Entec ends 2016 with a bang as Nile Rodgers & Chic perform for Autism Rocks

Loaded with festive spirit, the crowd gathered at Hammersmith’s Eventim Apollo for the Autism Rocks Sessions gig by Chic featuring Nile Rodgers was unmistakably in the mood for a party. And with help from Entec Sound & Light, the man with the million-dollar Stratocaster and his band ensured his audience funked the night away to a veritable jukebox of evergreen dance classics spanning the decadent days of the ’70s and ’80s… and beyond.

Fronted by the amiable Rodgers and his female vocalists Kimberly Davis and Folami Ankoanda, today’s incarnation of Chic not only serves as a reminder of their enduring catalogue, with a 90-minute set list that includes ’I Want Your Love’, ‘Le Freak’, ‘Dance Dance Dance’, ‘Good Times’ and ‘My Forbidden Lover’, it also celebrates Rodgers’ career as a legendary producer and collaborator for Diana Ross, David Bowie, Sister Sledge, Madonna, Duran Duran, Sheila B. Devotion and, more recently, Daft Punk.

The iconic bass lines originally laid down by Rodgers’ partner, the late Bernard Edwards are now handled with power, precision and even humour by the larger-than-life Jerry Barnes who forms a masterful rhythm section with drummer Ralph Rolle as part of the nine-piece line-up.

Since Chic returned to public performance, the band’s live sound has been masterminded by front of house engineer and production manager John Ryan, who was aided at the Apollo by Entec crew James Kerridge, Rik Hart and Emma Wood. “Wherever the band perform, our approach to production is essentially the same, whether it’s a small, private party, a theatre or large, open-air gig,” he said.

“When you’re touring the way we do, it makes sense to specify equipment that’s available throughout most of the world. Fortunately, Entec’s warehouse pretty much covers everything we’ve needed for this Hammersmith show. I’ve used Entec a few times and always found their service to be nothing short of excellent. Their crew and production advances are great. We walked in today and everything was ‘as per spec’. It’s almost like being at home.”

Ryan admitted that while he has no strict preference for a front of house console, he openly suggests brands such as DiGiCo. “I have a lot of experience with Yamaha, being one of the first engineers to use the PM1D system, but I can work with them all. Sometimes you’ll trade better sound quality for ergonomics. I certainly have no problem with the DiGiCo SD7 that I have chosen.

Nile Rodgers & Chic perform for Autism Rocks

“This is treated very much like an analogue show in that I don’t use snapshots and prefer to mix on the fly. Snapshots are good to have if you’re dealing with an intricate, theatrical set that relies on different moods and effects, but this is a party from start to end and I have enough time to dial in everything as I go. This band’s so good at keeping the dynamics constant that it’s a relatively straightforward job of balancing for me.”

The microphone package supplied by Entec included a raft of Shure and AKG models, as well as an Audix D6, specifically for Rolle’s kick drum. “We are more inclined to use Shure microphones,” explained Ryan, “not only because of their global availability but because we have complete trust in them. I have a personal preference for a single Audix D6 on kick drum and for the last six years I’ve travelled with my own as a back-up in case the supplier doesn’t have one. To their credit, Entec delivered their own D6 and that was very good to note.”

MONITORS

Ryan’s audio partner is monitor engineer Marco Dellatorre. The pair first met around 12 years ago at a festival in Dellatorre’s native Italy, and have travelled far and wide ever since. The monitor man commented: “We have had some incredible musicians and singers pass through Chic over the last few years but this current line-up is probably the best so far for Nile.

“As the band has changed, so have the monitoring requirements. There were no in-ears when I came onboard; everyone was on wedges. Nile began using IEM about five years ago and a few other members began to follow suit, although we are still working with the same amount of wedges – 12 or 13 – as we did originally. When you introduce IEM to a band like this, where each musician is really playing off each other, there is a risk that it could affect the interaction, so the most important thing is to keep the sound consistent everywhere on stage for them, which is why retaining wedges is crucial.

Nile Rodgers & Chic perform for Autism Rocks

“Like John, I am able to work with a number of different brands but, onstage, the 14 d&b M2 wedges from Entec [powered by d&b D80 amplifiers] are working very well for us as indeed is my DiGiCo SD10 console. We also have a d&b V-SUB for Ralph on drums.”

