The Weeknd's 'Starboy: Legend of the Fall' Tour

by Kevin M. Mitchell
in Production Profile
The Weeknd's 'Starboy: Legend of the Fall' tour photo by Steve Jennings
The Weeknd's 'Starboy: Legend of the Fall' tour photo by Steve Jennings

The Weeknd is on the Starboy: Legend of the Fall outing, playing festivals and sold-out arenas across the country in support of the artist’s third studio album, Starboy, which was released last fall. The Weeknd, a.k.a. Abel Tesfaye, is performing in the round for most of the shows. And while he spends a lot of time on the catwalk, he works the sides of the house more than he does the front or back, says FOH engineer Derek Brener. “It’s almost as if the FOH perspective has been shifted to the sides.”

But to really make it interesting is an audacious set featuring a spaceship of the Imperial Star Destroyer kind. That dictated some creative speaker placement. Brener says his biggest challenge for the show is the timing and tuning of the rig, which can happen only after the set — including the ship — is in place. “We have an incredibly limited time frame, because the amount of work that goes into load-in is a serious challenge. The audio team is getting killed on this gig. We essentially have a stadium-size rig going into an arena without a load-in day.”

“We have a lot of guest performers, too, and that’s fun for the fans and us!” laughs monitor engineer Andy Ebert.

FOH engineer Derek Brener (left) with systems engineer David Quigley. Photo by Steve Jennings

‡‡         Where to Put the Speakers?

Brener grew up in Vista, CA, near San Diego, and he was mixing professionally by age 16. His summers were spent working at the Moonlight Amphitheatre where he was mentored by audio professional Peter Hashagen. He attended Chico State University in Chico, CA, north of Sacramento, where he learned studio recording, and eventually moved to L.A. where he started working live sounds at venues including the Wiltern Theatre. He toured with a band called Nico Vega, and continued club and theater work in addition to supporting other bands. In 2010, he went out with Bruno Mars, and in 2015, started working for The Weeknd.

“M.L. Procise and Paul Newman of Clair Bros called me up for this gig,” Brener says. “I had come off tour with Bruno, and M.L. said I should give it a shot. The first gig was Coachella, and it was pretty magical. In fact, it went so well that Abel and his managers asked me to join the team. I’ve been here ever since.”

Out with him from soundco Clair Global are P.A. hangs of 16 CO-12 cabinets for a total of 96 cabinets. Added to that mix are ten CO-8 cabinets per side. These are used as front fills under the thrust, with 16 Clair I-3s used as rear fills. There are also 16 CP-218 subs in the air and five under the thrust. System tech David Quigley reports that the sub array is “extremely efficient,” which is important to the overall sound delivery. He adds that it provides the necessary power without sacrificing controlled coverage pattern.

Brener mentioned that, during rehearsals, they realized that lowering the upstage section of the set blocked audio coverage for the VIPs in front. So he and Quigley developed a “club P.A.” on the ground for those up close, which included eight CO-12s on each side, located on risers neighboring the side projectors on the main floor. The creative design of the set determined the parameters for how the system was configured. “The ‘Star Destroyer’ took priority, and we had to work around that,” Quigley explains, referring to scenic designer Es Devlin’s “spaceship” design. “We continue to gaze at our system and wonder ‘is there a better way to do this?’ But we really can’t come up with anything better that will cover everyone. Unfortunately, I really have to practice acceptance on this one as you look around and say, ‘Is everybody rocking? Great. I did my job.’”

Monitor engineer Andy Ebert (left) and monitor tech Andrew Bongardt. Photo by Steve Jennings

‡‡         The FOH Position

The FOH console on the tour is an AVID Profile, which, counting channels for guest and talkbacks, fills up a full complement of 70. That first “magical” gig with The Weeknd was with a Profile, so in the spirit of “don’t fix it if it ain’t broke,” that’s what the team is happy with now. Brener notes it’s the perfect choice for this show as it’s reliable and compact, and he appreciates that the plug-ins are still TDM.

“The only thing I am not crazy about is the limited amount of auxes and groups,” Brener adds. “Then again, I actually appreciate the fact that I do have limitations. It pushes me to be more creative. Nowadays, digital desks have so many features and seemingly no limitations that I can tend to go off the rails and become more prone to butchering a mix!”

He admits to having a bit of a plug-in fetish, but on this show tries to keep that to a minimum. Getting a workout are some Waves products (SSL E-Channel, CLA, SSL G-Master Buss Compression, and the V-EQ4 Vintage Equalizer). There’s also H-Delay, GTR, Moogerfooger analog delay, Doubler4, Stereo Delay and Reverb One being used.

