New Zealand singer, songwriter and producer Lorde’s 2017 whirlwind Melodrama Tour has been making waves across the globe, including at some of the most renowned music festivals. Front of House Engineer Philip Harvey was awarded the task of engineering for the tour.
The stage arrangement is uncomplicated. An acoustic drum kit, guitar amp and vocals account for the majority of audio sources, with the remainder coming from two keyboard stations and triggered drum samples. "It's a nice, quiet stage," says Harvey. "...As the majority of the inputs are the Keyboards, software synths, and playback... I have 34 inputs from stage, plus clicks, guides, and so on."
The L-Acoustics L-ISA Live uses multi-array ‘scene’ technology to issue up to 96 objects (console channels) spanning across the entire performance area in either ‘Wide’ or ‘Focussed’ deployments. Object panning is managed by the L-ISA system, as well as spatial configuration and 3D processing – using the L-ISA Room Engine. “The L-ISA goal is to widen the venue sweet spot by expanding the mix over the entire floor, using multiple hangs,” explains Harvey. “Each input is sent post-processing, post-fader into the L-ISA processor and each one shows up on the L-ISA controller as a dot that you can position as you want - like mixing via coordinates. The clarity you get with single source coming out of single point across the front of the stage is amazing.”
The FOH Engineer uses SuperAnalogue preamps in the SSL stageboxes, shared between himself and monitors to fire back crisp audio to the console input channels. A lot of the processing is done in-line in those channels using the SSL's internal FX rack and a Waves MultiRack system, as well as a few stem groups for specific FX. He then balances the mix on the console, sending the post-fader channel and stem outputs straight to the L-ISA system processor, which takes care of panning, depth, and associated processing. "There's no bussing at the console,” says Harvey, “which has turned my 23 years of knowledge on its head!"
Since the start of the Melodrama tour, Harvey has been exploring new ways of working with the system and SSL console combination. This has allowed for the quality of the sources, the signal path and the processing to be showcased – rather than architectural and operational details. "The clarity I'm getting is magnificent," he says. "Early on we did a show at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles with lots of invited audience. After the show, everybody asked how we'd got such an amazing sound in the Staples Centre."
Lorde’s vocal chain is fairly simple to work with because, as Harvey explains "She is a strong singer and delivers a lot". After the SSL Stageboxes, she has the channel EQ and dynamics, including the SSL De-esser, then onto a couple of choice Waves plug-ins, before coming back to the console in time for direct output to the L-ISA processor.
Harvey also makes use of console delays for instruments, drums, and vocals: "Really, the most important thing about the console is the way it sounds. The pre-amps, the dynamics, the EQ. I particularly love the tube emulation on the compressor, especially with drums... Using the slow attack and fast release with the tube button in really makes the drums sing."
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