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Billy Joel’s Historic ‘Last Play At Shea’ Concert Relies On Studer Vista 5SR Console For Front Of House And Monitor Mix

Clair Showco Delivers Great Sound For Billy Joel Featuring Surprise Guests Sir Paul McCartney, Tony Bennett, Garth Brooks, Steven Tyler and Roger Daltrey

Billy Joel is truly an entertainer as his ‘Last Play At Shea’ marked the end of an era of historic concerts at Shea Stadium on Friday, July 18th. With a star-studded lineup of musicians making guest appearances throughout the evening including Tony Bennett, Garth Brooks, Steven Tyler and Roger Daltrey, Billy Joel performed the last concert at the stadium. With the help of former Beatles member Sir Paul McCartney (who played with The Beatles the first concert at the stadium on August 15, 1965), Billy Joel closed the show by accompanying McCartney on piano with a surprise version of ‘Let It Be.’

Joel’s world tour began in January 2006 and has been touring ever since. The 2008 segment kicked off in Philadelphia, PA on January 26th, making stops in California, Colorado, Wisconsin, Ohio, Quebec, Louisiana, Connecticut, Virginia and finishing up with two shows in Flushing, NY at Shea Stadium. Joel resumes the second leg of his world tour with dates in Japan, Australia and New Zealand beginning in November. Sound reinforcement for the tour was supplied by Pennsylvania based company Clair Showco, which has had a long relationship with Billy Joel; in fact, many of the tour’s key personnel have worked with Joel for multiple tours, including FOH Engineer Brian Ruggles and Production Manager Bobby Thrasher, who have worked with Joel for over 33 and 27 years respectively, as well as Monitor Engineer Mike Pirich, who has been with Joel for the past 10 years.

When looking for a sound console for both FOH and the monitor positions, Clair Showco turned to the Studer Vista 5 SR for its portability, ease of use and sound quality.

“The Vista 5 SR is capable of handling a lot of inputs,� said Ruggles. “We’ve tried different digital desks before but I wasn’t really thrilled at the way they sounded – until this one came along. The Vista 5 SR is by far the best sounding digital desk I’ve heard because it’s closest to the sound of an analog desk.�

Pirich noted, “Using the Vistonics interface makes it really easy to see where you are. As far as digital desks go, this is by far the easiest to get comfortable with before a show and to prove it, I only spent a few hours with the Vista 5 SR before we did a show.�

Pirich added, “As far as quality, it sounds spectacular! It’s got lots of gain and no distortion. We have 30 faders in total consisting of three banks of 10 but are in no way limited by the number of inputs and outputs we can handle. We’ve just pushed 100 inputs feeding 18 stereo mixes and 22 mono mixes but really have more available inputs and outputs than we ever hope to use.

Joel’s Keyboardist, David Rosenthal truly relies on the sound quality that he receives in his in-ear mix and with each song, a different monitor mix may be needed. As one of the band members, Rosenthal heavily relies on Pirich and the Vista 5 SR.

“What we hear is critical to how we perform,� said Rosenthal. “If what we hear sounds good, it is inspiring to us and the crowd gets a better performance. The great thing about working with this console is it’s easy to recall settings for each song – that way, we get our own mix dialed in exactly as we need it for each particular song.�

Rosenthal noted, “I’m a big fan of Studer products, from this console to the 2-inch recording products I’ve used so many times in the past.�

Production Manager Bobby Thrasher was extremely pleased with how much easier the Studer consoles make his job. “It’s small, it’s lightweight, it’s portable and not like the 6,000 pounds I used to have to carry around or fly around,� said Thrasher. “We’ve spent more money on shipping than those rentals were worth. With gas prices the way they are, it’s actually cheaper to own a Studer.�

Billy Joel’s first show at Shea Stadium on Wednesday, July 16th was originally tagged as the ‘Last Play At Shea.’ However, after the first show sold out so quickly, Joel added a second show and due to the schedule of the Mets, Friday was the date provided. During Wednesday’s concert, celebrity guests included Tony Bennett, John Mayer, John Mellencamp and Don Henley. With this appearance at Shea Stadium, Billy Joel became the only artist to perform at the three major stadiums in the New York area: Giants Stadium, Yankee Stadium and now Shea Stadium.

Crown Macro-Tech 3600VZ amplifiers and Clair Showco’s custom JBL-loaded S4 loudspeakers were used for sound reinforcement during the Billy Joel tour. The Studer Vista 5SR is enabled with the Harman Pro Onboard HiQnet™ control protocol.

Clair Showco can be reached at

Harman HiQnetâ„¢ is the world’s first connectivity and control protocol that integrates all product categories in the signal chain for professional audio systems of all types, size, and applications. Harman HiQnet no longer requires the user to manage multiple disparate operating systems or be responsible for programming individual signal processors, speaker controllers, wireless microphone systems, and mixing consoles. HiQnet was developed by engineers from across the Harman Pro Group and is coordinated by the System Development and Integration Group (SDIG), a team of dedicated systems specialists based in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Studer is a unit of Harman International Industries, Incorporated (
Harman International designs, manufactures and markets a wide range of audio and infotainment products for the automotive, consumer and professional markets, and maintains a strong presence in the Americas, Europe and Asia, employing more than 11,000 people worldwide. The Harman International family of brands includes AKG®, Audioaccess®, Becker®, BSS®, Crown®, dbx®, DigiTech®, Harman Kardon®, Infinity®, JBL®, Lexicon®, Mark Levinson®, Revel®, QNX®, Soundcraft® and Studer®. Harman International’s stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “NYSE: HAR.�

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