Last year, Bruce Springsteen was touring solo, showcasing the moody sounds of Devils & Dust. This year’s tour couldn’t be more different. In May 2006, The Boss released We Shall Overcome, a raucous celebration of American folk songs popularized by Pete Seeger, and now he’s taken his 17-piece Seeger Sessions Band on the road, playing a glorious mixture of roots music and reworked originals. The current tour began in April with a performance at Jazz Fest in New Orleans, followed by 10 European dates. Mix checked in with longtime engineers John Cooper (front of house) and Monty J. Carlo (monitors) when they came to the San Francisco Bay Area in early June for a stop at the Sleep Train Pavilion in Concord, Calif.
Springsteen is on a Shure UHF-R wireless with custom Audix OM-3 capsule that the tour’s staff engineered.
The band: Bruce Springsteen (vocals, guitar and harmonica), Sam Bardfeld (violin), Art Baron (tuba), Frank Bruno (guitar), Jeremy Chatzky (upright bass), Larry Eagle (drums), Charles Giordano (accordion/keyboards), Curtis King (vocals), Greg Liszt (banjo), Lisa Lowell (vocals), Eddie Manion (sax), Cindy Mizelle (vocals), Mark Pender (trumpet), Marty Rifkin (pedal steel guitar), Richie “La Bamba” Rosenberg (trombone), Patti Scialfa (vocals), Marc Anthony Thompson (vocals) and Soozie Tyrell (violin).
“My mixing console is a Digidesign VENUE D-Show,” FOH engineer John Cooper says. “No outboard gear at all; I’m using plug-ins for all dynamics and effects.” Cooper is using somewhere in the neighborhood of 72 channels, which includes audience mics. “I’m using Shure’s DFR11s for extra gain before feedback when Bruce gets in front of the P.A. in the sheds,” Cooper adds.
“This tour with Bruce & The Seeger Sessions Band is quite different than anything I’ve done with Bruce in the past,” he continues. “We have 18 musicians onstage, sometimes 20 when we go with a six-man horn section. Lots of extended solos — very dynamic, very percussive. I’m also tracking this to Pro Tools HD. [I’ve got] 72 tracks, which are primarily for archival, but we have already used mixes for the Internet as some of the tracking for an upcoming project.
“I must give a tip of the mixing hat to my system engineer, John Bruey. He is second-to-none when it comes to keeping me out of trouble. As always, the Audio Analysts guys take really good care of me out here. The shop staff looks after things with great detail.”
Audio Analysts (Colorado Springs, Colo.) is providing the tour’s P.A., which comprises a JBL VerTec system with two JBL 4880 subs flown over 12 to 14 4889s; outfill is with Audio Analysts Aalto cabinets. According to front-of-house engineer John Cooper, JBL 4887s are also used for near-field coverage, with additional subs on the deck.
Drum tech Bob Weber takes care of the drum mic setup (Shure 91, kick; SM57, snare top; Beta 98s, snare bottom/bongos/floor toms; and KSM 32s, overheads).
Monitor engineer Monty J. Carlo with daughter Zoe
According to monitor engineer Monty J. Carlo, because of the tour’s sheer size, he has opted for a digital console [Yamaha PM1D]. “Between the number of inputs coming from the stage (72) and the outputs required for 18 to 20 bandmembers, depending on the day, it was my only real choice. I first used the 1D on The Rising tour. When I saw the size and scope of this tour, I knew that a digital console would be the only way to go. I looked around and nothing offered the inputs and configurable outputs capable of dealing with a band this size and still be able to stay with a manageable footprint. Being able to have scenes programmed for each song helps keep my sanity. The instrumentation on the songs can change drastically from one to another. To have to deal with that in an analog world would be one thing with a four- or six-piece band, but it would be next to impossible with one of this size.
“Bruce has an active band mix going on,” Carlo says. “I’m kept pretty busy riding solos for him. Some of the arrangements have seven or eight people soloing throughout the song. Some of the bandmembers’ mixes are set up to follow the solos, as well. With each song programmed separately, I’m saved a lot of headaches with song-to-song changes.”
Front-of-house engineer John Cooper (right) and systems engineer John “Boo” Bruey
“Of the 18 to 20 people onstage,” monitor engineer Monty J. Carlo says, “the only musicians who aren’t on ear monitors are Bruce and the drummer, Larry [Eagle]. They’re both using Audio Analysts 1×15-inch wedges. Everybody else is set up with Westone ES2 IEMs and either Sennheiser G2s or Shure PSM 700s. I only had access to 16 channels of Sennheiser at the beginning of the tour and ended up putting four of the horn players on PSM 700s.”