Take That take Swansea (photo: Jay Stone)

UK - Take That’s This Life world tour takes in arenas and stadiums with audio design, equipment delivery and crew from Skan, a Clair Global brand. Led by tour director Chris Vaughan and production manager Wez Wearing, Take That still attract multi-generational fans in their tens of thousands per night.

Now a three-piece comprising Gary Barlow, Mark Owen and Howard Donald, FOH engineer Gary Bradshaw has had the same objective since their inception in 1993: “I must get the show to sound as close to the records possible, it’s what their fans expect. With the live band, the arrangements are different, but the overall sound needs to be similar. Mike Stevens, our musical director, is very good at arranging the music, and the musicians are brilliant.”

Gary has used DiGiCo desks since they came to market, this time taking an SD7 Quantum out. “There are some Waves plug-ins, but what's changed on this tour is that the band, guitar wise, are doing a lot of their own FX processing and EQ. They’re using the Neural DSP Quad Cortex pedals and they have spent a long time editing the sounds of the guitars and the acoustics, so that all comes down the same input channel to me at FOH. The band then make the changes at their end - it's basically a sound modelling tool.

“I use a Waves dbx 160x compressor over the drum audio group, but I mainly use what’s in the DiGiCo desk; compression & EQ and keep it as simple as possible because the desk reacts so quickly and integrates seamlessly with my Waves.”

During the two-hour show, the tour takes on a narrative journey split across four sections.

“Getting those cues right took a little bit of time!” says Gary. “But we had plenty of rehearsals to get it all right. The songs haven't really changed but the audio links have. I have to really concentrate for the whole two hours!” he adds, also noting that Skan’s service has been instrumental in the tour’s smooth running.

“Skan are the best. Their attention to detail preparation, the choice of equipment they have - I think d&b is the best PA you can get - and their crews are always very good,” adds Gary.

Skan’s Matt Vickers designed the d&b audiotechnik rig which is centred around the show’s creative concept. “The Take That team are long-serving professionals and understand that we have a job to deliver the music. They work with us from the outset to accommodate the PA elements into the show design.

“All floor subs and in-fill speakers are hidden under the downstage edge, so we worked with the stage designers to fit in and around the structure. There is a rain effect at the start of the show, where gallons of water pour onto the downstage edge meaning the ground subs are sat in the catchment pool. We simply put larger wheels on the sub carts, and fitted their outdoor rain covers so they are unaffected.

“The flown arrays are more straight forward; the focus is to work with the set riggers and lighting team, so we have clear airspace between the cabinets and the audience, and room for follow spot trusses, and aerial bridges to the B-stage,” he explains.

Once the positions are negotiated and agreed, Matt hands the design over to the touring team and Matt ‘MBF’ Besford-Foster, for day-to-day optimising and tuning to suit each venue’s unique characteristics. “MBF ensures we cover every seat with equal tonality and audio quality, providing FOH Engineer Gary Bradshaw with a blank canvas to mix the show and deliver the same experience to all fans.”

The flown system comprises GSL main hangs, KSL Side hangs and V Series rear hangs. On the floor, it’s J SUBs and Y Series cabinets for front fills.

“My main objective is making all of those different types of speakers sound like one big, natural sound source,” says MBF, who notes the B Stage offers a chance to home in on the challenges they present. “I use a specific EQ for the part of the PA that covers the B Stage and punch this in when it’s in use. This really helps tackling any potential feedback and provides Gary with a solid system to mix on, regardless of what mics are in front of it. I also take care with the positioning of the 120-degree boxes within the arrays to ensure minimal summation in the areas that could become problematic.

“d&b oozes style and finesse. The SL system has excellent cardioid characteristics which helps keep the SPL down. It’s a team effort from the whole audio department, I rely on PA Techs Eddie O’Brien and Patrick Boyd, and we spend time getting everything right.”

MBF concludes: “Working with Skan is great; I feel safe in the knowledge that a Skan PA system is built on a strong foundation that I can rely on every time.”

“It’s a pleasure and a privilege to be a part of,” says Becky Pell, monitor engineer. “Chris Vaughan always does things to a very high standard and really looks after his crew. At stage left I'm working with unflappable Liam Tucker, Skan crew chief and monitor tech. He’s a joy to tour with, and his technical expertise is top-notch.” The team is also aided by the skills of Skan stage tech, Sammi Goundry.

Becky, who has used DiGiCo for 20 years, continues: “For this tour, I have the Quantum 7. I have old-school outboard in a pair of Neve 5045s which are helpful for gently suppressing PA spill down the vocal mics when the guys are out on the B stage, but I don’t use any plug-ins - I find that the onboard Quantum features such as the Mustard processing [I particularly like the Optical and Vintage VCA compressors] do everything I need, and I like the Chilli and Naga processing in the Spice Rack for dynamically smoothing out any prominence in vocal frequencies.”

Skan has also supplied Becky’s requested Klang immersive IEM mixing technology: “I’ve used it on every tour I’ve done since 2018 - I have a Klang DMI card in each DiGiCo engine, and a pair of Mac Minis with a touchscreen control and a switching unit, so that I only need one screen.”

Taking in support from Clair Global’s worldwide operation, Take That’s This Life world tour will finish in Japan this winter, with audio overseen by Skan’s Chris Fitch.

In this month’s LSi, Steve Moles ventures to London's O2 as Take That bring the This Life tour to the capital

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