The Boys Are Back On Tour
March 2012 Issue 151
More than 40 years after legendary irish group Thin Lizzy came into the spotlight, the band is still delighting fans with hard rock hits. The group of critically acclaimed musicians keeping the thin lizzy magic alive on the current tour is regarded by many as one of the finest since the original line-up, making it a must-see live production for TPi’s Zoe Mutter.
With a line-up made in musical heaven performing a phenomenal back catalogue of hits at the York Barbican, Irish rockers Thin Lizzy looked and sounded as current as they had in their ‘70s heyday. The Boys Are Back On Tour string of European shows has seen original members of Thin Lizzy assemble a new incarnation of the group to take out on the road and perform to both long-standing and new generations of fans.
An iconic frontman such as Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott - who passed away in 1986 - could never be replaced but, with current lead vocalist and former member of The Almighty, Ricky Warwick, the musical legacy of Lynott lives on. The group was completed by Thin Lizzy members, guitarist Scott Gorham, Brian Downey on drums and Darren Wharton on keyboards and backing vocals along with recent recruits bassist Marco Mendoza and guitarist Damon Johnson.
“As we’ve travelled around the world, people have said that this is the best line-up since the original, which is very complimentary. They’re having a great time up there on stage and the audience is really enjoying it too,” said Production Manager, Tony Selinger, who has worked in the touring industry in the US for the past 18 years with predominantly American bands such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers before returning to the UK last year to reestablish himself in the country.
“One of Thin Lizzy’s Managers Adam Parsons used to be the Manager and Tour Manager for Motörhead and I met him while I was in the US for a tour called Metal Masters. Through that connection and the one I have with Steve Sunderland from Audiolease, I stepped in to be Thin Lizzy’s Tour Manager, Production Manager and FOH Engineer for most of last summer,” added Selinger.
“It has worked out really well, I get on with the band and Lizzy had always been one of my favourite groups. It’s impossible to get over the fact that Phil’s not here anymore, but there are still some brilliant songs. The crew are fantastic to work with and it was such a fun summer last year that Adam asked me if I was interested to go out with the band again in January.”
Getting the show on the road within a tight budget was challenging for Selinger, who had decided that video was not necessary for the production. He believed the money could be better spent on other aspects of the performance such as choosing the perfect rehearsal space in which to hold two days of rehearsals.
Explained Selinger: “I was looking at a variety of places and went for Millennium Studios in Bedford. It’s an amazing venue and we had already used it last year for production rehearsals for Motörhead and it had everything we required. They even had a special effects company in the complex when we needed some CO2 and there’s a set maker in the building opposite.
“It’s out of London too which means there aren’t the usual distractions, yet it’s close enough for convenience. Millennium offers great catering facilities and I would definitely use them for production rehersals in the future.”
WEAPON OF CHOICE
It was audio engineer extraordinaire Doug Short’s connection to Selinger, that saw him welcomed onto the tour as FOH Engineer. Short, who had only joined the crew three months prior to TPi’s visit, had worked with Selinger while on tour with Megadeth and was also part of Judas Priests’ North American tour, which Thin Lizzy supported.
Explained Selinger: “The previous tour and festival circuit we did was in one 16-tonne truck and we weren’t really carrying production. In that situation, doing three jobs was manageable for me but this time around we’re carrying full production in two Transam trucks, along with 16 crew in band buses. There was no way I could do all three jobs properly as something would suffer so we asked Doug to take up the reigns at FOH.
“Fortunately Ricky Warwick has got an amazingly strong voice and they are all phenonemal musicians - it’s a sound engineer’s dream because not only are they great players, you’ve known all the songs since you were a kid.”
In recent years, Short has migrated more towards digital consoles due to their small size and light weight. However, for Thin Lizzy’s productions, the decision was made to take the analogue route. Said Short: “If I was going to use a digital desk, I would go for the Midas Pro 6, but for this show I’m back on the Midas Heritage 3000, which has been my weapon of choice for a decade. It’s the only console for me - it has good pre amps, sounds amazing and is reliable. Now that I’ve used the desk thousands of times, it’s like an old friend.”
