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Cher: An MGM Classic

Cher Live at the Theater at MGM National Harbor

It was an evening with Cher, which means the audience got a history lesson on the pop music of the past 50 years—and, of course, the over-the-top version. She flaunted her various incarnations, from ’60s hippie during her days as half of Sonny & Cher to Indian squaw; then from disco queen to rock goddess. Mix caught her back in September at one of the only two locations where she performed in 2017, The Theater at MGM National Harbor, a year-old venue just outside of Washington, D.C.

Tony Blanc is Cher’s FOH engineer, at this venue and at another MGM venue, the Monte Carlo in Las Vegas. Both venues provide racks and stacks—L-Acoustics at The Park and JBL at the MGM National Harbor. The tour carries audio control, video and lights, provided by Montreal-based Solotech.

Both FOH and monitor positions featured DiGiCo SD7 consoles, about 70 inputs in use, with six channels of Summit 200 compression and two Bricastis, plus Lake EQ. Monitor effects are provided by a four-engine TC6000.

Cher’s customized, handheld microphones are Sennheiser SKM5200s. Guitar is captured via an ISO box with TLM104 and SM57. Kick drum has a syn901, plus the Audix D5; the snare an e905, toms e904 and cymbals ATM450s. The remaining inputs are Neve or Radial Direct Boxes.

As for the mix, “One might assume it’s simple,” Blanc says, “but Cher’s music crosses every genre. [That’s meant that] we’ve had to rotate a few players this year. It’s easy to get players to cover the rock tunes, but to find those who also have the finesse for the disco material is hard. And like any live performance, what might be a perfect mix might not work when we have to please the eye, due to the visual qualities of the show. The solos and the features need to pop, so my fingers are always on the faders.”

What was notable about mixing at the MGM National Harbor, which holds about 3,000 (and where Cher and company will return in February), was its size. “The MGM National Harbor is a much smaller venue than The Park, and we loved the show being so close,” he said, noting how the JBL system is exposed and covers the room well. “The room itself is very dead, and I’m able to run a lot of reverb and color the sound as I wish.”