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Beck and the Flaming Lips

Last fall, Beck and the Flaming Lips, two enduring icons of modern rock, teamed up for a somewhat unusual tour: The Flaming Lips doubled as the opening act and as Beck's backing band.

Last fall, Beck and the Flaming Lips, two enduring icons of‘90s modern rock, teamed up for a somewhat unusual tour: TheFlaming Lips doubled as the opening act and as Beck’s backing band.Mix caught the show at the historic Paramount Theatre inOakland, Calif. The evening began with an energetic performance by theFlaming Lips. Beck then treated the crowd to a relaxed acousticperformance that included a healthy dose of material from his latestalbum, Sea Change. The Flaming Lips then rejoined Beck onstage,and the two acts played through a wide sampling of Beck favorites,including tracks from Midnight Vultures and Odelay.Beck’s scaled-down solo performance was framed on both sides by twoover-the-top stage shows. From a technical standpoint, the tour alsoeschewed convention; FOH engineer Jon Lemon mixed from a prototypeDigico D5 digital console.

Beck uses a Neumann KMS 105, while all of the other vocal micsare Shure SM58s. The miking scheme for the drum kit includes NeumannKMS 103s on kick and toms, Sennheiser E609 on snare and Neumann KM 184sfor overheads. Other stage mics include Neumann TLM 193s on guitars.The multiple keyboard rigs and the bass were taken direct usingCountryman DIs.

The main P.A. consists of Showco Prism cabinets and subs. Thetour is carrying 20 full-range cabinets and 10 subs. All of theamplification comes from Crown.

FOH engineer Jon Lemon, whose recent FOH credits include TheCure, Depeche Mode, Oasis and Nine Inch Nails, mixes from a Digico D5digital console, capable of 192 inputs arranged in layers and accessedthough fader banks. Each channel includes dynamics, multiband EQ,insert/send effects and extensive automation features. A majority ofthe parameters are recalled and adjusted via flat-panel touchscreens.

“We did an acoustic tour [over the summer],” Lemonexplains, “and that’s when I really wanted to get a digitalconsole because we were doing 1,000 to 1,500-seat theaters, but Icouldn’t get one in time that I liked. Then the whole Digico D5 thingstarted happening, and they offered me one of the only two prototypesfor the tour. The console has all onboard compressors and gates, andthey’re the best digital gates that I’ve ever heard. Still, for thatextra warmth, I use the Manley VoxBox on Beck’s vocals, the Summit DCL200s on the main backing vocals, the TLA 100 on the bass and, ofcourse, the Smart compressor on the left and right. In all honesty, Ifind myself relying on them less and less because the compressorsonboard are really good. But there is still something about themovement of valves for your main bass and vocal.

“I suppose the other interesting thing is that we have aPyramix hard disk recording system from Switzerland,” Lemoncontinues. “It gives me up to 112 tracks, but in actual fact, I’mjust using 56. And I can do an hour and 40 minutes on about 40gigabytes. The benefit is that it splits off at the digital interfaceon the back of the console. The next day, I can come in and just returnthe multitrack straight onto the console, and it comes in its inputs atexactly the gain the microphone was at the night before. I’ve got theself-powered Tannoys here; I can just start dialing in more stuff.Since I started doing this, I always dreamt about being able to comeinto the gig without the musicians and really hone down thesound.”

Lemon also carries selections from TC Electronic, including theSystem 6000 Reverb, and an Eventide H300 for occasional vocaldoubling.

Monitor engineer John Shearman, a longtime fixture with theSmashing Pumpkins, mixes both IEMs and traditional wedge monitors witha Midas XL4 console running 46 mono and three stereo inputs. Beck usesa Sennheiser 3050 wireless IEM system with custom ear molds from FutureSonics. All of the onstage monitors are Showco SRM wedges and Prismsidefills. Shearman manages seven wedge mixes and Beck’s IEMs. Thedrummer and keyboard player also use IEMs at varying points during theshow for click tracks.

“I’m now just mainly using the sidefills for the FlamingLips when they’re the opening act,” Shearman says. “Beckhas really gotten into the in-ears on this tour. He’s using themconstantly now, so we don’t use the sidefills and wedges as much. OnBeck’s vocal, I have the TLA 100As: a main and a spare. And I’ve gotDrawmer gates on the kick and toms, and there are compressors on thekick and certain keyboards. Some of the keyboard stuff tends to get abit freaky. I’ve also got a dbx 1046 on Beck’s in-earmix.”

Also in Shearman’s rack is a Lexicon PCM 70, which is used onBeck’s vocal, as well as a complement of Klark Teknik EQs.

Portraits of Beck onstage by Mix photographer SteveJennings

Photo: Steve Jennings

Photo: Steve Jennings

Photo: Steve Jennings

Photo: Steve Jennings

Beck FOH engineer John Lemon (left) and system tech Jim Ragus(right).
Photo: Steve Jennings

Beck guitar tech Jeff Tweedy.
Photo: Steve Jennings