At FOH, the Heritage mixed 44 inputs from the stage, five stereo returns and an additional stereo return for playback - taking the total number of inputs to 56. Once the sound had left the desk, it passed into a Dolby Lake Processor, to be spread out to the zones that Systems Technician, Dave Cann had timelined. In terms of outboard, Short made use of six DBX 160 compressors, two BSS Audio DPR-404 quad comps, two SPX 2000’s, two SPX 990’s and a TC Electronics D2 delay.
Added Short: “This band isn’t based on huge reverbs or anything like that. I use some heavy duty pitch to create a demon voice on a couple of songs, but other than that, you won’t notice many effects being used.
“Compared to some shows, mixing the band has been really easy. I don’t have to do any corrective mixing as the musicians are so good and I don’t need to dig into my toolbox to get corrective by using any of my special devices.”
Five of Shure’s trusty SM58’s were in place as vocal mics - a much loved and relied upon model of Short’s. “You can’t go wrong with an SM58. I’ve used them for 25 years and it’s pretty much the model I demand. In fact, the band seems to like all of my choices of mic and I’ve had no negative feedback because we are using high-end brands.”
To pick up the sound of the drums, a pair of Shure Beta 91a mics were selected in addition to six Sennheiser e904’s, which were used for toms and snare top. A Beyerdynamic M 201 was assigned to the snare bottom, with a pair of AKG C 430’s positioned on the hi hats and ride cymbal. Also included in the collection of drum microphones was a Shure Beta 98 and a pair of AKG 214’s for overheads. Four BSS Audio DIs were chosen for keyboards, while guitar and bass sonic duties were the responsibility of five Sennheiser e906’s. Guitarist Scott Gorham also utilised Audio-Technica AE2500 dual element mics.
“The Sennheiser tom mics sound amazing and are really compact. They just clip onto the drum, meaning my drum kit is clean. The only stands on it are the overheads. They have a nice 45° twist on the XLRs so when you put an angled plug on it, it just lays straight down and there’s no loop of cable,” commented Short.
“I can’t say enough positive things about the e906 guitar mics - they have dual position roll off switches, allowing you to roll off high end or low end or run the mic flat, which is really helpful. The AE2500 dual element I’m using on Scott is impressive too - a really fat-sounding guitar mic.”
CLEAR AND PRECISE ON-STAGE SOUND
Before coming on the road with Thin Lizzy, Monitor Engineer, Phil Shenton, spent most of his working life as a self-taught sound engineer. He began building sound systems for raves, free festivals and warehouse parties in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s before running a successful recording and rehearsal studio. He has since been monitor engineer for acts including Art Garfunkel, The Pretenders, Dizzee Rascal and Baby Shambles as well as working at numerous festivals and shows with BCS Audio.
“I stuck with the DiGiCo SD8 for this tour as I have used it with Thin Lizzy on the 2011 tour and love it. It sounds great, has all the functions I need and is very easy to use. It made a big difference having my own console as being able to have a consistent mix every night is very important for Lizzy. The sound has to be clear and precise as the band need to be able to lock with drummer Brian and Ricky needs to hear his vocal whilst being squeezed in a Gorham / Johnson guitar sandwich,” said Shenton.
Shenton was supplied with Audiolease’s proprietary BW monitors as used and abused by the behemoth that is Motörhead, so they were capable of packing some punch. The front row of the band - Mendoza, Johnson, Warwick and Gorham - had a pair each.
“When space allowed, Ricky had a pair placed in front of the drum riser and ran out of phase with the front pair to hammer him with vocal,” added Shenton. “Darren had a pair configured in stereo to account for the panning effects on his keyboard sounds and Brian had a single wedge. We are currently in discussions regarding in-ear monitoring, with Damon and Marco quite keen to give it a go. I even had Brian try it out in a soundcheck and he seems quite open to the idea. We shall see...”
Added Selinger: “The band are pretty traditional and loud when it comes to on-stage sound. Sometimes I think Scott doesn’t hear what he plays on stage, he feels it. He’s been playing the songs for so long, it’s become an immersive feeling now.”
A GOOD VIBE ACROSS THE WHOLE ROOM
“I’m all about hiring the right people so I don’t have to micro manage them and can rely on them to do their jobs,” explained Selinger. “Our Systems Technician, Dave Cann, is one of these and he loves doing a great job for me.”
