Lee Evans larges it with Martin Longbow
This placed enormous pressure on the tour sound production company Capital Sound Hire, and its Martin Audio line array rig, which had to create transparent speech intelligibility and intimacy to fans sitting in every one of those seats. In addition, they had to contend with additional FX play-ins and the exigencies of a camera crew.
Three years on and fundamentally little appeared to have changed. Promoters, Off The Kerb Productions, and production manager Mark Harris were pleased to keep the faith with Cap Sound, and other than Evans swopping his mandolin for a ukulele and piano - and greater emphasis being placed on the big screen reinforcement - it was business as usual ... apart from the PA.
As Cap Sound's account manager Paul Timmins says: "We were looking at tools that were not available three years ago, notably the Mini Line Array and Longbow." Hence Big proved to be an apt name for this tour in every respect.
The audio integrity for the five nights at London's O2 Arena was in the hands of Cap's system tech/crew chief Matt Harman-Trick, who knows the venue intimately after working long stints here with both Take That and Kylie Minogue - and has the added advantage of having stood in on the last Evans tour.
It was useful to have maintained some continuity, believes Timmins, noting that around 50% of their crew worked on the last tour." This includes PA tech Finbar Neenan, with Tom Boothby on hand at FOH - where Phil Tame was again behind the mixing desk (a vintage Midas XL3). Meanwhile, stage manager Neil McDonald had migrated from the Stereophonics, another Capital Sound account.
For this tour the production company preps three separate rig configurations - for large arenas, small arenas - and one exclusively for the O2, in view of its steeply raked bowl (and consequent width).
In 2005 Cap had fielded W8LC (compact line array) as the main hangs and W8Cs for delays. This time, although the W8LC options was again considered, the commanding throw of the main W8L Longbow was a decisive factor - obviating the need for some of the delayed sound.
At the O2 Arena the distance from the front edge of the stage to the furthest seat is 115m and the top row of seats is surprisingly 30m above the floor. "A lot of people get caught out by this place which is deceptively big," believes Timmins. To put this into perspective, in terms of high altitude, the top seat is still four metres above the top of the PA.
Spanning the rear were four truss mounted delays comprising eight W8LMs - designed to spread the sound laterally and upwards into the upper bowl. This was one of the most significant changes in the design that had toured in 2005.
Unlike other venues on the tour, midpoint delays were deemed unnecessary at the 02, and besides it would have interfered with the audience lighting trusses. "Instead of using three rows of delays having the LM's means we can achieve the same effect from a single spine," says Timmins.
While the core tour rig comprises 10 x W8L Longbow (and two W8LD down-fills) per side, at the 02 Arena Cap Sound rigged 16-box hangs (plus the two down-fills). Side-fills were provided by 16 x W8LCs (and two W8LCDs) per side, while a centre cluster of four W8LMs and four EM15s were added to bring the image right down to the front row and add further intimacy. A line of eight Martin Audio WS218X subs along the front of the stage apron were reinforced with four Martin Audio W2s, stacked on top as front-fills.
The entire system is controlled from 11 XTA DP226 processors, running AudioCore software.