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You sexy thing! Small is beautiful as Yamaha LS9 helps the UK bid farewell to Errol Brown


February 2009 has seen 21 venues across the UK packed to the rafters with fans eager to see Errol Brown perform live for one last time. Fitting in all those that wanted to see the former Hot Chocolate frontman’s farewell tour was always going to be something of a challenge but, fortunately, with engineer Ralph ‘Rej’ Jane manning a Yamaha LS9-32 console at front of house, no compromises had to be made with either audio quality or seating capacity.

Nowadays Rej works as a corporate sound engineer but, as Brown’s long-term and trusted front of house man, he was tempted out of rock’n’roll retirement to enjoy working with a console he has very high regard for.

“I use the LS9 a lot for corporate work, but the chance to come out on tour for a month with it, using it every day, was one not to be missed!” smiles Rej. “This will be my last tour as well as Errol’s farewell tour, so using it in a different venue every day under touring conditions isn’t something I’ll get the chance to do in the future.”

Supplied, along with the rest of the sound and lighting production, by STS Touring Productions Ltd, the LS9 had to be capable of fulfilling the rigorous front of house requirements, with demand for tickets so high and capacity audiences wanting to hear every subtlety and nuance of Brown’s music.

“We’re only running 26 inputs, including spare mikes, so there’s plenty of room on the console and it does everything I need,” Rej continues. “The compact size of the desk and having no outboard racks has helped enormously in terms of additional seat space. But the effects and facilities on the desk are fantastic. The only outboard I’m using is a tube compressor on Errol’s vocal and a grab graphic.

“On top of that, the audio quality of the LS9 far outstrips its price.”

“Everything about the LS9 far outstrips its price!” interjects Keith Farmer, the tour’s monitor engineer and also head of audio development, service and repair for STS Touring Productions.

“At the tour’s first show in Rhyl, we literally had half an hour to get the support band on stage, miked up and soundchecked,” Rej continues. “Thanks to the LS9, within 20 minutes we’d finished the soundcheck - with a band we’d never even met before.

“Being able to copy and paste channel settings on a console - and then instantly recall everything - saves you 50% of your time straight away. You can then invest that time in polishing the sound, being critical and really mixing it. In other words, doing what you should do as a sound engineer. Whereas when using analogue consoles a lot of the time was in the technical setup, making sure there were no hums, buzzes and things like that.”

Allowing him rapid access to the LS9’s deepest menus, Rej has a laptop connected, running Yamaha Studio Manager software. And he is still finding new depths to it.

“Honestly, every time I use the LS9 I find something new I can do with it,” he says. “I realised the other day you can trigger the record function as you change scene, which is really handy. For the cost, it really is remarkably versatile.”

But versatility doesn’t come at the expense of ease of use. For example, the show begins with footage of Brown being presented with the 2004 Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music - this is run from a PowerPoint presentation and the show’s walk in / walk out music doesn’t even need an external audio device.

“The walk in / walk out music is off a USB stick, so there’s no CD or MiniDisc player required,” says Rej. “And the USB stick I use to play the that walk in / walk out music is the same one that I use to record the show every night. Once you put the memory stick in, you can do whatever you want.”

From Aberdeen to Truro and from Liverpool to London, Errol Brown’s final live tour is leaving many sad fans in its wake but, with the LS9 at the helm, they have all undoubtedly enjoyed the best possible farewell.

As the man himself sang, “It started with a kiss”… and it ended with a Yamaha LS9.


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