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

Creative Energy

Steve Jay, who has worked in the studio with Jeff Lynne for 10 years, is a recognized authority on all things ELO, and for that reason, has joined Bradshaw out front live for the last five years. Jay brought his creative energy to the mix using channels on the top bank on the right-hand side of the SD7, while Bradshaw manned faders on the center DCAs and left bank.

For those who may be conjuring up an image of both engineers spinning a dial and making tangling moves with all their limbs just as if they were playing a giant game of Twister out front on the desk, fear not, these guys were in lockstep.

“It’s been very easy working with Gary since Day One,” says Jay, who accurately describes himself as soft spoken and a man of few words. “We don’t get in each other’s way ever and are always striving for the same results. To some this arrangement may seem a bit unorthodox, but for us it’s quite natural. More hands, in this case, do make light work, and create the best mix possible.”

Saul Skoutarides was the monitor engineer on the summer tour, and like Bradshaw and Jay, relied on an SD7 to come to terms with his mixes onstage. FOH and Skoutarides shared gains, while the latter had control over the head amps. Bradshaw didn’t even do gain-tracking as it wasn’t necessary. Inputs were split over a pair of SD racks, all the musicians onstage were on in-ear monitors (IEMs).

In addition to riding herd over 13 mixes onstage, Skoutarides looked after what Bradshaw calls a vast “telephone exchange,” i.e., a complicated matrix of talkback channels that resided within monitorworld’s SD7 permitting the musicians to communicate with those they needed to, and not having to fight to be heard over those they didn’t.

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At left: Monitor engineer Saul Skoutarides at his SD7; and at right, just some of the rack components required of the 13 mixes heard on stage. (Photo by Steve Jennings)

Simple & Dependable

For an admittedly complex production, from an input standpoint, things were surprisingly simple and quite dependable. Shure SM58s were on all vocals. On the drum kit there were Shure 91s in both kicks, SM57s on snares top-and-bottom, Sennheiser e904s on toms. Gong drum received a Shure Beta 52A, there were Neumann KM 184s on ride and hi-hat, and AKG 414s on overheads.

There was a direct-out from the bass player’s amp, and a Sennheiser MD 421-II on his cabinet. Lynne’s main and spare guitar amps were miked with Sennheiser MD 421-IIs as well. Guitarist Milton McDonald’s guitar rig relied upon a Kemper amp, with both his electric and acoustic guitars going through the Kemper and traveling out front via a direct out.

Multi-instrumentalist Mike Stevens’ acoustic guitars used a Radial J48 DI box, while his Peavey amp was captured via a Shure SM57. On previous tours DPA 4099s were used on the band’s two cellos and single violin, but with the addition of new pickups installed on these instruments similar to those used on the acoustic guitars, this time the cellos were DI’d while the violin was placed on a radio pack. Piano, vocoder, and synth keyboards were all on Radial J48s.

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The process of capturing the sound of Jeff Lynne’s (left) and Mike Stevens’ guitar cabinets was kept simple, and the same can be said for the drums, where Shure SM57s stood-in at snare top and bottom, and Neumann KM 184s were employed on hi-hat and ride cymbals. (Photo by Steve Jennings)

The band numbered 12 pieces in all, and fell under the control of Mike Stevens, who Bradshaw gives credit to for a lot of the precision and detail that breathed life into the mixes. “All the real clever stuff on this tour was done up on the stage,” he adds on a final note. “The complicated vocal harmonies were reproduced exactly as everyone has heard them on the records. I loved to listen to everyone singing around the piano during vocal rehearsals.

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“The songs are so well written, the parts fit together as tightly as a jigsaw puzzle. Quite often Steve Jay and I would just nod at one another during a song, as all the myriad pieces simply fell into place by themselves.”