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The Who’s “Moving On!” Tour

Thomas S. Friedman • July 2019Production Profile • July 16, 2019

The Who 2019 tour setup. Photo by Arnold Brower

Eighth Day Sound Rocks North American Arenas with Huge Adamson Rig

With a catalog of 11 studio albums, dozens of live collections and compilations, and a handful of EPs spanning well over 50 years, The Who’s musical output means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

The band’s 1965 breakout classic, “My Generation,” was a seminal precursor to the punk rock movement, its title track having been adopted as an anthem of youthful angst and rebellion on the back of its musical swagger and lyrical spite.

Less than five years later, they would release one of the most creatively ambitious projects in rock history with Tommy, one of the earliest examples of a rock opera that flaunted its inventiveness and intentional grandiosity without apology. Toss in timeless songs like “Who Are You,” “Baba O’Riley,” and “Behind Blue Eyes” that boast as much substance and significance as anything in the Beatles or Stones catalogs, and it’s no wonder they’re widely considered one of the most innovative, influential, and downright important acts in music history.

Such a wide (and widely-adored) catalog could be presented in nearly infinite iterations from the stage, and the band has certainly put their creativity to use in that regard over the years. Look no further than their current Moving On! tour of North America for an example.

View from the stage. Photo by Arnold Brower

‡‡         Hitting the Road

The 31-date trek began in Grand Rapids, MI, on May 7 and wrapped the first of its two legs in Pittsburgh on May 30. Following a one-off at London’s iconic Wembley Stadium in early July, they’ll open the second leg on Sept. 1 with another visit to NYC’s Madison Square Garden and tour Canada and the U.S. for two more months before the final date at L.A.’s Hollywood Bowl in late October.

Each show finds the core band — founding members Roger Daltrey (vocals) and Pete Townshend (guitar) with Simon Townshend (guitar), Loren Gold (keys), Jon Button (bass), Zak Starkey (drums), Billy Nicholls (backing vocals), Audrey Snyder (cello) and Katie Jacoby (violin) — joined by a local orchestra in each different city, led by conductor Keith Levenson.

The tour gives fans a chance to experience classic tracks and some deeper cuts in a unique musical setting, and what’s more, the upcoming second leg will have a sharper focus on the band’s upcoming 12th studio album, expected later this year.

We had a chance to catch up with the tour’s audio team between the two legs to discuss their experiences thus far.

Orchestra FOH engineer Chris “Chopper” Morrison. Photo by Arnold Brower

‡‡         The A (Audio) Team

Chris Morrison, much better known around the industry as Chopper, has been a staple of Who tours since the band’s extensive 50th anniversary tour from 2014-16, beginning his stint as the systems engineer on behalf of the sound company, Cleveland-based Eighth Day Sound.

Morrison has held that post consistently in the years since, though for the current tour, he’s sharing FOH duties with the band’s longtime engineer, Robert Collins, handling the orchestra mix while Collins caters to the core band.

“We’ve always had a good relationship and work really well as a team,” Morrison says about Collins, noting that their collaboration at FOH has been smooth and seamless on this run considering how well they know each other and the material they’re mixing.

Band FOH engineer Robert Collins. Photo by Arnold Brower

‡‡         The System

The sound rig for this tour, once again supplied and supported by Eighth Day, is built around an expansive E-Series P.A. from Adamson Systems Engineering, controlled via a DiGiCo SD7 at FOH with an EX-007 24-fader expansion unit for the orchestra.

While this is the band’s first full outing to carry an Adamson system, Morrison says the choice was informed by previous experiences with the E-Series on one-off dates.

“We’ve done a few festivals in Europe the last few years and took note that, if it was an Adamson E-Series rig, it always sounded great,” the engineer reports. “We never had to fiddle with the EQ or anything too much, and Robert was always really happy.”

Leading up to the “Moving On!” tour, Morrison had spent a few months in Australia supporting some major tours and festivals for Eighth Day and had an E-Series system out for most of them.

“I knew it would really suit the performances with the orchestra, with that really clean top end being critical,” he says, “so [Robert and I] decided to go with Adamson.”

In its fullest configuration, the system is comprised of: main hangs of 15 E15 three-way, true line source enclosures over three E12 three-way, full-range enclosures per side; side hangs of 12 E15s over three E12s per side; 270-degree fills from Adamson’s S-Series, with four narrow-dispersion S10n two-way, full-range cabinets over eight standard S10s per side; and a complement of S10s and S7p point-source cabinets as front fills.

