Madonna’s ‘Celebration’ world tour will conclude in Mexico City on 26 April 2024
After 40 years at the top of popular culture, Madonna is reimagining her live act with a look at her legacy alongside her present incarnation.
At the helm of the live sound is FOH mixer Burton Ishmael - who was hand-picked by the ‘singer upon hearing his work with Eighth Day Sound client, Post Malone. Ishmael begins: “It’s very nice to be asked to go on tour by the boss directly. Madonna is an exceptionally clever artist, and there can be a lot of pressure on a world tour, but thankfully, there’s a huge team effort going into what we’re doing, and the Eighth Day Sound crew are experts.”
He says a core action at front of house is to repeat a process that has already been done in the studio: “My job as a live engineer is to ensure that I make the music transferable to the arena setting. Not just hearing but feeling the elements contained in the songs is the step up from the technical part of mixing; being able to create emotions and connections is key,” he explains. “I must bring the energy of the artist and transfer that to the audience and vice versa, from and through my mix. It's almost like the automation phase of doing a mix on a record.”
Lauren D’Elia, Vocal Producer and Madonna’s Audio Liaison is Madonna’s extra set of ears when she’s on stage. “I met Madonna in the studio as her engineer and vocal producer and was brought onto her last tour to help translate that to the live environment after recording ‘Madame X’. For this tour, I do the same thing but with a set list spanning her whole career. It’s a huge undertaking, and I’m working with a fantastic Vocal FX Engineer, Carl Golembeski, to bring the vocal vision to life.
Madonna’s vocals are heard via her Sennheiser 6000 microphone with a 435 capsule. D’Elia continues: “On Burnin’ Up we added a bit of distortion and on Die Another Day we added some phasers and a hard-tuning setting to get that robotic sheen the original record has. We strive to recreate the vocal atmospheres of the original records and add to it with the background vocals that Musical Director Kevin Antunes has arranged and recorded with vocalists Kiley Dean and Munchie.”
Vocal FX engineer, Carl Golembeski adds: “I built a vocal FX performance system for real-time vocal processing to replicate the album compositions as closely as possible.”
Musical director Kevin Antunes states, “In supporting Madonna’s live vocal and guitar performance, the audience gets to experience the original studio multi-track recordings in their highest fidelity. Legendary musicians and stylistic sounds of each decade have been re-imagined with new arrangements and additional musical layers to transport the audience throughout her illustrious career.”
Back at FOH, mixing maestro Ishmael explains how Madonna’s record producer and collaborator, , is instrumental in the direction of this detailed audio offering. “It’s great to have someone that knows the music and to have Mr. Price act as a second pair of ears. Stuart’s vision, Madonna’s vision, and with the sonic characteristics of everything we are working with here, is a ‘wow’ situation.”

When it comes to gear, it’s all chosen “wisely,” says music producer Stuart Price, from behind his Avid Venue S6L digital mixer. “I like this desk a lot, it’s intuitive to me. L-Acoustics has been good to me too. It’s the system I started on and have had great success with, so I don't want to change that. The PA here is a little unconventional, but it allows the artist to have the whole floor laid out for her to do whatever she likes.”
Systems engineer Andy Fitton is tuning the L-Acoustics K2 system, working closely with PA techs Nate Peterson, Tom Lawn, Harrison Travaglino, Ellis Montgomery, and Francesco Grassi. From L-Acoustics, Dave Brooks and Chris ‘Sully’ Sullivan provide remote application support.
The design comprises K2 main hangs and KS28 subs. Out-fill and side-hangs are K2 with KS28 side subs and Kara II for rear hangs and centre-fills. The ground system is KS28, X8 and Kara II, making up an impressive total box count of 206 speakers. The system utilises 81 L-Acoustics LA12X amplifiers and two L-Acoustics P1 processors.
Fitton comments: “The design is halfway between an in-the-round system and a traditional end-zone PA where the stage is set to one side of the arena. We wanted to have a more dispersed audio system to avoid noise on-stage and to have the speakers closer to the audience so that there is a higher ratio of direct signal to reverberation, pushing the PA Out into the arena.”
Monitor engineer Matt Napier is at Madonna’s side stage for the 19th year, during which time he’s spent many tours with the tour’s vendor. He comments: “The Eighth Day Sound crew, in particular my monitor tech Roger Bammann and comms tech Katlyn Mountain, have been great at looking after me. In my opinion, the crew makes the gig, and Eighth Day has fielded a first-class crew for this tour, something I appreciate.”
Audio crew chief, Frank Peoples, agrees: “This tour wouldn't be possible to produce without good communication. Celebration for me is like working with a bunch of friends where you know if there is an issue, they’re looking out for you. Unified positivity is more important than ever on these tours and with the support of Eighth Day Sound, our audio crew is doing a great job at making it happen.”
Having mixed Madonna’s monitors for almost two decades, Napier explains that he constantly re-evaluates how to approach audio in this type of environment: “Looking at the changes you can make to help the artist create such a large spectacle for their fans is an evolution; I’m always striving to make the show better.
“Her shows are always at the cutting edge of technology, so with each show, I approach it fresh and make sure I’m ready for the challenge. The biggest often being the environment, trying to make the IEM mix sound as consistent as possible whilst dealing with the acoustics of arenas,” he says of handling Madonna’s Wisycom and JH Audio in-ear preferences.”
As a long-time DiGiCo user, this tour marked Napier’s first time mixing on a Quantum 338. “It’s perfect for this show as we don’t have a huge channel count. The DiGiCo Mustard and Spice Rack allows me to mix everything on the console, and the ’Naga 6 Multiband Dynamic EQ is the final thing that enables me to ditch any external processing.”

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