JBL VerTec on Eric Clapton
Clapton's FOH engineer is the charismatic Rob Collins, who's worked for the legendary artist since 1989. Collins is also one of the founding members of Concert Sound. An industry maverick in his own right, Collins won the Total Production 'Sound Engineer of the Year 2004' Award in February.
Concert sound - who's director's also include sound engineers Jeff Hooper and Pab Boothroyd - had been discussing the addition of another large scale audio system to add to their hire stock for some time. They wanted something powerful and precise, and also a system that was familiar to a lot of engineers. Collins had first used the Vertec on Clapton's Japanese tour at the end of 2003, and was well impressed with the quality and delivery. This, coupled with the fact that Concert Sound services the UK and European legs of tours for many US-based productions, swung them in the Vertec direction, as the were finding it increasingly specified.
"Vertec sounds highly professional and very good" states Collins, "So we went with that". He also reckons it's the most prolific line array systems in the world. "From Mexico to Malaysia, if a local company has a line array system, the chances are it's a Vertec."
The standard Clapton show for this tour utilizes three stacks a side of VT4889 elements - 12, 8 and 6 respectively. For the largest stadiums in Europe - Copenhagen, Cologne and Barcelona - they arranged local sub-hires for an additional sixteen 4889 boxes. By carrying all the cabling and amplification needed to add these on to the system, it's a neat and efficient way of touring exactly what's needed.
In advance of the tour, JBL supplied a list of suppliers in each country for Concert Sound to contact and arrange the deals where needed. Collins gets an exceptional sound from the system- plenty of separation and clarity. The assorted set is a celebration of many Clapton styles over the years - which really puts the system to the test. From smoky blues tracks to the odd moody ballad, to rock 'n' roll classics like 'Cocaine' - each sounds as individual, and good as the next. The overall sonic aim was to keep it as natural, raw and unadulterated as possible.
Whilst setting up the Vertec deal, Concert Sound's technical director Tim Boyle, MD Dave Catlin and system technician Dave Dixon also collaborated closely with JBL designer Andrew Rudkin to help develop a new customised wedge monitor. This contains JBL components, is named the 'TM Series' and Concert Sound are using 12 of the new creations on Clapton. "There's been lots of collaborative dialogue between us, JBL and Harman Pro UK" says Collins, "It's been a fun and productive experience".
Rob Collins mixes Clapton using a Digico D5 console with Labgruppen 6400 amps powering the system. Collins is joined by long term audio team-mate Kerry Lewis on monitors and a Concert Sound Crew of four. The tour's video is supplied by XL Video (director Blue Leach) and lighting is by Neg Earth (LD Dave Maxwell).(Sarah Rushton-Read)