In support of her first album on Epic Records, Scarlet'sWalk, Tori Amos completed a whirlwind tour of North America,playing 31 shows in only six weeks. All sound reinforcement wasprovided by SSE Hire Limited of Birmingham, England, including the mainspeaker system, a Nexo Geo line array. Mix had the opportunityto catch the show inside the 2,000-capacity Chiles Center on theUniversity of Portland's campus, a multipurpose room used mainly forbasketball with a wooden salad-bowl roof and predictably pooracoustics.
Nominated for a TEC Award last year, each Geo speaker module is asmall 32-pound, 16-ohm enclosure, employing a 1.8kHz passive crossoverfor its 8-inch Neodymium woofer and a 1-inch driver on a unique benthorn whose geometry creates a common virtual point source.
Carrying four-dozen Nexo S805 Geo 5° modules on the tour, SSEsystem tech and crew chief Mike Rose deploys arrays that are 18cabinets deep with a single 30° Geo S830 downfill beneath. SixCD12 subwoofers hang just behind the line array from a bumper-barextension. The 80-pound subs house two slot-loaded 6-ohm 12-inchNeodymium woofers, each powered by separately processed channels ofamplification to provide 120° hypercardioid coverage.
SSE's custom road cases allow Rose to leave the Geos connected inbanks of four: They hold two sets in the 45-inch-long cases, with oneset face-down in the tray, and the next set in a second tray that fitsover the first. The CD-12 subs simply drop onto a 24×30-inch dollyto roll onto the truck in a stack. The system is powered by CAMCO“Vortex 4” switch-mode, Class-H amplifiers, with four16-ohm Geos per channel. Each side of the P.A. is powered by only fiveamps: three for the Geos and two for the CD-12 subs.
Rose uses Nexo's proprietary line array-design software, GeoSoft, tocalculate vertical angles for even coverage throughout the venue. Thesoftware accepts values for array height, number of cabinets,listening-area size and slope to provide optimal vertical-splay anglesand predict SPL at octave intervals from 500 to 8k Hz. An Angle Stardigital inclinometer's sensor is remotely mounted on the Geo's fly-barso that Rose can precisely set the rake of the line array with thefront and back motors.
FRONT AND CENTER
FOH engineer Mark Hawley has worked with Amos since 1994, with SSEproviding equipment all along. Prior to that, he worked with BeautifulSouth, Big Country, and Wet, Wet, Wet. While many engineers have aclose relationship with their artist, Hawley has not only engineeredboth Amos' recordings and live shows over the past eight years, butthey've been husband and wife since 1998. He mixes on a Midas XL3 witha 16-channel sidecar, which he calls the best-sounding live consoleever made, even preferring it to the XL4. “It's the nearest thingto a Neve in live consoles that I've heard,” he adds. “It'sa shame they don't make them anymore.”
They use Neumann KMS 150 vocal mics at both singing positions, whichHawley prefers to the 105. He employs a substantial vocal-processingchain, which begins with a Focusrite ISA 430 “ProducerPack” used for EQ and light compression, and ends with a BSS 901dynamic equalizer for frequency-specific compression. On this tour, hebegan using a Manley “Variable Mu” as a limiter in betweenthose two. “I used the Manley on the vocal in the studio,”he explains. “It certainly colors the vocal, warming it upconsiderably. And when she really goes for it, it takes the edgeoff.”
For vocal effects, Hawley relies on his old standby, the Lexicon480L, with one machine used as a vocal reverb set to a heavily modifiedFat Plate preset, and the second side used sparingly with settings fromits effects bank, like Illusion and Sudden Slap. He also has a 960 usedas a vocal delay. All three of these effects are ducked by keyingstereo compressors inserted on their returns with her dry vocal, aneffective technique that keeps the vocal clear and distinct whileemphasizing reverb tails. He uses a Yamaha SPX-990 on preset number 60,Bass Chorus, to fatten up the vocal, which he likes better than othertypes of doubling pitch-shifters.
