Peter Gabriel's first tour in nearly a decade, which stopped at two dozen North American cities in late 2002, featured an in-the-round arena stage conceived by Robert Le Page, who also designed Gabriel's 1993 Secret World tour. The sound system, a collaboration between Firehouse Productions and AudioTek, was also no ordinary speaker package. Because Gabriel's latest album, Up, explores a vertical design theme, it was only fitting that the sound system largely consisted of line arrays, with associated amp racks flown above. Mix caught the show in Boston.
The main speaker system employed four clusters, each made up of a dozen L-Acoustic V-DOSC speakers with three of the smaller dv-DOSC models hung beneath. Two of these, angled outward a few degrees, were aimed down the longer axis of the arena and were mirrored — with L/R channels reversed — on the opposite side of the center-floor stage. Twelve-box arrays of dv-DOSC units aimed at the arena's sides completed the stereo image, which could be detected throughout most of the venue. Six-box columns of E-V MTL quad-18 subs were flown at each side of the stage, providing even low-end coverage without causing bass build-up in the center. AudioTek's CSW-118 subs supplemented the lows at the circular stage's perimeter; frontfill was provided by a ring of JBL's new VerTec VT 4887 compact line array modules. AudioTek's John “Drano” Drane and crew chief Greg “Chico” Lopez flew the rig, while L'Acoustic designer Florent Bernard made daily calculations for trim height and splay for even coverage.
The system is powered by a half-dozen double-wide racks, with QSC PowerLight 9.0 amps on the lows and 4.0 amps for mids and highs. The in-the-round stage requires that amplifiers also be flown; Firehouse's Tim Fraleigh climbed into the tech grid to make final connections. To accommodate the long signal runs from the mix position, AudioTek chief engineer Scott Harmala implemented QSC's RAVE system. The XTA DP-226 processors in AudioTek's drive rack were fitted with an AES I/O option to take digital 24-bit/48kHz outputs from the FOH Yamaha PM-1D's matrix and feed them to redundant master/slave QSC RAVE units. From there, signal was shipped over 1,000-foot fiber-optic runs to two flown amp-rack positions, which were also cross-connected. The complete fault-tolerant digital signal path also carried QSControl amplifier control and telemetry signals.
Mix engineer Jim Warren, well-known for his FOH work with Radiohead over the past decade, supplemented the PM-1D's internal effects and dynamics with a couple of TC Electronic M•One reverbs and a TC D•Two delay, plus a Tube-Tech CL2A compressor on Gabriel's headset mic and a dbx 160S compressor on his handheld.
Firehouse principal Bryan Olsen has toured with Gabriel for the past two decades. Assisted by Bob Lewis, Olsen operated two Midas Heritage 3000 consoles to provide in-ear mixes for Gabriel, his six bandmembers, along with the Blind Boys of Alabama, plus Hukwe and Charles Zawose, both RealWorld Records artists from Tanzania. Other than Gabriel's and Rachel Z's keyboards and Ged Lynch's drums, the revolving round stage was bare. The monitors were used to display a common view of Emagic's Logic Platinum, which is used to play additional backing tracks and as an elaborate cue system for the performers.
RF tech Jeff Briggette coordinated over 30 wireless frequencies daily. Shure PSM-700 systems were used for in-ear mixes, along with Aphex Dominators and Olsen's company-branded Firehouse 6500 custom ear molds. Vocal mics were all Shure UHF wireless with Beta 87 handhelds for Gabriel and the Blind Boys, plus WCM16 hypercardioid condenser headsets for everyone else. Also wireless were David Rhodes' and Richard Evans' guitars and Tony Levin's Stick. Evans also played a flute through a WCM16 headset mic that fed his own effects rack, and wireless WL50 lavs were used for Zawose's drums and hand percussion. Because the stage was bare of floor monitors, the Blind Boys and Hukwe and Zawose, who opened the show and joined in on a couple of songs, were also fitted with IEMs.
The ambitious production required long hours to load in daily, as most of the contents of 11 trucks ended up in the air. The immense workload, combined with multiple back-to-back shows, meant that soundchecks were simply not possible on some days. The event contains many surprises, and there are plans to return to the U.S. for a 2003 leg after a spring tour in Europe.
Mark Frink isMix's sound reinforcement editor.