Have you ever seen a crocodile in a zoo? It sits there - an armoured monster so highly developed it hasn’t evolved for 60 million years - and doesn’t move. Something similar was going on in Manchester in late June. The performance, in terms of execution, was without imperfection, apart that is, from the interminable changes. Every time the show approached anything like the critical velocity so essential for momentum, they threw it away with a trip to make-up. The singing was crystal, even if Joe Walsh did look like a man recovering from a severe stroke when he sang, and the playing was note perfect. But it was lifeless. Tough job for the production then?
As video director Kate Ferris said, "this is strictly I’mag presentation." Kate is a veteran of concert video, though her work is infrequently seen in the UK. She regularly directs for Michael Jackson, Gloria Estefan and Cher to name but three, and it was apparent that in terms of demand, this was fairly low key for her. The two screens (four when they play in-the-round), and all other video kit comes from Nocturne in the US. The projectors are probably of most interest, being DLP 10kWs from Digital Projection in Atlanta, which I’m assured are the brightest for their rating, and very straightforward and reliable.
"There’s no VT in this show, apart from the credits at the end," said Ferris. "It’s something Chris [Lamb, production manager] wanted." Like a movie, it lists everyone on the tour, right down to the truck drivers and caterers. Nice touch.
A surprise for me was finding a Clair Brothers S4 system hanging out in the hall, but house engineer JD Brill had good reason to stick with the ‘old and trusted’ rather than Clair’s new I4 line array. "I have no experience with it," as good a reason as any, but it reminded me of one thing, and this is no detriment to Brill’s ability on the night. In my two decades of touring, I spent a lot of time on CBA tours; most of their engineers are superbly trained - they all know S4s inside out. But put them in a festival situation with someone else’s PA and problems occur. To me that rigorous adherence to CBA practice and ethics could ultimately prove an evolutionary blind alley. I have yet to talk with a CBA engineer who’s really happy touring an I4 rig. Diversity makes for strength.
But it sounded good, though Brill leans a bit heavily on the bright side of mid-upper, which is understandable with the vocal preponderance of the music, but tiring on the ears for an almost three-hour show. "I think everyone is listening for the vocals and guitars," he said. Everything else takes second place." And Brill had some problems catching those voices, microphones being something foisted upon him, rather than chosen. "I’d like them all on 87Cs, but instead we have a mix and some are using Neuman KMS105s."
Mike Prowda shares monitors with Mike Pirch, the two men using ATI Paragon consoles, splitting the 11 musicians between them, all of whom use one In Ear (Sennheiser) with Clairs’ 12Am wedges for all. A bastard arrangement, but fortunately Prowda reports they (the band) like it very quiet on stage, so maybe that makes it manageable.
This is a Steve Cohen design, but operated by long time side-man, and now business partner, Joel Young. Another regular collaborator of Cohen’s, Jim Day, designed the set. Based on a Frank Lloyd Wright building, its restrained clean lines give some presence to an otherwise bare stage necessitated by playing in-the-round.
The LSD rig includes lots of Coemar products, including the new CF7 HE X and CF7 WZ washlight, and from High End the X.Spot. For some bizarre reason, the band specifically forbade the use of magentas and mauve, r