Throughout January and February, Entec was very proud to embark on its first-ever European tour as the exclusive audio provider for the figureheads of progressive metal, Dream Theater – the Grammy-nominated five-piece whose genre-defining combination of musical dexterity, indulgence, fantastical concepts, power and attitude continues to push boundaries.
Founded in 1985, the band – featuring original guitarist John Petrucci and bassist John Myung, along with lead vocalist James LaBrie, keyboard player Jordan Rudess and drummer Mike Mangini – constantly reinvent with every album release, and this ethos is mirrored by their approach to touring. It was, therefore, a privilege when Entec was invited to join the camp to provide a complete audio package, comprising its recently-acquired d&b KSL line array and EXE rigging hoists, DiGiCo consoles, monitoring and wireless equipment.
Launched last March in San Diego, the Distance Over Time world tour included a European festival run in between two American legs, before commencing 2020 with a 29-date European tour of theatres and arenas which concluded in February with a pair of shows at London’s Hammersmith Apollo and another at Glasgow’s SEC Armadillo. A show of two distinct halves that earned acclaim from all quarters, Act 1 was mostly populated by material from Distance Over Time, Dream Theater’s 14th and latest album, while Act 2 featured a complete performance of Metropolis, Part 2: Scenes From a Memory. Once voted All-Time Favourite Prog Rock Album by readers of Rolling Stone, this 20-year-old conceptual masterpiece is now being presented live with all-new animated video content.
Leading an entourage of 30 is production/stage manager TJ Rodriguez, a Dream Theater mainstay of 15 years and counting. Working with Entec in Europe has been a new experience for TJ, who is delighted with the outcome. He explained: “We were ready to make a change of vendor and Entec came to us through our stage technician Ed Hammond, whose experience with the company was key to them coming onboard. We’ve loved working with Ed; he’s been a valuable asset to us since 2014, and he’s brought so much to our sound, so when we were looking to change our provider for this tour and he suggested Entec, it was an opinion we valued.”
Dream Theater’s relationship with Entec began during the transition between Jonny Clark’s final months as head of sound, and the appointment of Dan Scantlebury as his successor. “It was a very smooth handover from our perspective and we were very well looked after by both of them,” said TJ.
“We are a very relationship-based organisation and it’s clear we and Entec share a lot of the same values. In fact, we very nearly hired Entec for our European festivals last summer. Although that didn’t work out, the lines remained open and that made our dialogue easier when planning this tour. From day one, that communication has been detailed, regular and extremely helpful, with the aim of giving us the easiest ride possible. With some vendors, as soon as the tour goes out the door, there’s next to zero follow-up and you get left to your own devices, but the follow-up service from Entec has been faultless and their team has really impressed me.”
KSL’S WINNING FORMULA
The rave reviews earned by the band can in no small part be attributed to the combination of the crack audio team, FOH engineer Michael ‘Ace’ Baker, monitor mixer James ‘Jimmy T’ Meslin and Entec system technician Bart De Wit, and the KSL system whose configuration was designed by Ed Hammond, effectively playing the middleman. KSL appeared all but five dates in Europe.
“It’s a really warm-sounding, powerful system that fills the room with great quality audio – the clarity is incredible,” claimed TJ, a long-time former audio professional with years of touring with Bruce Springsteen behind him. “Giving our engineers the best tools is essential. We’ve used pretty much everything out there but having KSL on this tour has definitely taken things up a level and with Ace driving it at front of house, it’s been win/win all the way.”
Now a veteran of three Dream Theatre world tours, Ed explained how the final choice of KSL was made. He commented: “Ace had noted that every time the band played with a d&b rig, the difference was remarkable. Obviously, it’s got to sound excellent out front and the band sounds phenomenal through this system but the added bonus of the low end rejection onstage was what got it over the line, especially as Jordan Rudess is very susceptible to extraneous noise onstage and particularly low-end. It’s surprising how little bottom end you hear behind the hangs. We then took a serious look at the SL-Series and when Entec told us of its intention to invest in KSL, everyone was keen to pursue this route.”
Armed with the experience of mixing John Petrucci’s solo project band on Joe Satriani’s G3 tour in 2018, Ace made his début with Dream Theater during rehearsals for the world tour last February. He talked about how KSL has helped achieve the best from this impressive band. “Our guitar and bass amps are kept offstage and everything else goes direct, so it’s already pretty quiet up on that stage,” he said. “What you then don’t want is a ton of low-end leakage coming out the back of the boxes and into the microphones, adding mud to the sound. But KSL gives me every possible advantage of working with the purest sources at the desk, and it has the same impact on Jimmy’s monitor mix.
“Every engineer knows that the room has the greatest influence on the sound. If you let the sound guy choose which venues you’ll play on any given tour, you’ll end up working 10 days a year! With KSL, however, I have the best ammunition to deal with any acoustical situation we might face. There were nights in Europe when we were in a lovely, tight space designed for live music, and the sound had a precision quality. On other nights we might be in a funky, old theatre or a big, boomy ex-factory, but even in those environments I was never left wanting something more from the PA.”