The low-end is delivered from a hybrid system of nine flown E119 subs per side in an FBFFBFFBF (Front-Back, etc.) cardioid configuration, with an additional 12 E119s stacked in front of the stage.

The ground subs were initially in FBF cardioid clusters as well, though Morrison explains they’ve switched to a front-facing configuration with optimal results — direct, smooth bass with no issues onstage.

The stage right hang of the all-Adamson P.A. The L/R mains were Adamson E15 with smaller E12 cabinets at bottom of hang as downfills, with a similar hang for side P.A. Nine Adamson E119 subs were flown in a cardioid configuration, while the 270 fills used S10n (narrow) and S10 enclosures. Photo by Arnold Brower

‡‡         A Critical Balance: Power, Venom and Sonic Detail

Morrison notes this particular tour demands a lot from the P.A., balancing the beauty and nuance of the orchestral performances with the raw power of one of the planet’s biggest rock bands.

As Daltrey himself told Rolling Stone ahead of the run: “The most important thing that people realize about this tour is that the energy and the venom The Who play with will not be compromised at all.”

“Compromise,” it seems, isn’t in Morrison’s vocabulary. “Once we had things dialed in, this system was just shining,” he says. “The last show [of the first leg] sounded great, MSG was terrific, and we’ve consistently been hearing great things about the sound throughout the tour. I love this system.”

Four Adamson S7p speakers were used as front fills. Photo by Arnold Brower

‡‡         Practical Considerations

Eighth Day systems engineer Ben Smith notes the advantages of the Adamson solution extend beyond its sonic performance and into more practical considerations, which are especially advantageous on this tour.

On a typical stop, the P.A. gets loaded in at around 6:30 am; Morrison and Collins roll in an hour later to get everything up, running, and ready for tuning. At 10 am, tuning and time alignment begins — “which is typically when we’d be starting to load in on a normal tour,” Morrison says with a chuckle. Between 11 and noon, everything gets miked up, line checked, and ready for approximately five hours of rehearsals between 1 pm and doors — first the orchestra, then the band, then everyone together.

“That’s where the rigging hardware on the E-Series really shines,” Smith offers. “This system rigs incredibly fast, and then between Blueprint AV [design and simulation software] and the E-Series presets in the Lake processor, we can get everything exactly where it needs to be quickly and easily. It’s a great-sounding system that checks all the right boxes in terms of sonic performance and practicality, which is such a confidence booster on a tour like this.”

Two DiGiCo SD7 consoles were employed in monitor world. Photo by Arnold Brower

‡‡         Monitor World

Over in monitor world, engineers Simon Higgs and Trevor Waite are also splitting mixing duties, albeit with a slightly different configuration.

Higgs has been touring with The Who and its members’ projects for the past two decades, and for the Moving On! tour, is handling the in-ear mix for Daltrey and the rest of the core band outside of Pete Townshend; meanwhile, Waite looks after Townshend, who opts for stage wedges, as well as his tech, Simon Law, plus Levenson and the guest orchestral musicians for each show. He’s been part of The Who’s production camp for about 12 years.

Both engineers opted for DiGiCo SD7s to handle their respective duties, making it the platform of choice across all mix positions for the tour; however, the two in monitor world are Quantum editions, which each boast three large-scale FPGAs for additional processing power.

Higgs is a longtime DiGiCo user going back to the introduction of the D5 and says the desk’s features and functionality are perfectly suited to his workflow.

His RF systems are all based on Shure technology, with the PSM 1000 series comprising the majority of his rig and some Axient series equipment for the two string soloists. “I’m very accustomed to Shure; whenever I’m mixing on anything else, I can notice a difference,” he shares, adding: “I’m really impressed with the Axient series. It’s very well thought-out. [Shure is] obviously listening to their engineers and end users on what they need from their equipment.”

Waite notes that, for this tour, Townshend’s onstage set-up strays a bit from the usual. “Pete’s set-up is two wedges in front, two behind,” he explains. “The two behind used to be in front as well, but in order to keep things quieter for the orchestra, he opted to put them behind so the orchestra mics wouldn’t pick up more than intended.”

