To provide rock legend Alice Cooper with impactful and dynamic audio for his 2022 US tour, SLS Production Services implemented a diverse selection of JBL Professional audio solutions.
Often referred to as “The Godfather of Shock Rock,” Alice Cooper is one of the most successful and influential rock artists working today. While he has sold over 50 million records, Cooper is perhaps best known for his onstage persona and visuals inspired by horror films, injecting a sense of camp and theatricality in rock music that still inspires artists to this day. For his latest US tour, Cooper and his band performed onstage with gravestones, skeletons and a platform that doubles as a medieval castle wall.
As a result, the band did not use amps onstage in order to accommodate the set design, meaning that the tour required live sound that provided impact and clarity for both the band and audience while also accounting for the budget, personnel and gear limitations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. To meet these requirements, SLS equipped the tour with a selection of JBL VTX Series speakers, including the new VTX A12 Line Array Loudspeaker.
“The setup has certainly changed over the years, even from just a couple tours ago,” said Todd Hartman, Owner, SLS Production Services. “There are no wedges or amps onstage for the performers on this tour, for example. They’re all just running through the rig. So basically we needed a rig that had great sound and was easily deployable with limited numbers of people. When you go into these rooms, you’re always five or ten guys short on labor calls. So trying to limit the number of guys we need and still put a large format PA up in the space is part of the challenge in today’s touring world.”
The latest speaker in the VTX line, the JBL VTX A12 was designed from the ground up to provide unbeatable sound quality for audiences and time-saving usability for touring crews and rental companies. Equipped with newly designed JBL transducers, an advanced Radiation Boundary Integrator (RBI) for lower distortion and wider coverage, and next-generation LF section with Differential Drive woofers, the A12 emits powerful output and dispersion that matches or even exceeds larger line arrays.
“All the sound and front-of-house guys want to mix on the newest and the latest and the greatest, and us being a JBL house and having A12s, that was a no-brainer,” added Hartman. “Even though it’s got a 12-inch low frequency driver, it’s still full range and acts like a 15-inch box. It’s also a little bit smaller, lighter weight and even easier to fly than the V25, so even less labor intensive overall. And the fact that it’s a good sounding box is a huge bonus.”
Along with its lightweight and compact design, the A12 also features the VTX Series’ trademark easy-rigging system for streamlined deployment and takedown by crews of any size. As a result, Hartman and his crew found that using the A12 alongside older VTX line arrays, like the VTX V25 and the VTX A8 with 110-degree dispersion, was seamless and hassle-free both in terms of rigging and tuning.
“We had twelve V25s per side with an additional twelve A12s per side for sidefill hangs,” explained Hartman. “JBL made sure that when you deploy the A12 with older models in Performance Manager software, they work together seamlessly. We figured out how to program the older V25 box with the A12 and make it seamless from side to side, and it works really well.”
In addition to the line arrays, the live rig also includes JBL VTX B18, B28 and G28 subwoofers to deliver the impact and immersion expected from a rock show. All three speakers utilize specially built 18-inch woofers with JBL’s patented Differential Drive technology for a wide dynamic range, improved responsiveness and low-end clarity even at higher outputs.
“We set the B28s in cardioid on their carts dead center in front of the stage because they were shallower than the G28, so that we could get the barricade closer to the center of the stage where Alice likes to see the people,” said Hartman “Then we deployed the G28s on the outside of those, in cardioid configuration across the front of the stage, with the A8s for front fills on each of those sub deployments. Then the B18s were also alongside the A8s on the side fills.
The reception from the band and crew has been so positive that they intend to bring the speakers on Cooper’s upcoming European tour. Hartman also notes that he intends to use the A12 on future installations.
“I can see us using the A12,” said Hartman. “The guys on the tour like the ease of flying with a smaller rig, so they’d much rather see the A12 roll in for the European leg.”