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Locking Into Place: Jeff Lynne’s ELO On Tour Relies Upon Audio Impact, Detail & Image

For the fans of Jeff Lynne’s ELO, 2018 and 2019 have been banner years. Following on the heels of a 10-date tour last year after an absence from North America’s shores for more than 30 years, Lynne and his band returned again this summer, playing at 20 stops stretching from Vancouver, B.C. to Pittsburgh, PA and beyond.

Dazzling audiences with a healthy dose of surprise selections and deeper hits with requisite favorites like “Turn to Stone,” “Livin’ Thing,” and the exuberant, anthemic closer “Mr. Blue Sky,” Lynne and ELO (Electric Light Orchestra) solidified their status as masters of their craft.

Having first met Lynne at BBC Radio 2’s Festival in a Day in London’s Hyde Park back in September of 2014, Gary Bradshaw returned to the U.S. and Canada this year, reprising a role at front of house he’s been getting increasingly comfortable with. “I grew up listening to ELO,” he related recently while at home in the UK following the end of ELO’s latest swing through North America in August. “So when I first met Jeff and found myself discussing the mix aspects of ‘Evil Woman’ and his other hits, it was hard for me to get my arms around the fact that there I was standing next to the guy who wrote, sang, and produced them.”

While Skan PA is widely known for its work with Lynne and ELO, for this summer’s tour just past, Newbury, UK-based Skan took care of the control end and deferred to Nashville’s Spectrum Sound when it came to stacks and racks.

“However, we still maintained the type of packaging we’re used to and is expected of a Skan show,” says system engineer Finlay Watt, a man who was given a birth name that sounds as if it predetermined his career in pro audio. “The Spectrum guys were very accommodating with things like having one giant amp cart per side with all of the looms on top, along with other things. This was great for us because it meant we saw minimal differences in terms of our real estate. I appreciated it too because I’m a neat freak, just like the crew at Skan.”

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A Shure SM58 captured Jeff Lynne’s vocals as well as all others. (Photo by Steve Jennings)

Making It Make Sense

Taking a count of the Spectrum-supplied elements found in the PA, 64 KSL enclosures from d&b audiotechnik spanned across the main and side hangs along with 24 d&b V12 cabinets that served as extreme side hangs. Ten J-SUBs running in normal, non-infra mode were positioned in an array across the front of the stage from left to right, individually positioned in a straight line but arc-delayed and rotating outward as they departed from center in five-degree increments.

More than 20 d&b D80s per side provided amplification, with a pair of redundant spares available on each bank. The entire flown system was array processed.

In addition, a dozen d&b Y10P boxes were carried as well for use as fills, with eight usually standing in as the regular count. The stage itself featured shelves for some of these boxes, while another per side was mounted on a stand behind the outermost subs, and another yet resided atop a stage left monitor and the stage right guitar bunkers to cover the extreme sides below the 220-degree hangs.

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The house PA was built around a sum total of 64 KSL enclosures from d&b audiotechnik in the main and side hangs. (Photo by Steve Jennings)

“The flown system was designed to cover from the barrier to the back row,” Watt relates, “The fills were used more as a tool for impact, detail, and image, and less as a necessity for coverage. I focused on image a lot when tuning, as it could get lost easily. In certain areas I found that it was important to listen to where the sound was coming from in terms of the audience’s perspective. I didn’t want to be looking at the stage 20 feet in front of me and hear something from 30 feet above my head. That wouldn’t have made sense spatially or psychologically.

“Imaging was mostly incorporated into the measurement and tuning process then tweaked as required when I listened to content,” he continues. “For timing and tuning I used (Rational Acoustics) Smaart V8 and a combination of Earthworks and iSEMcon microphones, and most importantly, my ears. Once I had the room measured, drawn out, and the PA was designed, I spent some more time making sure my d&b R1 remote control software views were correct. I ran a lot of custom pages to monitor all aspects of the system.”

Out at FOH, Gary Bradshaw relied on a DiGiCo SD7 console. “I think I’ve used most, if not the entire DiGiCo range of consoles on various projects over the years,” he says, “and have enjoyed working on all of them. The beauty of the SD7 is found in the built-in redundancy, four banks of faders, and three big screens. The layout of the desk is very straightforward and easy to navigate, and audio quality is second to none. The only effect I used for ELO was a delay that can be heard in a couple of songs.

“There was absolutely no reverb on anything. I used a few Waves plug-in compressors. A dbx 160 ran across the drum sub-group, there was a CLA-3A on bass guitar, CLA-2As on each of the acoustic guitars, and a CLA-76 on the electric 12-string guitar that gets used on the Traveling Wilburys song ‘Handle With Care.’ Vocal compression and de-essing was done with onboard channel processing. I used the virtual soundcheck option all the time. It helped with the fine-tuning needs particular to the room of the day. The DiGiCo’s capability to hone in in on a particular drum or guitar, replay a chorus, and check the balance of backing vocals was worth its weight in gold.”

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