June 2012 Issue 154
The Osmonds Up Close & Personal final UK tour took in 50 shows in 60 days, travelling with full production. A hard working crew and some easy-going brothers ensured a smooth and successful tour. TPi’s Simon Duff went to the hmv hammersmith apollo to witness a triumphant farewell.
The Osmond Brothers’ career began in 1958 as a barbershop quartet in order to raise money for hearing aids for their two deaf brothers. After being discovered by Walt Disney they went on to record over 200 albums, selling over 100 million copies with 59 gold and platinum recordings. In 2003, they were honoured for their achievements, receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. This year they released a new album, Can’t Get There Without You.
For the Up Close & Personal tour brothers Jimmy, Merrill and Jay along with their four-piece band took devoted fans on a journey through their many hits. TourTech provided the PA, consoles and all other sound production, with Dick Rabel, Managing Director, mixing at Front Of House. A veteran of the music industry he has mixed for a variety of artists including Prefab Sprout, M People, Lighthouse Family and Tina Turner as well as orchestral work for Katherine Jenkins, Placido Domingo and Russell Watson. Having been Billy Connolly’s audio suppliers for the last decade on behalf of the Mel Bush Organisation, as promoters of the Osmonds tour Mel Bush asked Rabel to provide a sound system and was invited to mix Front of House. Talking just before the sound check at Hammersmith, he commented on what he was asked to deliver for the tour. “Initially, there was no specific audio brief other than a requirement for absolute audio quality. The Osmonds are globally known artists, highly respected for their performance values. This in itself dictated aspects of the brief. It soon became clear the Osmonds would be performing a wide variety of material in hugely varying venues so versatility was the keyword.”
MICROPHONES OF CHOICE
The line-up on stage consisted of the three brothers backed by Scott Taylor, keyboards
Steve Mason, drums, Gene Pucket, guitar and Simon Mulvey, bass. There was also a second drum kit located mid stage right played by Jay Osmond on certain songs. The stage was completed with another set of keyboards and a small percussion set up. Shure Beta 58 microphones handled the vocals. Three wireless for the brothers and three wired for backing vocals, for the band. Rabel commented: “It’s essential that vocal purity is maintained throughout the show. The Osmonds’ vocal quality and harmonies are legendary and a major part of their ‘signature’ sound. This is not a wireless ‘heavy’ show. The main vocal mics are all on channel 38; there are two channels of instrument wireless TX and one wireless IEM on channel 69. It all co-exists very well.” On the drums Rabel opted for Shure Beta 91 A on kicks and Beta 56 A on snares. “The 56 A has a extremely uniform supercardioid pickup pattern that provides high gain-before-feedback and excellent rejection of unwanted noise. I am also a big fan of Audio-Technica condensers and I use the AT350 clip ons for toms and congas. Large diaphragm AT4050’s dealt with all overheads and hats.”
Rabel generally mixes on either a Yamaha PM5D RH or Avid VENUE Profile. For this tour he opted for the PM5D, using 44 channels for inputs and eight VCA groups. During the show he used a mixture of both scene memory, a total of 73, and a lot of manual manipulation. In fact he says that 80 per cent of the show was mixed manually. The Osmonds call for maximum versatility, with the set-list being merely a guide and not set in stone. The songs go from fairly hefty rock tunes straight into a barbershop piece.
Effects wise all processing was done on the PM5D. He commented: “I am using several hall reverbs on vocals, snare, toms and a tap delay. I’m utilising the 276 internal compressors on the main vocals and the ‘Comp 260’ on Acoustic guitar. The internal gates are used on the kit. I’m running the desk at 48k, mainly because it’s the frequency at which it happily ‘talks’ to the Tascam DR680 eight track recorder that I record the show with each night. Although I’m familiar with most digital consoles I decided to use the Yamaha because I know my way around it best. I knew I would have very little time to ‘get with the program’ and that there would be a few ‘curved balls’ coming my way. Yamaha’s exceptional reliability is of course key as well.”
TourTech’s PA for the tour consisted of L-Acoustics dV DOSC with SB218 subs. Monitors were controlled from an Avid Venue Profile. Said Rabel: “It’s a pretty ‘old-school’ monitor system, with eight wedge mixes, drum fills and side fills and only two IEM’s. Quite unusual these days.” His son Matt Rabel was also on the tour dealing with power, wireless mics, and system prep and audio patching. He was also responsible for organising local crew for load-in, set-up, de-rig and load out.
Rafal Kieca was responsible for mixing monitor duties, as well as being the L-Acoustics System Tech for the tour. He has been working in the sound industry for over fifteen years, having started mixing bands in his native Poland. He moved to the UK in 2005, to further his career, working for various sound rental companies and has worked for TourTech since 2007 on a freelance basis. He commented:
“I mix FOH as well as monitors and I am a certified dV.DOSC engineer as well. On this tour I am in charge of designing the FOH system and mixing monitors. Working for the Osmonds is a real pleasure as they are such professionals with over 50 years of experience behind them, so they know what they want and they are nice people. I am providing three mixes across the front wedges, four mixes for band members and an additional mix for Jay’s drum kit, stereo IEM for Scott and the side fills. My desk of choice for this tour is the Avid Venue Profile.