Before Thin Lizzy headed out on the road for the European tour, Cann - who is experienced in hanging PA systems in all sizes of room - thoroughly researched the types of venue the band would visit. “Sometimes you can be restricted in terms of the amount of PA you can hang,” explained Cann.“After I looked at the places we were playing, I told Tony and Doug the best way forward was to look at the L-Acoustics dV-DOSC as it was so flexible. Every time I use it - and a lot of the L-Acoustics products - it always astonishes me that it fit’s the bill every time for so many types of music.
“The biggest challenge this time around was the size of the venues. Last time, I was taken on board quite late so I didn’t have a lot to say about it, but I was involved before the beginning of this tour and now work for the band and Manager Adam Parsons, in association with Audiolease who are providing the equipment. They are then backed up by BCS, a company I regularly work for.”
Added Selinger: “We chose dV-DOSC mainly to avoid load-in problems and because of the weight restrictions. They are very flexible and we knew we had a fairly heavy front truss already.”
L-Acoustics dV-DOSC system was flown 18 per side, with DV-SUBS ground-stacked three per side to add low end, and using the Q factor focusing in the software. Also playing an important part in the PA set-up were the SB28’s, which were run in the cardiod mode and positioned four per side. All the FOH P.A. was run by 12 L-Acoustics LA8 multi-functional amplifiers and controlled wirelessly by LA Manager 1.2. This was then driven from FOH by a Dolby Lake Processor.
A total of four L-Acoustics ARCs acted as front-fills to fill the barrier and were positioned as close to the main hang as possible. Continued Cann: “The point of the ARCs is that you focus the system as much as possible to the front edge of the barrier and then the ARCs fill in the middle of the barrier where something in the region of 8 to 16 people could be affected.
“It doesn’t seem a lot, but it makes a difference for some people as to whether they fully enjoy the show. They really fill that void. Sometimes there isn’t really a void to fill, but I might still run them at low level to give that energy in the right place so everyone gets a good vibe across the whole room.”
RETRO LIGHTING EFFECTS
Having already perfected his craft whilst on the road with music icons Slayer, Black Sabbath and The Cure, Lighting Designer / Director Mick Thornton brought the creativity and imagination required to produce an outstanding design for Thin Lizzy’s rock show. Thornton entered the exhilarating world of live touring in 1983 and despite taking the heavy metal route, has illuminated a vast array of other genres of production; from Andrea Bocelli through to The Moody Blues - a band that he has worked with for the past 12 years.
“When Thin Lizzy started touring with the current line-up in January 2011, I bombarded the management with CAD drawings of what I thought would look good for the show. I knew the band’s Manager, Adam Parsons, and he offered me the role of LD. We went on tour in the US before moving on to festivals throughout last summer. Thin Lizzy then supported Judas Priest for two months, which Judas Priest’s LD worked on. Now I’m back on the road with Thin Lizzy for the European tour and there’s a brand new design,” explained Thornton.
Initial concepts were developed during the pre-production process, he continued: “The first ideas put forward included screens at the back, which were mainly for IMAG, with no media server being used. Due to budget and truck space, we came up with the idea of using drop pipes and LEDs instead.
“Seeing the new LED fixtures that are coming along is really interesting - especially the moving heads. Once we added the drop bars and the LEDs, it very much became the foundation of the rig. Although the PAR cans give it a wash look, the LEDs add a definitive punch to the rig.”
Creating a retro look reflective of the period in which Thin Lizzy was in its heyday was at the forefront of Thornton’s mind when producing lighting designs and choosing fixtures. “Budget was also a factor because we were carrying full production in two very packed Transam trucks - one for lighting and rigging and another for backline and PA,” added the LD.
“It’s quite unusual to see PAR cans in a design these days and I’m really pleased with the way it’s turned out. I believe you can’t really get the same look from moving wash lights as you can from the PAR cans so it’s nice to go back to that way of thinking again by working the Robes in with the PARs to come up with an exciting looking show. It’s still got touches of a modern production whilst retaining that classic rock look.”
The PAR can colours were split throughout the rig - with yellow, green, blue, magenta and open white running consecutively throughout the lamp bars along with ACLs in open white. Thornton continued: “It’s a very rich and colourful show that’s accentuated by the moving lights. I like it to have a simplicity about it whilst still keeping it rich and I tend not to use more than two colours at any one time to stop it becoming too messy or busy.”
