Photo: Steve Jennings
She doesn’t go out often, but when she does, Barbra Streisand goes big. On her recent 12-night/10-city Back to Brooklyn tour, she fronted a 72-piece orchestra, 80-voice choir, and welcomed guests Chris Botti on trumpet, Italian teen operatic tenors Il Volo, and her son, singer and actor Jason Emanuel Gould. For audio she carried five DiGiCo consoles, a 56-box Clair I-5/40-box I-3 system, 40 wedges, hundreds of mics, and a mobile recording truck helmed by her longtime colleague, producer/engineer Dave Reitzas.
Mix caught up with Barbra Streisand’s audio crew at the Hollywood Bowl for production load-in and saw her show at San Jose’s HP Pavilion. Between songs she got intimate—at times chatty and nostalgic, political and motherly. But when the music kicked in, she filled the house with her one-of-a-kind voice and untouchable performance.
Back to Brooklyn marked Streisand’s first tour since she returned to the stage in 1993 without her longtime sound partner, the legendary Bruce Jackson, who died in a plane crash in 2011. The legacy remained, however, as three of the core audio crew had been working with Streisand and Jackson since 2006, with front-of-house engineer Chris Carlton having joined the team in 2000 when Jackson took a hiatus to handle sound design for the Sydney Olympics.
Barbra Streisand’s FOH audio crew, from left: Kevin Gilpatrick, Assistant FOH Engineer; Chris Carlton, FOH Engineer/Sound Design; Bob Weibel, Systems Engineer/Clair Bros. Crew Chief; and Tom Ford, Audio Stage Manager.
Photo: Steve Jennings
Carlton mixed FOH on a DiGiCo SD7 with Kevin Gilpatrick beside him on an SD7-EX007 expander. Ian Newton mixed monitors for the artists using an SD7, Blake Suib handled monitors for the band on an SD10, and Steve Colby mixed down orchestra to stems on an SD10.
“The DiGiCo SD7 is a recent addition,” says Carlton. “Great sound, redundant mix engines, redundant PSUs. The channel count capability is paramount for a show this large. What really sets it apart is the Optocore option that enabled us to marry four different consoles to three fully loaded SD Racks. We could share inputs and create loops for stems and submixes all at 96k without any analog splitters or additional AD/DA conversion. The SD7-EX was added in Mirror Mode so Kevin could give me a hand at FOH with some of the finer mix details.
“I’m not using plug-ins for this tour,” Carlton continues. “Stock onboard reverbs, gates, and compressors were fine for most of the program material. The only additional outboard equipment used was a TC [Electronic System] 6000 for vocal and string reverb, Bricasti M7 for Chris Botti’s trumpet, and Summit DCL-200 for lead vocal.”
Barbra Streisand’s monitor engineers, from left: Jason Brace, RF Tech/Monitor Assistant; Blake Suib, Monitor Engineer (Orchestra); and Ian Newton, Monitor Engineer (Artist).
Photo: Steve Jennings
Streisand switched to an Audio-Technica 5400 Series mic this tour, chosen for her, Carlton says, because of its better rejection of unwanted ambience, which in turn helped maintain the orchestral balance no matter how much she moved around the stage.
DPA 4099 mics were used extensively up close on strings, with Schoeps CMC Mk4 for string ambiance. French horns and trumpets were miked with Milab DC96B. Woodwinds and reeds had Beyer M160s, and trombones Sennheiser 421s
The P.A. was all Clair Bros.: 56 I-5 cabinets for main and 180-degree side hangs, 40 I-3 for 270 degree and 360 degree hangs, 36 IDL for delay positions, 10 FF2 and 8 I-Micros for near-stage fill. Bob Weibel was the Clair crew chief. Ian Newton handles monitors for Streisand and guests onstage, as he has since 2006, while Blake Suib works with band and orchestra. This is Newton’s second time on the SD7, having tried it previously on Roger Waters’ The Wall tour. Suib is on an SD10 for the first time. Neither uses outboard effects, though Chris Botti brings his own reverb for Carlton to feed him. Streisand is not on ears, and 40 wedges ring the stage. “The A-T mic works very well with her movement,” Newton says. “I’ll fade them up and down as she moves about the ramps onstage to minimize spill into the orchestra mics. I’m sending the same mix to all the wedges using the Copy to Mix feature on the SD7. It does get heavy in the outputs.”
The 48 outputs on the SD10 are much appreciated by Suib. “We are traveling with all the first orchestra chairs and the whole woodwind section,” he says. “I have 16-channel Aviom personal mixing systems that I send stems to—all the band and some traveling orchestra have them. Then it’s just normal mixes for the people that don’t need to change anything.
“There are not many chances these days to work with this caliber of band and crew,” Suib concludes. “Sound is very important to Barbra, and she makes sure we have what we need to give her and the band the best there is. I think that she is the best singer of our time, and it shows every night. This is the first tour in a long time where everything is live, no tracks! It’s been just a real pleasure.”