Although Croft originally specified Vari*Lites, he finally chose a heap of Martin MACs, with 18 MAC 2000 Profiles and 18 MAC 700 Washes throughout the whole rig. “All the fixtures have had to be very carefully placed because I can’t interfere with the screen and have too many blinding lights focused over it, therefore everything is tucked away around the sides.”
Key lighting was provided by 12 ETC Source Fours in the Thomas/Tomcat trussing. “Everyone in the band has a 10° on them while the backing vocalists and the Syrian orchestra players have 26° fixtures, which we ride in and out depending on who’s doing what. We also have some Source Four 10° specials reserved for Paul Simonon and Mick Jones who occasionally step into some shards of light.”
Croft controlled the show from a first generation grandMA full-size console. “It’s a good desk for this kind of show. I like to stack up the cues and run theatre scenes for every song,” he said.
“We were toying with the idea of using an Avo Pearl Expert, which would have worked well enough. But because we’re touring around festivals and using other people’s gear, it’s important that I have a desk that can cope easily with the cloning of fixtures and differing sizes of rig. In my experience, the grandMA is probably the most flexible desk in situations where there can be so many variables.”
Six Thomas 4-lite Molefays, a pair of Pani HMI followspots and DF50 hazers were also included in Entec’s rig and although LEDs were used inside the letter lightboxes, Croft didn’t specify any LED fixtures as part of his design at the Roundhouse.
He did, however, mention that for the arena shows later this year, the screen and the lightboxes will be raised, allowing rows of PixelLines to light a rear scrim and create another layer of colour.
With so many musicians coming and going onstage, the job of mixing the Gorillaz show would appear to be a job and a half. FOH engineer Matt Butcher attempts to simplify the task as much as possible, and his weapon of choice is the DiGiCo D5 console.
He commented: “It’s the perfect desk as far as I’m concerned, although the SD7 will be the next step for me. The layout is great; it’s nice and compact, and the groups of eight allow me to do several things all at once. I’m not automating much but when I do, the snapshots are good for getting the mix ballpark.”
A Blur veteran from the 1994 Parklife tour onwards, Butcher was working with 102 mic lines plus comms channels. “The desk is completely full and the stage box looks hilarious!” he grinned. “Having two drum kits doesn’t help, of course, but my tech, Basil Fernley, has really helped to ‘stretch’ the D5.
“I’ve not been able to indulge in luxuries like snare bottom mics and second kick drum mics. We changed to Shure Beta 56As for the snares which has given me what I need without getting silly with the EQ.”
The large amount of open mics across the stage would have posed a serious spillage problem for Butcher if not for the muting system he employed. “This was where the automated snapshots were really crucial whereas the faders are pretty much on the fly. Then we have the 16 VCA groups which enable me to mix the meat, the potatoes and a large dollop of mustard on the side in large chunks. It’s two hours of pure concentration for me and think I’d be in trouble without those VCAs!”
Was he spinning any special effects into the mix? “There are quite a few echo and delay cues, especially on Damon’s voice. I have an outboard rack with a TC D2 and a couple of Lexicon PCM81s in it, plus I’m using some of the internal effects for reverbs and delay for snare drums.
“When I was using a Midas Heritage on the first shows we did, I’d mess around with the tone generator and echo, along with guitar pedals to get some weird lo-fi effects. It was all very analogue and suited what we were doing and I’ve tried it with the D5, but I don’t really have as much time to play with these days!”
Although Butcher described his microphone selection as “very standard”, one departure from the norm was a Shure 527B CB-style mic with a modified push-to-talk switch that was used for distorted vocal sounds on songs such ‘Stylo’ and ‘Rhinestone Eyes’. “I’m a great believer in getting the right sound at source,” said Butcher.
While Entec supplied the mics, control and monitor package, Gorillaz took advantage of the Roundhouse’s resident Outline line array.
Like Butcher, monitor engineer Dave Guerin also had his hands full with masses of inputs and mixes on a DiGiCo SD7 that Entec sourced from Paris before buying its own.
“Mixing monitors is always a tricky job but on this it’s like looking after four or five bands simultaneously,” said Guerin. “At the last count, I had 40 mono outputs in use and 12 stereo outputs. There are 27 different in-ear mixes onstage covering strings, percussion, BVs and click tracks — it’s going on everywhere. I’d normally give the strings a generic mix but the SD7 allows for them to each have their own mix, so that’s what they’ve got.”
The hard-wired IEM systems were Shure P6HWs, while Sennheiser G2 300ew was the wireless choice. Also in service were d&b M4 wedges run in passive mode and Q7s as sidefills.
Guerin claimed that no other console that he knew of would have been able to accommodate the sheer volume of activity. “There wouldn’t be enough graphics on the D5 and none of the rival desks would have enough inputs or outputs without some clever bussing.
“I wanted to keep everything straightforward within the one desk and the SD7 was the only one capable of being structured for what’s needed here. It took me nine hours to program this gig into the SD7 and as I hadn’t used the desk before, I went to DiGiCo’s HQ to ensure it all went smoothly.”
Assisted in monitor world by Adam ‘Shabby’ Draper, Guerin added: “The internal processing is brilliant but the one thing not included is an octave-up harmoniser, so I’ve got a Yamaha SPX90 Mk.II for that – my only outboard item.
EYES & EARS
The last member of crew to come under TPi’s scrutiny was Stuart Lowbridge who, along with Ossie Henderson and Jason Wardman, runs the good ship ‘backline’. But Lowbridge would be the first to admit that his role as Albarn’s ‘man on the ground’ far exceeds that of a regular backline tech.
He explained: “I suppose I’m Damon’s eyes and ears, second to Matt at FOH. On a show that’s as epic as this, Damon needs to trust someone as his ‘representative’. Having worked with him for the best part of 20 years, through thick and thin, he relies on me to be the person who ensures that the show is running the way he wants it.
“I spent a month in a studio with Mike Smith and engineer Steve Sedgewick, isolating all the individual parts on the Plastic Beach album and assigning them to the musicians. Now that we’re live, I’m with Matt during soundchecks to approve the backline layout and observe the sound from a musical perspective.
“Matt is a brilliant engineer, the best I know, but there might be a very subtle aspect of the music that needs to be brought out. Everyone has their part to play, and this is a job I’m very proud to take on.”
Photography by Tony Wooliscroft & Mark Cunningham