Neil Finn, of Crowded House and Split Enz fame, has been busy touring an entertaining live show with some semi-legendary muso mates and a very flexible format. L&SI caught up with him in New Zealand and the UK, courtesy of Catriona Strom and Steve Moles . . .

Auckland’s St James Theatre was the setting for the start of the Neil Finn & Friends shows, which featured a line-up including Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien and Phil Selway, Johnny Marr and Sebastian Steinberg on electric and double bass, and Lisa Germano doing vocals and a number of instruments.

Oceania Audio supplied sound, with the company’s Paul Jeffery acting as both technical manager and monitor engineer. "The concert was certainly a challenge," said Jeffery, "but having worked, off and on, for Split Enz and Crowded House for many years, I’m quite familiar with the way Neil operates."

To complicate matters, three guest performers, could be on stage at any one time. For flexibility, Jeffery chose a Midas Heritage monitor console, along with XTA graphic EQ, Lexicon MPX1 reverbs, and Drawmer gates. "We ran 12 sends of monitors with proprietary cabinets housing 12" and 2" JBL drivers," said Paul. "It was a very unpredictable time in monitor world - people were constantly being brought on and off the stage with guitars being swapped around. It was an exciting show."

The male vocalists were all on Shure Beta 58A microphones. A Turbosound Flash/Flood system was spec’d: the theatre’s upper level featured four Flashlight cabinets and two low boxes per side, the circle had two Floods and two lows per side, whilst the ground floor featured three Floods and six lows per side.

While sound engineer Chris Ridgeway, who was also to mix the European concerts, was there to familiarise himself with the band, Peter Lumley was working from a Yamaha PM4000. He admitted that he was kept busy keeping up with the multitude of songs. "We’d get the set list about 30 minutes before the show and then madly write down what we needed to do. . . they had such a vast repertoire. It was also difficult finding out who was playing what - you just have to react quickly."

Paul Normandale was LD, and would hand over the reigns to Frazer Elisha for the UK tour: "The lighting is almost festival-style, given the informal structure of each night’s entertainment," he said. "The design was open-ended and needed to incorporate video elements and webcasting. The main difficulty was the fact that they might play one of 60 possible songs at any time with a variety of passing friends.

The lighting, supplied by Spotlight Systems, was spread across three 40ft trusses and featured a mix of fixtures including Altman Shakespeares, Fresnels and Q Lites, Colorset Scrollers, Selecon PCs, LSD 4-Lite strips, and Martin MAC 500s and 600s - controlled by an Avolites Pearl 2000.

By the time Finn & Friends reached Sheffield City Hall, it had caused quite a stir, for Finn had announced that he would allow members of his audience up onstage to perform with his band. But for Frazer Elisha and Chris Ridgeway, front-of-house lights and sound respectively, there was another little anomaly to deal with: Elisha produced the two entirley different set lists from the two previous night’s concerts.

Ridgeway mixes from a Midas Heritage, and relies heavily on the careful set-up of his Meyer MSL4 system (Canegreen, system engineer Pete Hughes using a Soundweb for zoning and EQ), and aims the floor stacks himself: "Aim them right, keep them off the walls, and there’s very little you have to do to EQ for the room." That aside, he uses a Lexicon 480 on all the vocals, and runs Finn’s vox channel through a TLA100. All other band members, vocals and instruments, receive their compression from dbx160SLs.

Lite Alternative supplied the lighting for the UK shows, with LD Paul Normandale fortunate in having such a skilled pair of hands to operate for the tour (Elisha’s work will soon be visi

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