Magic In The Air: Reinforcement Wizardry On The Bruno Mars World Tour

Going inside the systems, tech, and approaches for one of the year's most significant concert tours.

By Keith Clark August 10, 2017

Bruno Mars and the Hooligans in mid-concert form on the current tour. (All photos by Steve Jennings)

Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic World Tour kicked off at the Sportpaleis in Antwerp, Belgium this past March, making a three-month run throughout Europe before taking a brief break and then moving along to North America in July.

There’s still a long way to go for the arena (and occasional stadium) tour, easily one of the largest of the year in terms of audience size and number of dates, as it next goes to South America and then Asia, finishing up in Perth, Australia next year in late March.

Since bursting on the scene in 2010, Mars has already landed seven number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100, attaining the first five faster than any male artist since Elvis Presley. Accompanied by his band, The Hooligans, he’s known for dynamic live performances and showmanship.

For their part, the band brings a tight, energetic complement of electric guitar, bass, piano, keyboards, drums and horns, and they also provide backing vocals. A highly accomplished multi-instrumentalist, Mars adds guitar to certain songs in addition to delivering lead vocals.

Clair Global (Lititz, PA and worldwide) is the sound company for all legs of the tour, with head system tech Chris “Sully” Sullivan bringing a laser-like focus to fostering a main PA that can deliver exceptional coherence that’s consistent for every performance. (Sully is also a long-time contributor to PSW/LSI.) He works closely with veteran front of house engineer Chris Rabold to create a holistic approach where system output and coverage are hand-in-glove with the mix.

“Simply put, Sully is the best nerd and the coolest nerd, a system engineer who absolutely knows his stuff,” Rabold states. “He’s so on top of the design that it makes our collaboration in optimization and tuning a pleasure. Like me, he treats what we’re doing as art. Literally, he translates the science of the modern PA into art. Suffice to say, we work very well together, and that’s all for the greater good of what we’re trying to present to the sold-out audiences on this tour.”

The main arrays comprised of Clair Global Cohesion CO-12 arrays and CP-218 subwoofers.

Articulate Presentation

The main system is fronted by left-right line arrays, each comprised of 16 Cohesion 12 (CO-12) modules, and they’re flanked by side hangs of a dozen more CO-12s boxes.

While the number of loudspeakers in the arrays doesn’t vary from venue to venue, Sullivan notes that the inter-angle elements between cabinets do change given each site’s particular coverage criteria, determined with an assist from EASE Focus software for prediction.

The latest large-system PA development from Clair Global, the CO-12 is a 3-way, double-12-inch, horn-loaded loudspeaker available with either 80 or 120 degrees horizontal dispersion. The main arrays on this tour include ten 80-degree boxes above six 120-degree boxes, while the side hang cabinets are all 120 degrees horizontal. Smaller CO-8 arrays (12 modules each) serve as rear hangs, extending coverage to 270 degrees, generally located about 40 feet upstage and approximately 110 degrees off 0.

Another key facet of the design is the Clair Global CP-218 (dual-18-inch) self-powered subwoofers that fly, six per hang, adjacent to the main arrays. “The low end produced by the CO-12s is really impressive, particularly in terms of their size,” Sullivan points out. “A primary reason we fly the subs with the mains – which I’m a big advocate of – is to optimize the vertical timing between the two (mains and subs) in spaces with multiple levels, like arenas.

“By co-locating the entire main system, we’re attaining excellent alignment throughout the entire main listening area,” he continues. “Even up in the air with just six CP-218s per side, the low end is very tight and closely matched with the mains. Some were skeptical of using so few subs, but there’s low end to spare while the overall signature is super clean and super hi-fi.”

FOH engineer Chris Rabold with his DiGiCo SD7 and outboard racks. (By the way, he’s also employing a Digital Diablo live recording system on the tour.)

Coverage in front of the stage is reinforced with CP-6 self-powered point source loudspeakers, another new Clair Global development. Offering a very low profile, they integrate seamlessly into the stage face, rendering them virtually invisible.

Also on the deck are two more CP-218 subs per side for a little more “thump” in the extreme nearfield.

The main system is driven by rack-mounted Lab.gruppen PLM 20K44 4-channel amplifiers. All of them incorporate Lake digital processing, which is optimized for the specific criteria prior to each show and can be fine-tuned if necessary. As a result, there’s no need for a master DSP control unit at FOH. The main and side hangs are put within the same general processing group to enhance low-frequency coherence between all of the elements.

The tuning and optimization process, which utilizes Rational Acoustics Smaart, sees the tech crew deploying five microphones throughout the coverage area. Four of the mics travel with Lectrosonics wireless systems that can be easily moved about during the process, while the fifth is a hard-wired measurement mic at FOH that’s also used as a reference during shows.

“The system is highly articulate. The tricky part with any PA is attaining full-bandwidth coherency, and we’ve been able to get results that are nothing short of incredible,” Sullivan says. “Almost from the outset, even during early production rehearsals, we noticed that the slightest EQ adjustment is quite noticeable in this system. So it’s wide Q, contouring EQ, with shallow amplitude cuts. If we need to do anything larger than that, it’s due to something else, not the PA.”

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About Keith

Keith Clark
Keith Clark

Editor In Chief, ProSoundWeb & Live Sound International
Keith has covered professional audio and systems contracting for more than 25 years, authoring hundreds of articles in addition to hands-on work in every facet of publishing. He fostered the content of ProSoundWeb (PSW) from its inception, helping build pro audio’s largest portal website, and has also served for several years as editor in chief of Live Sound International (LSI).
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