Arena rock is back in full swing as we enter into summer touring. Playing to a packed and jubilant crowd, Queen (who hasn’t toured in nearly 26 years) with Paul Rodgers rocked the 18,000-plus-capacity San Jose, Calif., HP Pavilion in early April. With fill-in vocalist Rodgers (of Bad Company) and two original members — drummer Roger Taylor and guitarist Brian May — the crowd was able to relive the magic of “Bohemian Rhapsody” with archival concert footage of deceased original frontman Freddie Mercury projected on giant video screens. However, the 25-song, two-and-a-half hour show did not keep the crew “under pressure.”
Front-of-house engineer Trip Khalaf at the Midas board
Front-of-house engineer Trip Khalaf has been mixing every Queen show since 1977. On this tour, he’s manning a Midas XL4 board, using 56 channels. The tour is also carrying a full rig, complete with a Clair Bros. I4 P.A. system.
Despite the hectic 23-date touring schedule, which takes Queen and crew through major arenas across the U.S. and into Canada, Khalaf finds his gig quite enjoyable — perhaps having a bit too much fun as he jokes around with Mix. “I have no idea what I’m doing here,” Khalaf says with a laugh. “I was making big money dubbing Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers into Armenian for the last few years and was told to come to the rehearsal studio to collect the bags of cash the producers normally slip me. I am being held hostage by these aging British rock gods. These people are all crazy!”
Monitor engineer Graham Blake (right) and monitor tech Patrick Murphy
At monitor world, engineer Graham Blake is using an analog Midas Heritage 3000 board. Rack gear comprises Klark Teknik DN-3600 EQs, dbx 160 compressors and Drawmer 201 gates, with a few Yamaha SPX-990s thrown in for effects.
“The band is on both wired and wireless Shure Beta 87Cs for all vocals onstage,” says Blake. “Drummer Roger Taylor is using in-ears on a couple of songs whenever he is not behind his drum kit, and Paul Rodgers is on ears the entire show. We are using the Shure PSM 700 systems. Roger has Ultimate Ears molds and Paul has Westone molds on his.”
According to Brian May’s guitar tech, Justin Crew (pictured on left with Pete Malandrone [aka, “Captain George Back Stabber”], May’s setup comprises Vox AC30 amps, Mike Hill custom amp/loop switcher, Sennheiser radio system, Dunlop wah-wah, TC Electronic G-Force and Rocktron Intelliflex XL delay/effects.
The band is also out with a full complement of guitars, including Brian May’s custom Red Special (homemade), two Fryer custom copy guitars, two Guyton custom copy guitars, two Guild 12-string acoustics and Yamaha nylon-string guitars using Avalon DIs and Korg tuners, run and maintained by “us pirates,” says Crew with a laugh.
Roger Taylor’s drum tech, Nigel Burchett, is miking the kick drum with a Shure Beta 91 (inside) and a Shure Beta 52 (in the hole). “There are Shure SM57s on the top and bottom of the snare,” Burchett continues. “All of the toms are miked using Shure SM98s, and the octos have a pair of Shure SM57s: one on the two highs and one on the low. The hi-hat has an AKG C451 with a CK1 capsule on it, and the overheads are Milab DC-96Bs.”