FOH engineer John C. Clark III
Kanye West’s recent Touch the Sky tour was originally supposed to be a double-bill with U2, but midway through, U2 cancelled the rest of their dates and West has been headlining since. It was a monster of a show, playing arenas through Europe and then Australia, New Zealand and Japan with sellout crowds of 3,000 to 10,000. But West’s enthusiastic fans clearly heard every word of his rap and felt every thump of the beat thanks to a sound system specified and supplied by London’s Canegreen Ltd. and built around Meyer Sound’s MILO family of self-powered loudspeakers.
The scope of the production was considerable, says front-of-house mixer John C. Clark III. “We have a very large lighting crew; an orchestra that features four cellos, eight violins and a harp; a DJ; and vocalists, plus the volume requirements. In terms of sheer volume and sound pressure, we’re producing 105 to 115 dB at the front-of-house position every night.”
Clark meets the demands by using two main configurations for the tour. In smaller arenas, he flies 12 MICA compact high-power curvilinear array loudspeakers and groundstacks six 700-HP ultrahigh-power subwoofers on each of side the stage, supplemented by four MILO high-power curvilinear array loudspeakers groundstacked for frontfill. Additional frontfill is provided by UPA-1P compact wide-coverage loudspeakers, MSL-4 horn-loaded long-throw loudspeakers and conventionally powered MSL-2 reinforcement loudspeakers.
In larger venues, Clark uses four M3D line array loudspeakers, eight MILO cabinets, four MICA units and nine 700-HP subwoofers per side. Canegreen worked out the system designs in Meyer Sound’s MAPP Online Pro™ acoustical prediction program, and the system is time-aligned nightly. “By the time everything’s up and the system tech says, ‘We’re ready,’ it takes maybe 10 minutes for us to adjust everything," says Clark. "That’s real important to us, because if Kanye wants to rehearse, we need to be ready to go quickly.”
As with many hip-hop shows, the biggest sonic hurdle is reproducing loud and distortion-free bass. “That’s the challenge: not just pumping out low end, but pumping out clear low end,” says Clark. “It’s so easy to get distorted [bass] because you’re trying for sheer volume. You’ve always got to turn the main [loudspeaker] stack down so that the subs can keep up, but that wasn’t the case with this system. It brought out just the right amount of stuff, it was so easy to get whatever I needed, gain-wise, as well as the type of tones that I wanted.”
Clark has been so impressed with the system that he is planning on replacing some of the gear that he used in the North American leg of the tour with the Meyer Sound cabinets. “Management was happy with it, the artist liked it, I liked it—overall, it was an excellent choice and a great product.”
West is scheduled for U.S. performances during the summer, including at Seattle’s Bumbershoot Festival.