MANHEIM, PA: Robert Nelson has been working in live sound for nearly forty years. His talent for organizing and engineering shows, that leave everyone satisfied, including the band, earned him gigs with acts such as Tears For Fears, Beastie Boys, Hall & Oates, Boyz II Men, Leonard Cohen, k.d. lang and Gloria Estefan. For the past three years, Nelson has been serving as production manager and monitor engineer for the iconic band Blondie. In preparation for Blondie’s recent tour, he made the decision to update his decades-old Clair Brothers wedges with the purchase of a dozen Clair Brothers 1AM+ 12-inch point source monitors.
In his role as monitor engineer, Nelson’s main goal is to keep the band happy! “I do my best to stay on top of what they need and to try and make everything happen, within reason and the laws of physics,” he jokes. “Compared to a lot of monitor engineers, I keep things simple. If I do any processing at all, it’s modest – there’s only so much that processing can achieve. The real weak link in most monitoring situations is the monitor wedges themselves, and all the crazy processing in the world can’t fix a lousy wedge.”
Nelson owns more than twenty Clair Brothers 12AM wedges that have served, and continue to serve, him and his clients well for twenty years. “For Blondie, I wanted something that was a little newer, if only aesthetically,” he said. “My stock of 12AMs has been knocked around a lot. I visited Clair Brothers in Pennsylvania with the intention of getting some lightly-used 12AMs, but then they demoed the self-powered 1AM+. I was impressed by its volume and clarity; I was impressed by its smaller size and manageable weight; and I was impressed by the fact that it’s self-powered. Like I said, I like to keep things simple.” After sleeping on it, Nelson decided to spring for a dozen of the new Clair Brothers 1AM+ wedges.
Compared to many of the acts he has worked with, Blondie is less artsy and more straightforward rock ‘n’ roll. The band members need to feel the music to inspire a passionate performance, and they need to hear all of the instruments articulated to deliver a technically solid performance. Nelson gives bandleader Debbie Harry two 1AM+ monitors at center stage. Every other band member gets a single 1AM+. The drummer’s 1AM+ is paired with a Clair Brothers self-powered kiT-Sub+ 18-inch subwoofer. For large stages, Nelson places a 1AM+ on either side of the stage so that Harry will have coverage when she moves around. The only other major component in his system is a Yamaha QL5 console.
Working with them on the road has endeared Nelson to his new purchase all the more. “I don’t have to work to make my new Clair Brothers 1AM+ wedges loud, and yet I can pick them up and move them around by myself,” Nelson said. “The finish is nice looking, and the casing is solid. Perhaps most importantly, the band is happy, and that’s my ultimate goal as a monitoring engineer.”
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(PHOTO CREDIT: © 2018 Chris Stein)