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Big laughs and even bigger numbers as Yamaha LS9 consoles tour with Michael McIntyre

Dec,2009

‘Comedy is the new rock’n’roll’ is a much over-used cliché but, in the case of Michael McIntyre’s latest tour, it might just be true. Currently playing a remarkable 54 mainly sold-out dates in arenas from Aberdeen and Belfast to Bournemouth and London, it is undoubtedly one of the biggest grossing UK tours for several years. What better platform for Yamaha’s LS9 small format digital mixing console to really show what it’s capable of?

The tour is one of striking contrasts. On the one hand the stage is completely bare, there are no gimmicks or props - not even a microphone stand. The entire show comprises 90 minutes of one man wearing a headset mic. The channel count is minimal and the front of house and monitor consoles are the babies of Yamaha’s digital range.

On the other hand, the size of venues dictates huge hangs of Martin Audio line array, while ticket demand means multiple dates at many of the UK’s biggest arenas - six at Cardiff International Arena, six at Wembley Arena, six at the Brighton Centre, seven at the Bournemouth BICC, four at London’s O2 Arena … the list goes on.

“54 dates in venues ranging from 8,000 to 18,000 capacity and most are sold out.. it’s a huge tour,” says Capital Sound Hire system engineer Pete Hughes at the third (but not last) show in Hall 4 of the Glasgow SECC.

Nowhere are these contrasts more apparent than at the front of house and monitor positions. It’s safe to say that a pair of Yamaha LS9 consoles have never been so fundamental to such a huge tour, but front of house engineer Phil Tame and monitor engineer Ant Standring were more than happy to use them.

In recent years, Phil has rather specialised in tours by the biggest names in British and Irish comedy - Lee Evans and Dara O Briain to name just two - as well as McIntyre’s previous theatre tour.

“I used an LS9-16 on the theatre tour, so it seemed obvious to take the same console out this time. I was able to take the same USB stick and put it in here, the only difference is that for this tour I’m using the LS9-32. It’s ideal,” he says.

“Capital Sound has four LS9s in its hire inventory and they're incredibly useful for this kind of application, for events that don't need that many channels,” adds Pete Hughes. “You don't need a rack, it has all the processing you need onboard and they take up minimal space - as Phil says, it’s ideal for this kind of tour.”

Not surprisingly, given that the tour relies solely on McIntyre’s voice, there are multiple microphone backups. Inputs to the LS9 comprise the main DPA 4088 headset microphone, plus backups comprising a spare headset mic, lavalier mic and wired Shure SM58s.

A couple of VT returns for the intro and a CD input for pre-show background music and recorded announcements complete the picture.

“It’s a very straightforward setup, the key issue is that every person in every seat has to be able to hear every word,” says Phil. “Nobody in the audience will compliment us on the sound, they expect to hear every word perfectly - but if they can’t hear a punchline they will be very quick to complain!”

To achieve this, the PA is controlled by XTA DP226 processors and the company’s Audiocore software running on a laptop, linked by WiFi to a second laptop running Yamaha Studio Manager software - meaning the entire system, including the LS9, can be controlled remotely from any seat in the house. This is crucial to ensure that every seat can hear McIntyre clearly.

“Pete designs the system for each gig and make sure it gets to every seat. To soundcheck, I EQ the room with an SM58, then get Ant to read stuff while walking round the stage for 15 minutes, so I can knock any rings out of the sound,” says Phil.

“Michael will then chat to one of the production assistants on stage, while Pete and I walk round the venue, checking we've covered everywhere.”

He continues, “The main processing I’m really using is EQ - I use the parametric on AudioCore for the main system adjustments and then, on the LS9, have a graphic inserted on Michael’s channel, and one on each matrix output. The combination is very effective.

“I also compress the vocal channel quite hard - he does a lot of whispering and a lot of screaming. Other than that I just have to push the level up a bit if the audience is laughing and he's still finishing a punchline, or starting on a new one.”

In monitor world, Ant Standring is manning an LS9-16. Monitoring is done via four flown Martin Audio sidefills per side, split into two zones per side, each with their own mix, leaving the stage completely bare for his habit of walking around while delivering the performance.

“I ride the faders on his mic a little - like when he breathes into the mic I have to give him more so he can hear what he's doing,” says Ant. “Michael likes to hear the room and get the feedback from the audience, so the monitors are really just for some clarity onstage.

“The only processing I’m using is the graphic EQs . The really nice thing is I don't need any racks for the EQs, everything's there. I just open the box and away we go.”

One of the features of this tour is that ticket demand has been so high that, as multiple-night runs have sold out, the tour has had to book a return to those venues at later dates to satisfy demand - it is constantly zig-zagging its way up and down the UK. But, with the LS9’s save and recall functions, once a venue has been played, both Ant and Phil can instantly load the settings for each venue as they return, saving a great deal of time.

Then, of course, there is Yamaha’s infamous reliability. Having recently worked on shows for British troops in Afghanistan, Ant also knows only too well how dependable the LS9 is.

“We had an LS9-16 at monitors and an LS9-32 at FOH on the Afghanistan shows and we didn't have any problems with them at all, especially considering the conditions,” he says. “We were brushing sand out of the faders for days afterwards!”

“It's the journey too,” adds Pete Hughes. “I’ve done shows in Basra, in Iraq. The equipment goes out in a military transport plane and is treated like any other piece of military hardware, so it does get a few knocks.”

“The LS9 has been totally reliable, it's great,” adds Phil Tame. “The one we used previous to this was dropped from about three to four feet by local crew and it was absolutely fine, which was very reassuring. And, if the worst came to the worst, they're so widely used that it would be very easy to get hold of another locally. It would just be a case of swapping the USB stick over to load the settings.”

As Michael McIntyre’s massively successful UK tour continues to play to packed houses throughout the UK, as you would expect with such a popular comedian, there have been some laughs.

“Michael's very easy to work with, he knows what he wants, he’s very open about what he wants and how to achieve it,” says Ant.

“But for a few dates he was obviously wondering who this guy was who kept asking him questions about the onstage sound. We explained to him in Bournemouth what my role was and he had a moment of realisation. Of course, he normally gets one sound guy and that's it, so this tour is really the first time he's seen what goes into putting on a show of this size.”

Pete adds, “At the O2, he came out on stage for a whole hour even before we'd finished soundcheck and just walked around trying to grasp the enormity of this 18,000-seater venue. He's got nowhere to hide - it's not even as if he has a handheld microphone to hold on to, he's not got a single prop. He’s a brave guy.

“We've obvious heard the material many times now, but I'm still laughing at some of the jokes. And the audiences are loving it - men, women, young and old, you see them all laughing as hard as each other.”

Data

Products LS9-32

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