Los Angeles, CA (March 8, 2023)—Lizzo may have won Record of the Year for her “About Damn Time” single, but her current tour is about a good time. The singer, currently rolling through Europe, made headlines when she threw in an unlikely R&B cover of German nu-metal act Rammstein’s “Du Hast” to the tour’s Berlin arena show, but the unexpected is pretty much what one should expect when it comes to the singer/flutist. Since the start of Lizzo: The Special Tour last September, Solotech has provided production for the worldwide journey, with FOH engineer Nick “Gauge” Todd and monitor mixer Rico Gonzales tackling live sound mixes throughout the tour.
The two engineers have been using SSL Live L550+ consoles to handle tour sound; Gonzales additionally uses an SSL Fusion processor and an The Bus+ compressor and dynamic EQ, while Todd has also recently added a Fusion at FOH. Gonzales has mixed Stevie Wonder’s monitors on an SSL Live console since 2017, so he suggested they both go with the same desk for the Lizzo excursion.
Todd, at front-of-house, shared, “I find myself using less EQ with this console,” he said. The FOH pro has been with Lizzo since 2021 and has also worked with Doja Cat, SZA, H.E.R., Normani, Vince Staples and others. Sometimes, things going straight through the desk and the preamps with no EQ sound great on their own.” That said, he added, “The console does so much. There’s lot of onboard processing—and I use a lot of it. You really don’t need anything else but the desk. And I honestly love the way the faders feel. They give me real nice feedback.”
Meanwhile, Gonzales was clear about why he made the switch: “My main reason is the sonics. Then, the onboard processing and all the EQ.” He was previously using a variety of outboard hardware but has been eliminating some of it in favor of the SSL Live’s onboard processing. “The dynamics don’t feel ‘hard’ unless you want them to. They’re very, very smooth, very analogue feeling. I’ve been using the Blitzer on the bass,” he said, adding, “and a little bit on kick and snare and the drum bus. Before, I was using an outboard dynamics processor, but I’m trying to see how much I can get away with using on the console, because it makes life easier.”
Gonzales does carry some outboard with his Live console, though, and two key pieces are the SSL Fusion and The Bus+. He brought one particular mixing practice that he developed while working with Wonder to Lizzo’s live production, where he generates 10 mixes for the artist, her five-piece band and the production crew from about 72 stage inputs. For Lizzo’s in-ear mix, “I mix off the left/right bus. I learned this from Stevie, because I mix only his ears,” he said. (Wonder’s live production employs a second monitor mixer just for the band.) “I make a band bus—a mix-minus—and I process that with an SSL Fusion and SSL The Bus+, then it goes into a hardware limiter.”
With that processing chain, Gonzales continued, “It keeps everything nice and firm in her ears, like she’s singing to TV tracks. Then, her mic and the audience live on top of that mix. If the drums or anything hit a certain peak that limiter keeps it under control, so everything stays around the same RMS levels.” On the Fusion, he added, “I’m using just a little spread and color. I’m using the Vintage Drive and the Stereo Image a little bit. That’s all in the chain that’s on just the music bus. It keeps it nice and in-your-face.”