A VERSATILE RIG
For previous dates on the tour, local rigging crews and house riggers were brought in at each venue. However, at The Barbican in York, Harry Box from UK Rigging assisted with setting up the show. He worked with the crew to put the mixture of Tomcat pre rig truss in place on the down surge and up surge and Tomcat A-type truss on the mid truss.
“It’s had to be a very versatile rig because the size of the venues we’ve visited has varied massively. This venue’s been great - we have the height and weight limits needed, so from a light perspective, it’s been a doddle,” highlighted Marc Callaghan, who worked alongside Chris Wilkes to form the lighting technician duo that Thornton refers to as “invaluable” on tour. On the back truss, Thornton chose to place 36 PAR cans, six 2-lite molefays, four Visage 375 LED truss toners, two pairs of ACLs, three Martin Atomic Strobes and six Robe Robin 600E Spots. Six drop bars - scaffold pipes measuring 15ft, 10ft and 5ft - were also located on the back truss. The largest pair of drop bars each featured three Chroma-Q Color Block DB4 LED fixtures and one Robe Robin 600E Spot, with the mid-sized bar including one Robin 600 and two Color Blocks and the smallest comprising one of each fixture.
Not every venue the touring crew visited allowed the full lighting rig to be flown so the team has had to make adjustments on the fly. “We played some smaller venues such as Glasgow’s Barrowlands and couldn’t put the mid truss or drop bars in. We’ve therefore tried to make our rig very modular so parts of it can come apart,” explained Callaghan.
Thin Lizzy’s 2012 tour marked the first time Thornton had used the Robe Robin 600E Spots and he was an instant fan of the fixture. “GLS are incredible too and Chris and Marc are some of the best technicians I’ve had in years; they are absolutely superb. The equipment has been great, the colour selection is fantastic on the Robin 600’s and the gobos are very sensible for a moving light.”
Added Wilkes: “The Robin 600 is great for us as technicians. Last year, we had Robe 1200 Spots and we were very impressed by the 600’s which have a great light output whilst being lightweight. This also means the rig can go up quicker and use less local crew and power.
“The songs are rock classics, that many of us are familiar with. The lighting reflects a classic rock show of yesteryear that the fans coming to these shows know and expect. Some want to relive their youth, whereas others are experiencing this type of show for the first time, so the lighting has to reflect that. With the addition of modern moving light and LED technology in his rig, despite being on a budget, Mick has the versatility to be able to get more out of the show than was possible at a gig years ago. That said, you can’t beat flashing PAR cans and ACLS, they are the foundations of rock and roll.”
The mid truss was made up of a mixture of fixtures - six bars of six PAR cans in chrome to create a rock look, six Robe Robin 600E Spots, four Visage 375 LED Pars as truss toners, a pair of 40cm mirrorballs and two more pairs of ACLs. Completing the flown fixtures were a further six bars of PAR cans on the front truss, along with four Robe Robin 600 Spots, six Source 4 Profiles to light the band members, six 2-lite molefays, a pair of Martin Atomic Strobes and four more Visage LED Pars.
“Controlling the system we have two Avolites ART 2000 dimmers and one 54-way distro, a 21-way distro, a Chroma Q Color Block PSU 30-way. We also have three Robert Juliat Korrigan HMI 1200 followspots that are FOH manually controlled to light the lead singer,” explained Wilkes.
On either side of the drum riser, the floor lighting package comprised two Robe Robin 600E Spots, two Color Block DB4’s, two 2-lite molefays, a pair of LED Visage 375 PARs as sidelight, two Robe Haze 500FT Pro and a Jem ZR44 Hi-Mass fogger. Downstage, further Visage LED Pars could be found along with 2-lite molefays and Color Block DB4’s on either side of the subs.
Added Callaghan: “It’s quite a lighting orientated show and all the equipment’s been picked for the way it looks. All of the par cans and truss are chrome - it’s meant to be visible and it adds to the set. Mick’s chosen all the kit to give it the arena style look of a big rock show.”
THE BIG REVEAL
When TPi visited Thin Lizzy’s production team, the tour was still in its infancy and, for Thornton, the show that had taken place the previous night in Leicester was the point where everything had come together in terms of production, management and musicians. “I was pleased with the way the show looked and then today I’ve fine tuned it that little bit more. One of my favourite sections of the show is Cowboy Song, during which around 30 moving lights pin spot onto the two mirror balls to create a very interesting look.
