There was an Elvis Presley tour held this summer, strange as that might seem. It included a Baltimore concert in early August at the Modell Lyric Performing Arts Center, just five days before the 40th anniversary of Presley’s death; a sold-out August 16 show at Memphis’ FedEx Forum marked the actual anniversary.
“Elvis: Live in Concert” somewhat fulfilled a dream of Presley’s, according to ex-wife Priscilla Presley (who was featured in a cameo after intermission), as he always wanted to play with a live orchestra but never did. Content owner Graceland Live accessed classic TV performances, like the ’68 Comeback special and Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii, as well as plenty of movies, hooked up with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and a rock band, and went for it.
The tour cruised into the 2,500-seat Modell Lyric, a symphony hall, after playing in various U.S. and UK sheds, theaters and arenas of up to 15,000 seats. For the worldwide jaunt, FOH engineer Howie Lindeman and crew carried an Avid Venue Profile console, with 64 to 96 outputs, for FOH, and DiGiCo SD5 for monitors. The tour contracted with SSE for the UK and European runs, and in the U.S., Clair Global, which provided a CO-12 P.A. system, with 14 speakers per side for the mains.
“The overall understanding is that since ‘Elvis’ is a digital transfer of video playback with most everything stripped away, the band and symphony depend on a click track,” Lindeman says. “The challenge is in making the best presentation of his vocal, which has audience leakage and original band leakage in his mic, so it’s a constant ride for accurate levels. [It’s taken] more than 90 console snapshots to keep this going.”
Otherwise, mixing the show is similar to mixing with a live singer. “I mixed at The [Modell] Lyric as I mix any show, with a ‘record mix’ in mind,” he says. “If I can give the listener a record-quality mix, or as close as I can get it, they’ll walk away with that in their minds and in the ears. That’s the most important thing we do.”
This particular show,” he says, “is a ‘ride the fader’ mix,” to coin a phrase from a lifelong friend and artist, Roberta Flack, who once said, ‘That’s why they call it mixing,’ and that’s how I’ve mixed every show I’ve done over my 48 years in this business. I’ve never just let faders sit there and never will. On this show, it’s pretty crazy because the video cuts from year-toyear, thus the mic-to-mic changes on Elvis, as does the quality.”
As for the symphony, it’s not a passive mix by any means. “It must be aggressive at times and lush at others. I’m on my toes, and sometimes the edge of my chair from the down beat until ‘Elvis has left the building,’” Lindeman says with a smile. “But he never complains, asks for something different or does an encore.”