“I like its compact size, ease of use and it has a great sound. All you need in a nice package.
I don’t use any outboard. All the FX and preamps are from desk, with a little help from the plug-ins of course. We are using L-Acoustics FM115 wedges with appropriate amps and XTA system controllers. My side fills are two L-Acoustics ARCS and two LA SB218 subs per side.”
LIGHTING A HISTORY
In the lighting department Jake Jevons from Electricfly productions was responsible for the lighting design and operated the mix. He has been with Electricfly for five years as system tech and lighting operator. The Osmonds tour was the first that he has both designed and operated. He explained his work for the tour. “The Osmonds tour features video content that includes family history, cartoons and footage from the height of Osmond mania in 1973, as well as selected abstract graphics to accompany their new songs. Steve Mason, the band’s drummer, triggers video before each song.
“Jimmy Osmond, who takes a keen interest and understanding in all technical and artistic matters, prior to the tour asked that instead of a standard projector and video screen he would like to think of using a scrim / cyc which we can project, that also acts as a backdrop which I would then up light with LED lighting. I then went and had a look at various options and decided to go down the white cyc route which could easily handle a 12k Barco Projector which I would then up light around the projector as a centrepiece. I used the vast experience of the two company directors at Electricfly to bounce off my ideas, having seen a lot of our own in-house designs on previous gigs.”
Jake used a total of 88 lighting cues mixed on an Avolites Pearl Expert. The main lighting fixtures consisted of 10 Robe 600 Robin Spots, eight Robe Robin 600 Washes, and two Martin Atomic 3000k Strobes. No lights were pre rigged with the set up taking around two hours and the de-rig approximately an hour and a half. At Hammersmith the lighting front truss consisted of four 6 lamp bars, four 4 lites and a Barco 12k projector. The back truss had three spots and three washes each side of the projection. Floor lights consisted of four spots, two of which were on 2.5m uprights and the other two just on tipped robe cases. Two Atomics behind the backline were used for the rock ‘n’ roll numbers and four Robe mini City Scapes were used as up lighters.
He commented on the success of the tour. “Just about each concert has been a sell out. The Osmonds have moved a lot of people. The end product looking back on the last six weeks has been very successful. Dick and I regularly get a hug from the crowd after the performance so we must be doing something right! I have three crew that have never toured before and within a week they knew the truck pack, the order in which it goes into every each venue, how adaptable the rig is, right through to a bit of maintenance. Without them I would be extremely tired right now in doing six shows a week!”
Event Engineering, the Loughborough based UK event specialist supplied the video equipment, operated by Robert Edwards, one of the company’s full time team of multi skilled technicians. He also assisted the lighting department. An Analog Way EventiX Switcher was used to cut between the video feed triggered by the drummer and band logos. The live content was run on a dual redundant set of MacBooks. Two Christie LX120 12k Projectors were provided with one acting as a spare, as well as two 17-inch LCD Preview Monitors.
Projection was on to a white cyc specified by Electric Fly to provide a seamless backdrop that could be used by both lighting and video to create a dynamic look for the show. The primary concerns when specifying the equipment for the tour were reliability due to the busy schedule and truck space. Among the varied tasks Edwards carried out was the rigging of lighting, pyrotechnics and switching systems. He commented: “While the schedule has been intense the crew have pulled together well and the reliability of the video kit has made my life a lot easier. Electricfly are always good to work with and Jake Jevons produces a top quality show every night.”
Hammersmith’s sold out show found The Osmonds, band and crew working flat out and on top form. The grueling schedule was forgotten and a spirit of unity was very evident. Starting out with the hi tempo rock and synth track Crazy Horses, complete with pyrotechnics on stage and then a series of ballads, songs from the new album including Save Me, a brilliant slice of uplifting melodic gospel pop, before the disco inspired One Bad Apple from the ‘70s accompanied by the cartoon from the brothers’ original TV series. Lead vocals and harmonies sit well with the rock n roll band. Rabel created an ambitious modern sound as well as being faithful to the original sound. Plenty of low mid punch and vocal clarity maintained throughout. A modern re-working of Long Haired Lover from Liverpool kept the audience dancing and both lighting and video helped to tell the extraordinary history of the brothers. The show closed with Love Me for a Reason then a dynamic reprise of Crazy Horses.
Rabel concluded: “The maximum SPL I’m hitting at the desk is consistently around 108 dBA (approx 117dBc) which is surprisingly loud and I have not had any complaints. The overall volume is dictated by the enthusiastic reception the Osmonds receive. Luckily the L-Acoustics system is perfect as it produces such quality, dynamic audio and the high volumes are not perceived as such.”
Photography: Simon Duff