“The other obvious highlight is The Boys Are Back In Town - the last track of the set before the encore. For this, we have four single tube confetti cannons on the front truss pointing out into the audience and six CO2 jets along the walkway at the back of the stage supplied by special effects company MTFX and the rig is all in open white so that’s quite a dynamic look and a grand finish.”
Having been an avid user of Avolites’ consoles for the past 30 years, Thornton was keen to use the Pearl Expert running Titan version 5 to control the show’s lighting. “It’s very flexible and quick to programme and I find using it comes as second nature these days. I tend to have start up cues within the console and then build it up manually once the intial look is established,” he commented.
“On my palette I still have looks where the lights are all on the drums, all on downstage centre and so on, but in my lighting design I also like to create shapes. My theory is that it’s all about the focuses - so you can make them look big to end up with a huge looking show. I’ve been told that this production looks like an arena rig for a city hall size show.”
Thornton was given free range when it came to the look of the show because he had worked with the band previously. “We had to put a really expensive tour on at a budget price and a lot of the way the show looks is down to Mick. He’s worked with The Moody Blues so his timing is phenomenal and his vision’s great. The last couple of shows have been phenomenal considering the whole thing goes into two trucks - it looks like a much bigger show than that,” added Selinger.
The lighting design of the show was accentuated by a tri-colour LED backdrop produced by Show LED and supplied by Hangman. Featuring a customised design that formed the Thin Lizzy logo with LEDs, the backdrop was controlled by DMX throughout the show. At the start of the show a Kabuki backdrop located mid stage was used for the big reveal. “There is a big sting of two lights and then as the band goes into the first number, it drops and the band run out. The Kabuki backdrop covers all the backline when the support acts are on so the audience don’t see anything when they walk in,” said Wilkes.
“Mick wanted to produce a traditional rock show but bring it up to date using the new technology and punchy LED lights with the new backdrop, which now includes the option of full colour mixing. We also have custom made Thin Lizzy gobos in the front truss using Robe Robins on the downstage floor to project the image.
PRODUCING A SHOW OF ROCK STAR QUALITY
Selinger attributed the success of the tour to working with familiar crew and suppliers. He commented: “This is our fifth show of the tour and it was quite tough to get it all going because we have a lot of gear, but we’re on a tight budget. Pretty much everyone on this tour has worked with the band before, which was really useful.
“So much of bringing together a successful production is about the vibe. If you have a happy crew then when the band walk into soundcheck, they’ll be happy too. Their mood rubs off on the performance and affects the show. This is one of the happiest crews I’ve worked with in a long time - it’s all about morale and conducting yourself professionally whilst enjoying yourself.”
One such happy member of the crew was Production Assistant, Ed Sunderland, whose time on the road with Thin Lizzy marked his first outing with a production team on tour. The Boys Are Back On Tour saw Sunderland carrying out a vast range of daily tasks, from organising guest lists to preparing days sheets for the crew. He commented: “Just being on the road is great fun for me. The show at Inverness Ironworks was one of my favourites - even though it was small, the crowd really got into it early on.”
In terms of suppliers, Selinger had already been impressed by the quality of Beat The Street’s buses, having worked with the company on a string of other tours. His 25-year relationship with Audiolease was also invaluable for this tour, along with many others the production manager has been part of. “It’s the same with companies such as Transam. I was around when they bought their first truck and they’ve helped us all the way through. A lot of people in my position have very strong links to vendors and try and bring them in on multiple jobs. It’s all about long-term relationships and I don’t like to change things unless I have to.”
Another prized supplier of Selinger’s is Sugar & Spice, which provided “incredible” food for a hungry crew on the road. “When it comes down to good wholesome homecooked food, there’s nothing quite like it. They’re such great people to be around and it really helps build morale,” Selinger said.
But, playing an equally important part in the smooth running of The Boys Are Back On Tour were the individuals making up the production crew. Concluded Selinger: “If the tour manager could walk away after a week and the show would still happen without him then he’s been doing his job properly. I’m good at putting crews together, getting morale up and making sure everyone is working hard and enjoying themselves. Part of that comes from the fact I’ve been in the business for 30 years and done most people’s roles. I believe nobody who tours is a normal person really - I liken us to the ones who ran away with the circus because we didn’t want to do what everyone else does.”
Photography by Zoe Mutter
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