Law, the guitarist’s trusted technician, is on an in-ear mix, and Waite provides a click track for the principals in the orchestra through wired headsets and, for daily rehearsals, via speakers on stands for the rest of the players as Levenson talks the musicians through the score.

Waite’s own set-up includes a pair of wedges — one to each side of his mix position — and a speaker on the console that only contains Townshend’s vocal and a shout mic for direct communication with his engineer.

Both say the biggest difference in their overall workflow between the Moving On! tour and those before it is the daily schedule and its particularly early start. “It’s a long day,” Waite concedes, though neither engineer seems particularly fazed.

Pete Townshend was in fine form, including his trademark “windmill” chords. Photo by Arnold Brower

‡‡         Teamwork Equals Success

The level of professionalism and camaraderie exhibited by this group of technicians is notable, and obviously a product of many years of collaboration. “We’re all close and work really well together,” offers Higgs.

Waite agrees, noting Daltrey himself will often remind them all that they’re family. “I love touring with this group,” adds the engineer. “We all do things together on days off — not all tours hang out socially — and I consider myself lucky to have joined them 12 years ago.”

Though nobody has billed the Moving On! tour as The Who’s formal farewell, Daltrey, citing his age, has acknowledged that it could be the band’s last extended string of dates.

As such, fans should consider themselves fortunate to catch the rock legends in such a unique musical setting, putting a fresh spin on a catalog as deep and diverse as it is universally adored, and this group of touring pros are doing everything they can to make that experience as memorable and meaningful as possible.

Vocalist Roger Daltrey shows off his whirling microphone technique, which requires doubling the mic cable back onto the handle of his Shure Beta 58A and carefully securing it with gaff tape. Photo by Arnold Brower

The Who’s “Moving On!” Tour

Crew

Sound Company: Eighth Day Sound

FOH Engineer: Robert Collins

FOH Orchestra Engineer: Chris Morrison

Monitor Engineer: Simon Higgs

Monitor Engineer: Trevor Waite

Systems Engineer: Ben Smith –

P.A. Techs: Tom Lawn, Shawn Tingle

Patchmaster: Spritzer

Drummer Zak Starkey laid down the beat. Photo by Arnold Brower

Gear

P.A. GEAR

Note: The system used varied somewhat during the tour. Here’s a breakdown of the components used at the tour stop at NYC’s Madison Square Garden.

Main System: (15) Adamson E15 3-way, True Line Source enclosures/side at top of hang; (3) Adamson E12 3-way, full-range enclosures/side, hung below the E15s.

Sides: (12) Adamson E15s/side, above; (3) Adamson E12/side, below

Flown Subs: (9) Adamson E119/side, in FBFFBFFBF cardioid configuration

Ground Subs: (12) Adamson E119 (four stacks of three in FBF cardioid configuration

270 Fills: (4) Adamson S10n (narrow) full-range enclosures/side, above; (8) Adamson S10/side, below

Front Fill: (4) Adamson S7p 2-way, full-range point source enclosures, (4) Adamson S10

Amplification: (30) Lab.gruppen PLM 20K44 w/Lake processing

 

FOH GEAR

FOH Consoles: DiGiCo SD7 (main), DiGiCo SD7 24-fader expander (orchestra)

FOH Nearfields: (2) Genelec 8040A monitors; Yamaha MSR100

Outboard: Klark Teknik DN360 graphic EQ; (2) dbx 160SL 2-channel comp/limiters; (2) Summit Audio TLA-100A tube comp/limiters; TC Electronic System 6000

 

MON GEAR

Monitor Consoles: DiGiCo SD7 Quantum (band) w/four SD Racks; DiGiCo SD7 Quantum (Pete Townshend & Orchestra) w/ 2 x SD Rack

Outboard: Bricasti M7 stereo reverb; (3) Summit Audio TLA-100A tube comp/limiters, DCL-200 dual-channel tube comp; (2) Lexicon PCM60 digital effects; Yamaha REV5 multi-effects; (3) Aphex 320D Compellors; Waves Soundgrid package

Monitors: (12) d&b audiotechnik M2 wedges, (3) V-Sub subwoofers, (2) Q10 speakers, (10) E8 speakers

Amps: (8) d&b audiotechnik D80s

IEMs: Shure PSM 1000 wireless IEMs; Sennheiser HP-02-140 headphones (orchestra); Fischer Amps 8s hardwired IEM amps

RF Mics: Shure Axient wireless for string soloists

 

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