The 360-degree, in-the-round system required multiple curved hangs of Clair 16 CO-12 line arrays. Photo by Steve Jennings

‡‡         The Mic Lineup

Tesfaye is on a Sennheiser MD 5235, his go-to wireless mic for four years. Brener says the appeal of it is that it’s warm and smooth and never drops out. The guitar amps get Audio-Technica AE-2500s, and Radial Engineering J48s are used for all DIs. The drum setup is a standard mix including Shure Beta 52A on the kick outside, Shure Beta 91A for the inside kick and Shure SM57s on the snares. There’s a Sennheiser e604 on the toms, Shure KSM 137’s on the hat and ride, and Shure KSM32’s overhead.

Ground-stacked Clair CO-12s provided fill for the VIP areas. Photo by Steve Jennings

‡‡         Back of the Band

Monitor engineer Ebert grew up in West Berlin, playing guitar as kid until he figured out he wanted to mix sound at 18. He took classes in recording and got a job with a small lighting and sound company. A big break came when he got to work on a Modern Talking tour, a well-known German pop duo.

“I was monitor engineer for them, and that was my first big tour,” he says. Then in 2000, Clair opened a shop in Germany, and he got on the staff. “There were a lot of U.S. bands coming through, and I ended up working monitors for Dream Theater and REM.”

Then Ebert worked his biggest tour, going out with Mariah Carey’s production on a six-month world tour. During this time, he moved to the States, landed in L.A., and has been finding his own work ever since, including handling monitoring duties for Stone Temple Pilots, Carrie Underwood and Shakira, among others. His first stint with The Weeknd was in 2012, and then he went out with Alanis Morissette, Adam Lambert and Usher, while doing additional dates with The Weeknd.

On stage with The Weeknd is a band that includes a drummer, guitarist, bassist and keyboardist. “I’m using an AVID Profile which I’ve been using since 2005,” Ebert says. When reminded that they have a new model out, he replies: “Nope! Don’t need the new one.” He doesn’t use any outboard gear, relying on the plug-ins in the board. The musicians have all just made the jump to Ultimate Ears Pro IEMs, except Tesfaye himself.

Guitar amps were miked with Audio-Technica’s dual element (dynamic and condenser) AE-2500s. Photo by Steve Jennings

“The Ultimate Ears are great, and we have a great relationship with the company, but Abel is on JH Audio because of the [more powerful] driver.” Mixing for the band and Tesfaye is straightforward, though he mentions Tesfaye’s mix has evolved. “He has a really interesting voice, and on certain songs he wants guitar or keyboards, but overall, less is better. He wants his voice to stand out in his ear without being overwhelmingly loud.”

Ebert gives kudos to the Clair system, and also the way that monitor tech Andrew Bongardt sets up the system, “so much so I really rely on him.” With the show n the round, Ebert is behind the band, using a video feed for visual cues. “It doesn’t affect my work, and I’m able to maintain consistency for the band,” he says. “But things are always changing for the band, and I’m always working the faders.”

The U.S. leg of The Weeknd’s Starboy: Legend of the Fall world tour wraps up June 16 at the Firefly Music Festival at the Dover International Speedway (Dover, DE) before doing a month-long run of European festivals with stops in France, Germany, Finland, Norway, Portugal and Ireland.

Drum tech Brad Sanders. Photo by Steve Jennings

 

The Weeknd Starboy: Legend of the Fall World Tour

CREW

  • Sound Company: Clair Global
  • FOH Engineer: Derek Brener
  • Monitor Engineer: Andy Ebert
  • System Tech: David Quigley
  • Monitor Tech: Andrew Bongardt
  • Drum Tech: Brad Sanders
  • Keys & Bass Tech: Kyle Kanzigg

P.A. SYSTEM

  • Main P.A.: Eight hangs of (16) Clair CO-12 cabinets
  • Subs: (16) Clair CP-218 flown; (5) CP-218 under the thrust
  • Front Fills: (10) CO-8/side.
  • Rear Fills: (16) Clair I-3s
  • Club P.A. (VIP Fills): (8) CO-12/side


FOH GEAR

  • FOH Console: Avid VENUE Profile
  • Plug-ins: Waves SSL E-Channel, CLA, SSL G-Master Buss Compressor, V-EQ4 Vintage Equalizer, H-Delay, GTR, Moogerfooger, Doubler4


MON GEAR

  • Monitor Console: Avid VENUE Profile
  • Vocal Mic: Sennhesier MD 5235
  • Wireless Hardware: Sennheiser EM3732
  • IEM Hardware: (7) Shure PSM 1000
  • IEM Earpieces: Ultimate Ears Pro, Jerry Harvey Audio
  • Guitar Mics: Audio-Technica AE-2500s
  • Drum Mics: Shure Beta 52A (kick out), Beta 91A (kick inside), SM57s (snares); KSM137 (hi-hat/ride), KSM32 (overheads); Sennheiser e604 (toms)
  • Direct Boxes: Radial Engineering J48s

 

Keys/bass tech Kyle Kanzigg. Photo by Steve Jennings