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All Access: Shakira

The current Shakira U.S. tour hosts dueling Digidesign VENUE boards one at front of house and one at monitors. Fortunately, FOH engineer Brad Madix is

Shakira’s band comprises guitars/musical director Tim Mitchell, Ben Peeler (guitar/Koto player), bassist Jon Button, drummer Brendan Buckley, keyboardist Albert Menendez, percussionist Archie Pena and backup vocalist/guitarist Olgui Chirino.

The only piece of outboard gear that front-of-house engineer Brad Madix uses is the Clair Bros. version of the Lake IO, which he inserts on Shakira’s vocal for EQ. Shakira sings through a Sennheiser mic.

The current Shakira U.S. tour hosts dueling Digidesign VENUE boards — one at front of house and one at monitors. Fortunately, FOH engineer Brad Madix is comfortable behind a digital desk, while monitor engineer Vish Wadi takes the digital leap; on the previous Shakira tour, Wadi used a Midas H3000. Both are mostly relying on onboard effects rather than truckin’ racks of outboard goodies. Mix caught up with the tour in mid-August at San Jose, Calif.’s HP Pavilion.

Shakira FOH engineer Brad Madix

The last time Mix caught up with Madix, he was mixing Fort Minor on a Yamaha PM5D. “I’m a big fan of mixing in the digital environment,” Madix says. “Being able to call up any input or output and have it placed directly in front of me on the work surface allows me to manipulate small facets of the mix while staying focused on the overall mix. It also lets me make small changes while keeping up with the hundreds of cues we have written into the [Shakira] show. As for the VENUE, it’s great to have access to the same plug-ins that were used to mix the record.”

There are approximately 70 lines from the stage, in addition to 14 effects return channels and six channels of playback (CD, iPod, DAT) at FOH. “It’s a handful,” Madix concedes, “but since it all resides on one console, getting from one channel to the next is a snap. During a show, there are numerous changes to individual inputs [EQ, fader rides, mutes], but I spend most of my time with the VCAs in front of me. When a musician switches from one instrument to another, that ride is made on the input, which may or may not be on the top layer. I can still control the level with the VCA and I don’t have to move an inch. If an update to the EQ is necessary, I can call that input up with a click of the mouse and make the changes while keeping my hand on whatever VCA I might need to be riding at that point.”

The tour is carrying a Clair Bros. i4 line array system, augmented with i4b bass bins in the air and MD Systems’ T2 subs on the floor. “We have a main left and right column, 14 deep,” Madix says, “as well as offstage columns eight deep, which are reverse stereo image to throw some stereo information up into the side seating. Our front-fills are small, wedge-shaped cabinets called P2s used in mono to fill in the middle and close in on the sides. We are also carrying eight S4s as delay, which we use high in the back of the larger arenas.”

Monitor engineer Vish Wadi

This is monitor engineer Vish Wadi’s second tour with Shakira; previously, he used a Midas H3000. His VENUE board is configured for 96 input channels, effects returns and 24 mix buses, 77 inputs (including talkbacks) and three stereo effects channels; his rack comprises five DigiRack 7-band parametric EQs, six Fairchild 660 comps, nine DigiRack mono comps, four Impact comps, five DigiRack stereo comps, four ReVibe ‘verbs and three D-Vibe ‘verbs.

Bass/guitar tech Freddy Pinero Jr. with Jon Button’s Yamaha upright SVB-200. The pickup is a Piezo positioned directly below the bridge.

“The band and Shakira are using Future Sonics Ear Monitors,” Wadi says. “Shakira and five of the bandmembers who move around are on Sennheiser G2 Series ear monitors. Brendan [Buckley, drummer] and Albert [Menendez, keyboardist] are on Stewart hardwire in-ears. Shakira uses a modified Sennheiser 3000 Series wireless mic with a ME3005E capsule, which is modified for her.”

Madix on the Digidesign VENUE: “I cannot say enough about how helpful the HDx system was in rehearsals. Sitting ina room with Shakira and Tim Mitchell, Shakira’s MD, listening back to the performances and making changes to the mix in real time was indispensable. We were able to listen to a passage and stop it, then bat some comments around the room. Being able to immediately go back, manipulate the mix and hear the results saved us so much time. I also think it aided in forming a stronger and more productive working relationship between us.

“First of all, I haven’t a single bad word to say about mixing in the analog environment.
However, I think that digital platforms have their own obvious advantages, especially
in a situation where there is a large number of inputs and numerous cues. As for the
choice of the VENUE in particular, I was very curious about using it, of course. Digidesign very graciously had one delivered to rehearsals and even preset to an input list we had sent them. Within a day, I had a mix sketched out and I was experimenting with different plug ins. At this point, I’ve worked with almost every digital console available, and they each have their strengths. It’s hard to resist mixing on the same platform the record was recorded on, though.”

Click here for a pdf of the Shakira input list.

Guitar/Koto tech Andy Corns

Drum/percussion tech Luke Lowes

Archie Pena’s percussion mics include Audio-Technica ATM 35s (conga/bongos), ATM 25s (timbale/djembe), AE 3000 (tambuza), and ATM 4050s and AKG 414 (overheads/gong).