Three SSLs for the road for Céline Dion
Monday, 23 March 2020
The engineering team: Denis Savage, Seb Boucher and Martin Paré
USA - Céline Dion recently brought the curtain down on her residency at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas after more than 1,100 sold-out performances and embarked on a 12-month tour in support of her Courage album.
Solotech has provided sound, lighting, video and rigging - everything except the stage - for the Courage World Tour, including multiple Solid State Logic Live L550 digital mixing consoles, one at front-of-house and two at monitors.
Denis Savage, who has been Dion’s tour manager and FOH engineer for several decades, began using SSL’s Live series desk at Caesars Palace in 2013. But this tour has provided the opportunity to implement some changes that have further enhanced the performance of all three consoles on the production, he says. “Just before Christmas we switched everything to 96 kHz and the difference was incredible. Everything got lighter and smoother and brighter.”
The production also switched band monitor engineer Martin Paré and Jean-Sébastien Boucher, Dion’s engineer, to L550 consoles at the end of last year. “Everybody in the band was very happy about it,” reports Savage. Boucher has been using an early version of L550 software that enables him to control an analogue SSL Sigma Delta summing mixer to eliminate latency in Dion’s in-ear monitor signal chain. That control functionality is now standard in the recent SSL Live V4.10 release.
Francois ‘Frankie’ Desjardins, systems engineer for Savage and Dion for the past 27 years, is also VP of R&D and technological solutions for Solotech. Desjardins’ design for the latest touring rig supports up to 128 lines from the stage. Those inputs pass via DirectOut Technologies Prodigy.MC analogue-to-MADI converters over fibre at 96 kHz to a main router, which feeds a second DirectOut Technologies router.
This second router feeds DirectOut splitters that output to two SSL Blacklight II MADI systems, one for the L550 at FOH and the other for the two desks at the monitor position. A third split allows RF engineer Marc Theriault to monitor the Shure Axient wireless microphone system and other channels. “It looks complex, but it isn’t,” says Desjardins. “We just integrated some redundancy into the design.”
The tour is also carrying a new L-Acoustics speaker system comprising left and right hangs each of 14 K1 over six K2 arrays with side-hangs of 18 K2 modules each. Twelve flown K1-SB subs per side are augmented by 40 KS21 subs, in cardioid configuration, below the deck. Additional K2, Kara, 5XT and X8 speakers handle delays and front fill.
Every show is recorded into Avid Pro Tools systems at FOH and monitors. “We have the possibility to record 128 inputs at 96k,” says Desjardins. The exact number of channels varies, depending on whether Dion is performing the French or English language version of her show, he reports. In addition to Dion, the band includes drums, percussion, bass, two guitars, a keyboard player/band leader, three background singers, a four-piece string section and a three-piece brass section. “There are also some crowd mics,” he says.
Dion’s most recent residency at the Colosseum, simply entitled Celine, spanned nine years. “So the legacy of the Caesar’s show is in this console for touring,” says Desjardins. “Of course, we had to adapt to the new environment, but what is great about the SSL is that you are able to add or remove channels and change configurations without losing anything.”
(Jim Evans)

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