Clair Cohesion Series Makes Australian Debut with Keith Urban

by Debi Moen
in International News
Urban's FOH engineer Kirk Kelsey. Photo: Troy Constable.
Urban's FOH engineer Kirk Kelsey. Photo: Troy Constable.

SYDNEY - JPJ Audio provided its new Clair Cohesion PA system for Keith Urban - the first artist to headline at the International Convention Centre (ICC). Though the venue is equipped with a d&b audiotechnik PA system, Urban is a longtime user of Clair. The integration of the gear was seamless, according to Urban's FOH engineer Kirk Kelsey. The band's Australian Ripcord Tour has been on the road for several months.

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Country superstar Keith Urban had the honor of being the first artist to headline the International Convention Centre, Sydney’s (ICC Sydney) entertainment theatre. Although the venue is equipped with a d&b audiotechnik PA system, Keith is a long-time Clair account and so JPJ Audio provided their new Clair Cohesion PA system, purchased just in time for Keith’s Australian Ripcord Tour.

Seamless integration within the Cohesion Series assures uniform coverage in multiple venues regardless of acoustic challenges or sightlines. The series provides higher output, reference quality sound within a smaller footprint: in truck space and in the air.

Urban’s FOH engineer Kirk Kelsey has mixed for a wide variety of acts including Live, Creed, Three Doors Down, and The Smashing Pumpkins. He readily admits that he has been blown away by the Cohesion Series.

“The new Cohesion system is a totally different animal to anything else Clair has produced,” commented Kelsey. “It’s also totally different to anything else that I have mixed on such as d&b, Meyer or Adamson. While all of those systems are high quality, Cohesion just keeps going – it never compresses itself, has tons of headroom and it throws a very good distance. The clarity and vocal intelligibility of it is outstanding whether you’re in a theatre, arena or stadium.”

Kelsey reports that as there is a large amount of low frequency in the hanging PA, he doesn’t have to fly subwoofers. “There’s not a lot of processing in the Cohesion as I believe that Clair wanted to give engineers raw power,” he added. “One thing I learned with the Cohesion PA is that you have to build your show in this system for it to be able to work. I can’t just come in after an L-Acoustics or d&b show, and plug into the system. The Cohesion system will show all the flaws in the mix so you have to undo everything.”

At the ICC theatre there were 12 Cohesion CP-118 self-powered sub bass loudspeakers run in a cardio pattern of two blocks of six onstage. Kelsey reports that they are really efficient and that they deliver tons of output; he actually has to run the subs at -10 compared to the rest of the system.

The main hang comprised of s16 Cohesion CO-12 cabinets, Clair’s next generation of versatile, reference quality concert loudspeakers, with a further 12 CO-12’s for side hang.

“The side hang is a 120-degree splay and the main hang an 80-degree splay,” Kelsey clarified. “We also have a center hang which consists of four Cohesion CO-8 cabinets and that covers the thrust that comes out from the center of the stage. We also have CO-8s stacked in various places across the subs or the stage to fill out little gaps.”

Kelsey revealed that they had just played Canberra’s GIO stadium with the same configuration of 16 Cohesion CO-12 cabinets and they were able to reach back of stadium with no problem.

Out front he was mixing on an Avid Profile with a large number of inputs including eight inputs for Keith’s electric guitar alone. For this, Kelsey uses many different microphones, blending them to try get the sound as big as possible, as one microphone would not do justice.

“Danny Raider, our stage right guitar player, also plays a lot of auxiliary instruments and then Nathan Barlow upstage right is the EDM factor to Keith’s new album, which has electronica influence,” added Kelsey. “Nathan has built this thing that he calls The Phantom that consists of four iPads triggering different types of samples as well as keyboards and pads plus a guitar. There’s a lot of talent of stage and they’re a really tight band. I got lucky with this band – I didn’t have to come in and fix anything!”

Kelsey describes mixing Keith’s show as like mixing a rock show and that he just follows his lead. Initially he built snapshots for every song but discarded them after the first show as Keith is very much a free spirit on stage.

Although Kirk wasn’t using any outboard effects on this show, he typically has eight RF vocal mics active for Keith as he can pop up anywhere on stage or out front at any time.

“It didn’t seem cost effective to build money channels for each one of those RF microphones and as a result I came up with a scheme so next year I can go ahead and route them through their own separate mixer. I use a lot of Waves as well as Brainworx, SPL Transient Designer and Echo Farm.”

Monitors were mixed by Phil ‘Side Fill’ Wilke on a couple of Midas H3000 analog consoles with a bunch of outboard effects. Urban and his band use both IEMs and wedges, with Keith typically using just the one IEM as audience microphones don’t give him the same feel as wedges.

The Ripcord tour has been on the road for several months and fans regularly post to Keith Urban’s facebook page.There is rarely any mention of audio quality, which we all know is a good thing.