Despite being best known from the modern medium of television singing and reality shows, X Factor winner McElderry's Set Your Soul Alive tour harks back to tours of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, when acts would embark on seemingly never-ending national treks.
Criss-crossing the UK, from Billingham to Yeovil, Hastings to Weston-super-Mare, taking in dozens of other provincial venues, Yamaha and Dante technology means that the current tour is a very different proposition to those of the past.
"We did the preliminary dates in 2013 on a Yamaha M7CL-48ES at FOH and an LS9-32 on monitors, as restrictions on stage space and transport weight meant there was no way we could put another M7 or a pair of PM5Ds on it," says Steve Davies, Subfrantic founder and the tour's production manager and monitor engineer.
"However, we knew that we would need more channels. Having previously installed three CLs in a church, I was aware of the capabilities of the CL series and the flexibility that Dante would offer. So when this year's dates were confirmed, it was the perfect reason to invest in a pair of CL5s."
The Yamaha system comprises a CL5 at FOH and one on monitors, two Rio3224-D i/o units on stage, with a Rio1608-D at the FOH position. And with Dante networking, Steve and the team have been able to provide an audio solution that makes a world of difference between a lengthy provincial UK tour in 2014 and those of four or five decades ago.
Dante has allowed Steve to complement the CL5's onboard processing with Waves plugins, running Multirack via Dante Virtual Soundcard on a MacBook Pro. But that is just the start of it - a second MacBook Pro runs Dante controller for patching and a 64 track recording of each show via Steinberg Nuendo Live. A third one runs a backup recording at FOH, a fourth runs playback tracks and a click from stage, with a fifth as a backup. Each of these is then connected into the Dante network via a Cisco switch and a single length of Cat5e cable.
"It's a four piece band, plus Joe, and the original show featured stereo playback and a click track. But with Dante and the CLs we've been able to expand it to 18 tracks. If you wanted to do that before, you needed a bunch of DIs, lots of looms and had to battle with the ever-increasing risk of patching errors and cable failures. Plus you ended up touring HD24s, which is nothing short of annoying," says Steve.
"Dante has got rid of all of that. One network, one clock and up to 64 tracks of playback over a single Cat5e cable, easily patchable via Dante Controller to anywhere else on the network. It allows things which make a big difference to the production - like having a guide vocal track for rehearsals, so the band can play around with arrangements during soundchecks, but Joe has the maximum opportunity to rest his voice between shows."
One thing that hasn't changed on such tours over the years is that budgets are always tight. The CL5's comprehensive facilities packed into such a small size and weight have made all the difference on this one.
"Yamaha has managed to fit a lot into a small package, without it being too small to access everything fairly easily. I can do things that would never have been possible before and it's the same at FOH, meaning a much smaller seat kill, which is crucial in venues of the type we're playing," says Steve. "It also has huge benefits for transport - we've managed to get the entire production into just one van.
"The support from Yamaha and Audinate has been also fantastic. Yamaha is very proactive at improving software based on user feedback. Even in the short period we've have the CL5s, they've become even better, more powerful and easier to use."