PRESENTING A CLASSIC
Amos sits at the piano facing the monitor mix position on stageleft, listening to a stereo mix for her vocal, with a second stereopair of wedges for drums and bass. Directly behind her is a FenderRhodes with an apple-red Wurlitzer on top — played by swingingaround on her piano bench — and both have a Drawmer 1960 insertedon their direct channels. Offstage, behind monitor world, is a Lesliecabinet miked with a Beta 52 and a pair of 57s. On “Can't See NewYork,” the Rhodes is bused from the monitor desk like an effect,a technique first employed with her piano on the song“Horses” from the Boys for Pele album and tour.
Classically trained Amos plays her personal 9-foot Bosendorferconcert grand with its lid open on the tall stick. Hawley mikes it withthree AKG C414 mics — low strings and high strings, plus a thirdover the large sound hole in the harp — and inserts the FocusriteRed 2 and 3 for EQ and compression. He comments that there is so littleisolation from neighboring sound sources and that he is forced tosupplement these with a digital tone module driven from theBosendorfer's MIDI system. They currently use a Roland RD-150 digitalpiano that sounds natural and also doubles as a portable instrumentthat can be carried to her daily promotional appearances at radiostations.
Drummer Matt Chamberlain's kick drum is miked with a Shure Beta 52on an internal mount. A second lower-tuned kick drum, which also lacksa hole in its front head, is miked with an AKG C-414. Rack and floortoms are miked with Shure Beta 98s, and there's a 57 for the singleconga to his left.
This year, Hawley is using a 414 on the snare, which he switchedover to from the Neumann KM 140 used beneath it and also on high-hat.“Generally, when we finish an album, anything we really enjoyedwe try to take on the road with us,” he comments. The mostremarkable approach on the kit is the AKG C-12 overheads. Hawley usesthe time-honored method of spacing them equidistant from the snaredrum, but in this case, one C-12 is directly over the snare, while theother is at a 45° angle, near the ride cymbal.
Hawley employs outboard processing on nearly every channel. Bothkick drums use a Drawmer DS-201, while the snare uses a TL Audio EQ-2parametric tube EQ plus a Focusrite Red 3 compressor, whose otherchannel is used on the main kick. Drawmer gates are also used on thetoms and conga, as well as the send to the second 960 machine used fordrum reverb with a plate setting.
Jon Evans plays bass through David Eden cabinets, and Hawley usesAvalon tube DIs to take the direct signal out of the back of the SWRhead, supplemented with a direct feed from an effect pedal that isoccasionally used.
Dutchman Benny Veenestra is covering monitor chores for Hawley'slongtime partner Marcel van Limbeek; he's assisted onstage by SSE'sAndy Yates. Monitor world sports another Midas XL3 with a sidecar anduses at least as much outboard processing as FOH. Inserts include aFocusrite/Tube-Tech/BSS vocal chain, a GML/Manley piano chain and aDrawmer 1960 on overheads. Monitor effects include two more SPX-990s, aPCM-91, an Eventide Eclipse, a pair of TC M-3000s, plus another 480Lfor Amos' vocal reverbs.
SSE provides a 48-channel active BSS splitter rack with a dozenchannels of Focusrite Red 1 preamps used on the “money”channels. Floor monitors are SSE's proprietary 12PM monitors using KT9848 crossovers, EQ'd with TC 1128 graphics and again powered by CAMCOVortex 4 amps. Next to the split is the Pro Tools recording rack,housing a half-dozen Apogee AD-8000 converters and an Apple G4 in aMarathon PowerRack. If the musicians are not available for soundcheck,then the previous night's tracks can be played back through theP.A.
Mark Frink is Mix's sound reinforcement editor.
Portraits of Tori Amos onstage, by Steve Jennings
Photo by Steve Jennings
Photo by Steve Jennings
Photo by Steve Jennings