpassed anything I have used in the past — including my 2014 rig, which was outstanding,” Scovill said. “The recent Resolution software upgrade is excellent. The effectiveness of Spatial EQ and the new Airloss control features are more than impressive. To be able to pinpoint a physical area in a venue and only EQ that area is a tool that we, as an industry, have never seen before.

“Before this,” Scovill continued, “the best we could do with traditional PAs was to zone enclosures into groups of two or three and apply EQ to a zone. Hardly a predictable way of doing it, but it was our only option. Not anymore. It’s incredible to have a measurement mic in some remote location of the venue, apply a filter, hear nothing at FOH yet see the transfer trace adjust on the computer to that filter.

“I chose ADAPTive when it was brand new for the 2014 tour, and I’m still impressed with what the system can do and the improvements and upgrades the company continues to provide,” Scovill continued. “My choice to use it this time was an easy one. It does exactly what they say it does and we have heard nothing but rave reviews from the band and fans.”

3,000+ (And Counting)

In addition to Tom Petty and his bands, Scovill, a six-time TEC Award winner and two time Parnelli Award winner with more than three thousand live event mixing credits, has also tackled FOH for Matchbox Twenty, Prince, Rush, Def Leppard and Alice Cooper, among many others.

When not behind the mixing desk, Scovill serves as senior market specialist for live sound for Avid Technologies, spearheading their live console and recording efforts.

Another piece of gear he’s spoken favorably of, also on the tour with Tom Petty, is Telefunken’s M80 vocal mic.

“I’ve been using the Telefunken M80 on vocals for a few tours now, and am constantly impressed with both how consistent they are, show-to-show…The 80 is a really wonderful vocal and instrument mic.”