Billed simply enough as The Tour, this season’s recent co-headlining matchup of KISS and Mötley Crüe held back nothing during a full-frontal assault on arenas, sheds, and any other venue, festival, or state fair brave enough to host the twin bill’s mix of heavy-hitting rock ‘n’ roll.
Beyond the requisite blood spitting, fire breathing, smoking guitars, enough flash to light up New York City during the next blackout, and a closed-loop roller coaster used to launch Crüe drummer Tommy Lee and his entire drum kit on a dizzying 360-degree spin (all while he remained performing), the show was an exemplary model of efficiency and behind-the-scenes cooperation adroitly met by a diverse crew well-versed in the arts of sound, lighting, video, staging and pyrotechnics.
All of this may sound like chaos and bedlam, but for a pair of iconic rock bands with more than 60 combined years on the road, working in such an environment is, well…comforting.
Taming The Beast
Audio system engineer Frank Principato envisioned using one PA for both bands right from the start. “We built one monster to tame this beast,” he related from the comfort of his own home once the tour was over. “One of the bigger challenges I faced was making the system large enough for the bigger places while still allowing it to be custom-fitted as needed to the smaller arenas and sheds we did.
”Having worked with KISS since ’08, I knew what they wanted. I knew Mötley Crüe front of house engineer Andy Meyer too, and we talked about his needs in detail as well. To finalize the design, I basically drove right up the middle, charting a path where we knew we could comfortably cover things at our biggest, and pick and choose to fit at our smallest.”
An iconic act pulling out all of the stops on production. (click to enlarge)
At its smallest, The Tour made stops at venues like Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, and the Comfort Dental Amphitheatre (formerly known as Fiddler’s Green) in Greenwood Village, Colorado. With capacities of 18-19,000, give-or-take, both amphitheatres were lucky to find space for 10 box hangs per side.
“At a place like Blossom’s you can barely squeeze a three-truck tour in,” Principato notes. “So here we came this season just past, rolling in with 17 trucks for both bands’ lights, audio, video, and pyro. The audio was two-and-a-half trucks. Despite the restrictions on our hangs, we had to make it sound just as good with eight boxes per side as it did with 24.”
On the other end of the scale, the sprawling geometries, structural steel, and room for 28,000 spectators found in a place like the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre in Tinley Park, IL allowed the audio crew to hang the whole rig with dimensions of 14 per side left-and-right of the stage, and 10 apiece on the sides.
The audio crew for the tour, left to right: Dave Ferritte (monitor tech, KISS), John Howell (PA tech), Scott Diamond (monitor tech, Mötley Crüe), Andy Meyer (FOH engineer, Mötley Crüe), Steve Roman (stage manager, KISS), Frank Principato (systems engineer), Bobby Taylor (PA tech), Harold Danker (monitor engineer, Vince Neil/Mötley Crüe), and Adam Stewart (monitor engineer, Mötley Crüe). Not pictured is Tripp Kahliff (FOH engineer, KISS). (click to enlarge)
With Clair Global lending its talents and inventory to the task, full-range line array boxes used in front at each stop were i-5 and i-5bs. For the side hangs, i-DL cabinets were the regular choice, while BT-218 subwoofers were relegated to the ground, usually at a rate of 10 per side where space would permit.
Clair StakRaks housed all of the audio power and processing requirements. Packing Lab.gruppen 20000Q amplifiers, each StakRak incorporated Lake signal processing for gain, delay, crossover slopes, EQ, and limiting. Managed by software at a central PC or on a tablet, the Lake technology provided load verification and monitoring features for all components, including the loudspeakers.