Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr perform onstage for The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to The Beatles at the Los Angeles Convention Center on January 27, 2014 in Los Angeles.
Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage
For most, Grammy Week is all about preparations for the Sunday awards telecast on CBS. But for freelance broadcast mixer Larry Reed, the week revolved around the preparation and execution of two other events. On Friday, January 24, 2014, Reed mixed the annual MusiCares “Person of the Year” concert honoring iconic singer/songwriter Carole King. Three days later, he was back in the OB truck to mix the live performances for The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to The Beatles TV special.
“Both of these were once-in-a-lifetime events, and I’m very proud to have been a part of them,” says Reed, who also mixes for the Queen Latifah Show. As the broadcast mixer, Reed specified Shure microphones and wireless for both shows, with the audio gear being supplied by Delicate Productions. “I’m a big fan of Shure wireless systems,” Reed notes. “They’re incredibly reliable, and I love the way they sound. I specified a mix of KSM9 and SM58 capsules, depending on what the artist preferred. We also used Shure PSM in-ear monitor systems on both shows. When it’s a live show with no second chances, I don’t hesitate to specify Shure.”
Honoree Carole King performs onstage at 2014 MusiCares Person Of The Year Honoring Carole King at Los Angeles Convention Center on January 24, 2014 in Los Angeles.
Photo: Mark Davis/WireImage
The wireless microphones were Shure UHF-R systems, with 32 channels required at the MusiCares event and 22 for the Beatles tribute. Most were handheld, with a couple of bodypack channels to accommodate horn-mounted BETA 98As.
The events occurred in Hall B of the Los Angeles Convention Center, adjoining the Staples Center, where the Grammy Awards were being staged. Camarillo, Calif.-based Delicate Productions was responsible for frequency coordination and system design as well as live sound inside the venue.
“For the Carole King event, coordinating with Grammy rehearsals was important,” reports Smoother Smyth, founder and CFO of Delicate Productions. “Fortunately, we’ve been doing this a few years now, and everyone works very well together. The synergy between the recording truck and the stage elements was seamless, and it’s fair to say we had zero issues with RF performance at both events.”
Broadcast mixer Larry Reed
Larry Reed’s responsibilities revolved around the recording of the events. All audio from both shows was captured digitally, for archival purposes and postproduction. “Everything gets its own separate track, plus a backup,” he explains. “I believe we used 122 tracks of Pro Tools for the Carole King event, plus backup. I also do a live 2-mix for the director to cut on, and for the post guys to use as a guide. So, at the end of the day, it had better be there and sounding good. Ultimately, that’s why Shure is always my wireless system of choice.”
Both programs featured a host of major artists paying musical tribute and concluded with performances by the honorees. All vocals were done on Shure wireless systems unless the artist had a preference or contractual commitment to another brand. “Between the KSM9 and SM58 capsules, you’ve got great coverage for different vocal styles, and the results were outstanding,” reports Reed. “Both shows sounded great, in the control room and out in the venue.”
The MusiCares “Person of the Year” event for Carole King was hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and opened with a duet by Steven Tyler and LeAnn Rimes, singing “Hi De Ho (That Old Sweet Roll).” The event featured a house band on the main stage, plus a second stage in the middle of the room. “We called that the center pod, and it was mostly used for acoustic performances,” Reed recounts. “Jason Mraz, Zac Brown, and Sara Bareilles performed together out there, and Lady Gaga performed 'You’ve Got A Friend' on piano on that stage. But most performances were on the main stage with the house band.”
All performers—more than space permits—did songs written by King, whose catalog is truly one of the deepest and richest in music. Highlights included such pairings as Miguel with Kacey Musgraves; Will.i.am with Leah McFall; Jacob Dylan and King’s daughter, Louise Goffin; and a medley by Nashville stars Martina McBride, Jennifer Nettles, Amy Grant, and Miranda Lambert. Other performers included Alicia Keys, Train, Gloria Estefan, and Jesse & Joy. “And, of course,” says Larry Reed, “no Carole King program would be complete without James Taylor.”
The Grammy tribute to The Beatles was similarly spectacular. From the moment Maroon 5 took over halfway into the 50-year-old footage of the iconic group’s performance of “All My Loving” on The Ed Sullivan Show, the program showcased some of the biggest names in music for two-and-a-half hours of nostalgic fun, culminating in a reunion finale by Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney performing together. Again, Reed’s responsibility was capturing all the individual tracks while doing a live mix from the production truck.
“The house band was incredible,” notes Reed. “I’d pay good money to see that group.” Led by the evening’s musical director, producer Don Was on bass, the group included Steve Lukather and Peter Frampton on guitar, Greg Phillinganes on keyboards, and Kenny Aronoff on drums.
The evening’s performers read like a who’s who of rock royalty performing with a house band that was, in itself, a legitimate supergroup. Stevie Wonder’s “We Can Work It Out” and Ed Sheeran’s “In My Life” were definite highlights, along with pairings like John Mayer and Keith Urban (“Don’t Let Me Down”), and Alicia Keys with John Legend (“Let It Be”). Other performers included Dave Grohl, Katy Perry, the reunited Eurythmics, Pharrell Williams, Joe Walsh, Gary Clark, Jr., Brad Paisley, Jeff Lynne, and Imagine Dragons.
Both events also saw a wide range of Shure hardwired mics handling backline instruments as well as backing vocals. The expected SM58s and SM57s were augmented by KSM9, Beta 58A, and SM86 vocal mics. Drum kits, guitar amps, and other backline needs were captured with a mic complement that included the KSM32, KSM137, SM81, Beta 91A, Beta 52A, and Beta 98A models.
“These were two very different shows with certain elements in common, like the Shure wireless systems for both mics and in-ears,” says Smoother Smyth of Delicate Productions. “It’s our job to make it all work inside the venue, and Larry Reed did a fantastic job of advancing both shows, learning the artists’ needs, and communicating all the changes to us along the way. When everyone works together as a team, that’s when you get good results, and these shows were great examples of that.”
In summing up these two experiences, Reed says, “The audio performance on both shows was spot-on, and the credit goes to Shure for their products and to Delicate for the system design and implementation. There was not a hit, not a dropout, not an issue with any of the wireless. It was just excellent on both shows, and the results speak for themselves. I’m very proud and honored to have been a part of it all.”