AC/DC is out on their first world tour in nearly five years, promoting the recently released Stiff Upper Lip. Mix caught AC/DC's two Bay Area shows—at the San Jose Arena and the Oakland Arena—last September, when guitarist Angus Young, vocalist Brian Johnson and the rest of the boys indulged in a lengthy sampling of the band's catalog of hits. Included in the set were such crowd favorites as “Back in Black,” “Let There Be Rock,” “You Shook Me All Night Long” and the current single, “Safe in NYC.” AC/DC will be back in the U.S. for a string of dates this summer.
Guitar tech Jeff Banks oversees a complex setup—Malcolm Young's guitar rig includes six cabinets on his side of the stage, two on the other. “And then I have a Marshall head, which runs a 4-by-12 cabinet offstage in an isolation box, almost like a studio environment,” adds Banks, describing the setup that allows FOH engineer Boothroyd to make use of the isolated signal in a bad hall. “The secret to Malcolm's sound is his Gretsch guitar, the beat-up one with the holes,” says Banks. “It was given to him by Harry Vanda, the guitar player in The Easybeats, the '60s band that Malcolm's older brother George was in.” Angus Young's guitar rig is looked after by guitar tech Tom “T.C.” Callcettara.
A veteran of AC/DC's last world tour in ‘95-‘96, FOH engineer Paul “Pab” Boothroyd is mixing on a Midas XL-4. “I think it's one of the better touring consoles,” says Boothroyd. “I like the flexibility and quality of it. The input mic amps and EQs are very accurate, and it's reliable so you can go out on a world tour with it, and it will outlast you.” Boothroyd is using only about 30 inputs and few of the board's automation features. “There's no real scene setting,” he notes. “It's a very manually mixed, straightforward show. It's a very loud show, and yet, with the quality of the Shure microphones, the Midas board, the accuracy of the EQ to gain some separation and finally the control of the E-V X-Array system, it all adds up to a good result.”
Boothroyd is using a Summit Audio TLA-100A leveling amplifier on Brian Johnson's vocals and a TC Electronic M5000 for reverb. Other units in his rack include dbx 160sl “Blue Series” compressors, a Lexicon PCM 81 for multi-effects and a PCM 91 for drum reverb. In addition to miking the onstage guitar amps, Boothroyd has set up offstage iso boxes and blends those signals with the onstage master amps.
Monitor engineer Niall Slevin is using a Midas Heritage 3000 console. Outboard gear includes Drawmer gates, Behringer and Klark-Teknik compressors, and a pair of BSS Varicurves.
Singer Brian Johnson is using in-ear monitors, and drummer Phil Rudd sometimes uses one in-ear. The rest of the bandmembers rely on wedge and sidefill mixes. “Phil has a mix of everyone, with a drum fill behind him, then two floor wedges, which are a left/right, mix for guitars and a bit of vocal,” Slevin explains. “Then it's a wash of drums in the sidefills and in front, vocals in the sidefills and a hot spot in the center for vocal. There's close to 120 dB around that stage.”
Slevin commends the rejection characteristics of singer Brian Johnson's wireless Shure Beta 58A. “It works well when he comes out on this catwalk, which stretches halfway down the arena,” notes Slevin. “When the band's pumping away at 120 dB and you've got a vocalist out in the middle of the room, that's when you really have to have control! We seem to be achieving that, so I'm quite happy. The mic's also very reliable. There's a lot of running around and sweat, and it's never in a stand, so it's being shaken around for two hours.”
AC/DC endorses Shure microphones, and the setup includes SM57s on the background vocals, SM91s and a Beyer 88 on the kick drum, SM57s on the snare (top and bottom), Audio-Technica ATM35s on the toms and ATM25s on cymbals.
AC/DC is using an E-V X-Array system from DB Show Services (Des Plaines, Ill.); it is similar to the system used for the most recent Rolling Stones tour. “I'm pleasantly surprised; it's got great throw, good zone control,” says FOH engineer Boothroyd.
Phil Rudd, drums
Audio systems engineer Dave Dixon oversees physical alignment of the P.A. system, plus delaying and EQ'ing the system as necessary. The entire system is controlled via 16 XTA 226 crossovers, and Dixon uses a laptop computer with a radio link for remote control. “The XTA units work great with any sound system we've used, and, with the remote, we can communicate in real time and listen and change things right from the listening position,” adds Dixon. “It's a very nice little tool.” System amplifiers are E-V 3000 models.
AC/DC is: Angus Young, lead guitar Malcolm Young, rhythm guitar Brian Johnson, vocals Cliff Williams, bass and Phil Rudd, drums.
Brian Johnson, vocals, and Angus Young, lead guitar