Following the release of his critically acclaimed second album, ‘We’re All Alone In This Together’ in 2021, London-based hip-hop artist Dave embarked on an extensive UK arena tour in March 2022. The dates included two nights at London’s 02, at which d&b’s SL-Series provided the clarity and power needed to support the dynamic shows.
“I’ve been involved with Dave since his Game Over EP tour in 2018,” says Charles Bidwell, FOH Engineer. “This is our 9th tour together and it’s been a really significant step up to an arena show – but as always, my goal remains the same. I need to accurately represent his studio recordings in a weighty live environment; the audience are there to hear every detail with impact, so clarity and headroom from the PA is paramount. I want everyone to leave having understood every bar – Dave’s lyrical content, word play and delivery is world class, so both audience and artist deserve that.”
Bidwell has long relied on d&b audiotechnik to deliver the kind of clarity and power he needed for the arena shows, and this time he opted for 16 GSL12 3-way line array loudspeakers for the main hangs, with 14 KSL12 loudspeakers for sides, while front fill was handled by a sextet of Y10P point source loudspeakers. No less than 20 SL-SUBs handled the deep lows required for Dave’s hip-hop stylings and a further eight KSL loudspeakers were employed in each of three delay hangs to provide ample coverage for the large capacity venues. The d&b inventory for the tour was supplied by d&b partner SSE Audio, part of Solotech.
The KSL and GSL systems are part of the d&b SL-Series, the only modern line array system able to achieve horizontal directivity control over the entire audio spectrum. Thanks to its impressive cardioid dispersion pattern, the SL-Series delivers quieter stages for performers, maximum clarity and power for the audience, and minimal noise for those beyond.
“There’s an awful lot happening on-stage during this show,” explains Bidwell, “Dave, who raps, sings, plays piano and now guitar, a live band that consists of drums, bass, guitar, keyboards and six backing vocalists. All supported by 16 channels of playback and enormous video wall interludes.”
“I need to glue all of these musical elements together into a show that flows perfectly from track to track and then make sure that Dave’s vocal is placed front-and-centre. With the SL-Series, there’s a real sonic transparency out of the box and the workflow is fantastic, so it makes a tour of this scale as straightforward as possible. The ArrayCalc simulation and R1 remote control software are extremely powerful and flexible tools. The PA flyers were using the ArrayCalc Viewer app on iPhone to quickly reference the ArrayCalc design specifications on the fly. It works brilliantly, so once everything is designed correctly in ArrayCalc, when you unmute the SL-Series you’re immediately presented with the clarity and raging power that d&b are known for.”
The ArrayCalc Viewer app provides data such as splay angle, amplifier channel ID and cabling information, flying frame height and the height of the lowest edge, frame angle, horizontal aiming, Pickpoints, weight and load status. Any change to the system design can be distributed to each user immediately, ensuring an efficient and user friendly approach to rigging, and supporting the system setup as a whole.
“The integration of the system and the software is key to delivering the kind of consistency we need on a tour of this scale,” Bidwell continues. “It’s one thing being able to get one venue to sound great, particularly if you’re doing multiple nights there. But to be able to move around the country and know that the experience you’re giving the audience doesn’t change is really important. I trust the SL-Series to deliver and that’s a huge thing – there’s so much else going on that being completely confident in the system I’m using is crucial.”
The logistics of an arena tour mean that the practicalities of rigging and flying the PA are also an important consideration. “The fact that you get so much power from a relatively compact form factor with the GSL boxes makes them very “tour-friendly”,” says system tech Rich Kemp. “It’s pretty remarkable really. We could forklift them on and off the trucks with no messing around and were often the first department finished and ready to go.
“We ran the GSLs in compression mode and the arrays were very quick to get set and fly. They go up very fast, which is always really welcome on big tours like this where there’s so much going on at each venue.”
Summing up his thoughts on the tour, Bidwell was quick to point out that, “it really doesn’t matter where you use d&b, the core experience is the same. Incredible power balanced with exceptional clarity, no matter the setting – so it’s easy to scale up and work in the way that suits you. The support from d&b is unmatched too. The company really understands the relational side of the music business and always go above and beyond with training and advice. Alongside the performance of the SL-Series, that really made for a thoroughly rewarding tour.”