All Photos: Steve Jennings
Joss Stone is touring in support of her third album, Introducing Joss Stone, which she has described as finally communicating “who I am as an artist.” And like the album, the tour has been an exercise in versatility, touching down everywhere from the House of Blues and other mid-size club venues to arenas and sheds. Mix caught the stop at the Warfield Auditorium in San Francisco, where the soulful songstress demonstrated a musical sensibility beyond her years — with the pipes to match.
Although the tour has been relying on local speaker stacks and racks, Clair Showco is providing all front-of-house, monitor and stage gear. Monitor engineer Larry “Filet” Mignogna spec'd out the equipment, using the gear list from the previous tour as a point of departure and building in options for experimentation. “I pretty much went into it blind,” he says. “So I spec'd a lot of things — just to be versatile — and it's a good thing because things have changed a lot in terms of inputs, instrumentation; bandmembers have changed, some are on in-ears, some aren't.”
Most of the musicians are wearing personal monitors, but the technology was a tough sell for some who were new to touring. “They're not for everybody,” Mignogna concedes, although there were certainly converts. “The horn players are James Brown's players, and even though they're old touring guys, I got them on in-ears and they love it.”
Stone, however, settled on wearing only one IEM. Mignogna supplements her single-ear mix with wedges and sidefills for a seamless effect. “I just try to make a blend of both so you can't tell where the sound is coming from; it's just there around you.”
Monitor engineer Larry ”Filet“ Mignogna at the DiGiCo D5 monitor desk
Stone sings into a Sennheiser SKM 5200 and is fed a simple mix; the vocals are treated with a BSS 901 compressor only. “Most of my compression is in my finger,” he says with a laugh, adding that frequency-dependent compression is key to getting her voice to cut through her mix. “She'll go from a whisper to a full scream in one second. I use the BSS because the tonal quality is different when she's singing soft and singing loud.” The rest of the band mixes are also straightforward — just basic reverb with short settings.
Mignogna mixes on a DiGiCo D1, and with 11 musicians onstage, he's maxed out his 32 outs. One of the biggest challenges on this tour is determining how much P.A. the musicians are hearing over a different system each night. “I pretty much have to make a whole new mix for the sides and wedges.”
The first U.S. leg wrapped up in Florida before heading out to Europe for monster festivals Glastonbury, Live Earth and the Concert for Diana at the new Wembley Stadium in London, returning Stateside in August.
Sarah Jones is the editor of Mix.