Urban Audio hits the road with Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

Following a run of sold-out arena shows, TPi speaks to Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ audio crew and technical supplier, Urban Audio, to reflect on their experience.

Ending 2023 with a sold-out UK arena run, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds production team called upon Urban Audio to provide both PA and control for the tour. As the dust settled on the campaign, TPi caught up with some of the key members of the audio team to get their take on their latest outing with the band.

Our first stop was Dan Lewis, Technical Director of Urban Audio as well as FOH Engineer for the show. Lewis has a long history with Noel Gallagher, having been a system tech for Oasis in the early 2000s as well as mixing them for the band’s final six months. He eventually found himself back within the fold of the High Flying Birds, mixing the band for the past 10 years or so. Having provided control for several years, for this latest run, his company Urban Audio also supplied the complete PA – an L-Acoustics K1/K2 system to be precise.

“Urban Audio is not as well known within the touring market,” admitted Lewis. “We do work with a few touring artists such as the likes of Paul Heaton, Jacqui Abbott and Ian Brown, but most of our work is in the corporate and dry hire markets.” The nature of the company’s corporate working is very ‘white label’, meaning Lewis and the team don’t always get to shout about some of the work they do despite their sizeable stock of PA and control. “It can be a bit frustrating as we often want to showcase the work we have done,” added Managing Director of Urban Audio, Warren Fisher.

“In recent times we have done some incredible projects that involved some intricate audio design with our L-Acoustics system. That said, the ability to cross from corporate to rock ’n’ roll very easily is one of our unique selling points. Due to our work in the corporate setting, we always keep our equipment in great condition, which our clients working in touring really appreciate. It’s something we’ve really noticed over the past 10 years with the increasing demand from the touring side to expect better-maintained equipment.”

Both Lewis and Fisher also mused about some of the changes they had noticed in the live events market and with the proliferation of smaller, independent audio suppliers in the industry. “There are several of us who are working at a certain tier in the market that are not necessarily fighting for that top five to 10% of big arena tours, but we can still offer that same attention to detail,” stated Fisher commenting on the more bespoke service that Urban Audio supplies, down to the company’s fabrication department where it manufactures it’s own flight cases.

Fisher was also keen to praise the relationship the company has with Core Pro Audio – the seller from which it has purchased several of its L-Acoustics and DiGiCo products from. “We’ve had a long personal relationship with Tim and Joe from Core, and it’s great to support independent ventures like theirs. We really value the fact that when you pick up the phone, one of those two will answer.”

While Lewis looked after FOH duties, choosing to continue mixing on his trusty Midas ProX, holding down monitor world was Steve Weall. His desk of choice was a DiGiCo Quantum 338, passing on mixes to 16 channels of Shure PSM1000 IEM’s and a small complement of d&b audiotechnik wedges on the stage.

Systems Engineer, Jake Roberts spoke of some of the demands that came for this tour. “The PA brief was evident from the beginning,” he began. “Ensure excellent coverage throughout some of the UK’s more challenging venues while also mitigating the low-mid and sub feel onstage. Considering we’d come up against the likes of Leeds’ First Direct Arena and Glasgow OVO Hydro, we felt like we would benefit from carrying a more K2 for the main hangs, allowing for greater flexibility but still leaving plenty of clarity and headroom in the system to deliver an impactful show.”

The production opted for eight K1 over eight K2 for the main system, resulting in “excellent coverage and achieving sufficient line length without worrying about issues with sight lines,” according to Roberts.

To mitigate low mid onstage Roberts opted to fly eight K1SB at the sides of the mains, thus gaining extra side rejection, control and further enhancing the onstage experience without compromising the mix out front.

Continuing the theme of keeping low end away from the stage, ground subwoofers took the form of two stacks of three high KS28s in a cardioid configuration per side. On top of the subs there were A15 wide and focus to fill in the gaps, along with six Kara II looking after lip fill duty in the pit. For sidehangs 12 K2 were arranged in multiple configurations all carefully designed to not cause sightline issues to the IMAG screens. The close working relationship between Urban Audio and Show Designer Rod Clay meant that all those 3D interfaces between audio and video and lighting had been worked out in advance using a combination of CAD and L-Acoustics Soundvision. This meant that on show day the minimal number of changes needed to be made.

The tour also opted to carry a delay speaker system to supplement the main and side arrays in larger venues. “In some shows, we ran up to four hangs of eight K3 to guarantee that even the furthest seats in the venue got the same experience as down on the floor,” stated the System Engineer. “To keep sight lines as clear as possible and minimise cable length to each delay hang, we deployed a flown three-Way LA-Rack per side hung from the cable bridges.”

Roberts waxed lyrical about Soundvision which played a “key role in optimising the system each day.” He continued: “It gives me confidence that it’ll deliver what was predicted further enhanced by using auto filters. The ability to explore the venue and check for any issues with sight lines is also something I use regularly and now with the camera functions available I can recall quickly if I need to discuss somthing with any of the other departments.”

Amplification took the form of 48 LA 12X fed with AVB, using multiple LS10s along with analogue feeds for redundancy. At FOH there were two P1s in matrix mode handling all system inputs and outputs. “Having the P1s available also allowed me to utilise M1 during the tuning process, keeping the noise in the room to a minimum and maximising efficiency when taking multiple simultaneous measurements,” explained Roberts. “Having this data available within M1 and being able to manipulate it offline without exciting the room and taking further measurements again is so beneficial. It saves a lot of time and enables me to make much more informed decisions and once aligned it’s just fine tweaks and personal taste from there.”

The rest of the audio team on the road was made up of Monitor and Stage Technician, Dan Speed; PA Technicians, Sam Cook and Matt Wickens, and Delay Technicians, Matt Benton and Jack Davis. “We were really happy with the tour, and it was a great project to work on in the run up to Christmas,” concluded Dan Lewis, who alluded that there may be more touring and live projects in the future for the Urban Audio team. “We’ve expanded rapidly over the past few years and we’re looking to cover more areas in the future.”