Dellatorre also spoke very highly of Entec’s involvement. “I think this may be the first time I’ve worked directly with Entec and they’ve left me with a very positive impression. Nice guys, very well maintained equipment, up to date software, and everything we asked for arrived without fail. They provided eight Sennheiser EK2000 in-ear packs and when I requested an additional system that wasn’t on our list, they provided an extra two without even asking. That’s exactly the kind of response you always want, so I can’t fault them at all. Everything they do is brilliant.”

RADIO WAVES

With Allen Spriggs and Malcolm Giles at the helm of the production, this joint presentation by Dubai-based 117 Live and AEG Live was the third consecutive Autism Rocks concert at the Apollo in less than a year to benefit from Entec’s services. On this occasion, the RF portion of the show required 20 licensed frequencies along with Shure UR2 handheld microphones with Beta58A capsules, and the aforementioned IEM systems.

While Entec has worked on events and tours with a much higher demand for wireless equipment, the pressure to deliver a seamless service was just as great. Jonny Clark, Entec’s head of sound, commented: “Generally, the wireless equipment requests we receive are for either Shure or Sennheiser, or both, and we maintain very generous stocks of both to the extent that Entec is often the first call when other companies are looking to sub-rent systems.

“As is so often the case, having the equipment is one thing – and most top rental companies have a lot of similar gear – but it’s the level of service and crew skills you offer that distinguish one supplier from another. It’s now quite standard for one member of a sound crew to be designated as the radio systems technician because the frequency spectrum has become more congested and, therefore, requires a dedicated person to deal with on-site licensing issues and frequency management.”

Shure’s AXT600 Axient Spectrum Manager has proven itself, time and again, to be a crucial tool in this area for Entec, said Clark. “In less than a minute, it scans the global UHF spectrum and provides data on all the compatible frequencies that can be allocated to any number of wireless channels and devices. Working alongside regular updates of Shure’s Wireless Workbench software [Entec is currently using v.6 of this GUI], the system gives us the flexibility of selecting from a real-time group of back-up frequencies, should we need to reallocate due to local interference.”

LIGHTING DESIGN

Assisted by Simon Chandler-Honnor and Leo Tierney, Entec regular Andy Emmerson created the lighting design well in advance of the show itself. “It was a bit up in air for a while because management weren’t sure if Nile’s LD was going to to come over with them,” said Emmerson. “I later discovered that I’d be taking the reins and I had carte blanche to go with what I wanted, which was to create the feel of the classic disco era. The idea was to give the show a lot of depth, using a lot of white light and pinspot effects from moving lights.”

Aware that video was going to be a significant feature of the show, Emmerson worked closely with screen provider Transition Video to ensure that his use of colour dovetailed with the media content as much as possible, whilst still retaining plenty of creative freedom.

Owing to a later load-in time than hoped for, the fast-moving day saw Emmerson programming onstage during soundcheck on an Avolites Tiger Touch 2 before returning to front of house to run the show from an Avo Sapphire Touch. Emmerson explained: “At the Apollo, it can be a little difficult to program lights from FOH because you’re under the balcony and therefore you lose sightlines. If time permits, I like to go out into the room and on to the stage to program – it really helps to nail the preset focuses.”

Martin MAC Viper Profiles proved to be Emmerson’s mainstay fixtures – with six on each of the three trusses and four on the floor – especially for creating beams, chases and effects. Six Clay Paky Sharpy Wash 330s were rigged on each of the upstage trusses and Emmerson used Martin MAC Aura XBs for key lighting on the front truss and rear lighting on towers. Other featured items from Entec warehouse included 38 Showtec Sunstrips, which followed the contours of the truss lines, eight Thomas PixelPar 44s for truss toning, plenty of 8-Lite Molefay audience blinders and, naturally, a 48” mirror ball.

Nile Rodgers & Chic perform for Autism Rocks

The celebratory vibe continued just over a week later when Emmerson returned to the Apollo to light Club de Fromage’s New Year’s Eve Extravaganza. “The Entec rig remained in place over Christmas – we just moved the floor lights around a little to accommodate an in-house screen. This was one way of keeping me off the streets at New Year!” he laughed.

“We had DJs on two levels of the venue and a couple of great cover bands, and the resident Compton organ rose from beneath the stage at midnight to welcome in 2017 with ‘Auld Lang Syne’. It was a great start to the year!”

Photography by Mark Cunningham