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From STUDIO SOUND, august 1994 

FLOYD IN FLORIDA 

In keeping with the band's  
profitable profile Pink Floyd's  
recent US tour took $83m.  
Kevin Hilton flew to Florida  
to catch their sophisticated  
stage show in Tampa  

by Kevin Hilton 
 

That it was a beautiful clear, warm evening in  Tampa came as much to the relief of the  Pink Floyd crew. The shows on the way to   Florida, in Houston and Atlanta, had been   drenched by the rain but for this one the heat of  the day was still lingering, putting the 70,000  crowd, covering the age range 10 to 45, in a  relaxed and good-natured mood.  It had been seven years since Pink Floyd's  last studio album and supporting tour but they are  back with The Division Bell, which is number  one in 16 countries around the world, and a tour  that practically sold out when it was first announced.  The band  still featuring David Gilmour,  Nick Mason and Rick Wright  started the  European leg of the tour in Portugal at the end of  July and are due to play ten dates at Earl's Court  in London during October.   With the new tour, the band wanted to get   back to the scale of production that they became  famous for with The Wall. While it does   not have the same theatrics, it certainly delivers  a huge production, meshing lights, lasers,  pyrotechnics, 61m projections and a massive   sound system.  'They kinda make their own stadium, man,'  an awe-struck fan said to me at Tampa Airport.   It sounds extravagant but that's the intention, as   Monitor Engineer Seth Goldman confirms: 'We're  very much in our own environment.' The foundation  of this is the massive band stage, with its in-built   surrounding 'skirt'; there is only one of these and  it is broken down and rigged for each show.  Rising above this is an arch which supports the   lights and projection screen; three of these  alternated during the US leg, while two will leap-  frog each other in Europe. 

 On either side of the stage are two towers,  which serve the dual purpose of containing the   main front-of-house sound system and being home  to the trademark inflatable pigs, which pop up during  One of these Days at the end of the first  half of the show. Because it's Floyd, there can't be just  straightforward left and right stereo; the band has  been using 'live' quadraphonic since the mid 1970s,  and this tour features three quad stations, plus a  delay stack directly behind the mixing tower. 

 An emphasis on sound is something that Pink  Floyd have always shown, down to forming their  own sound rental company during the early 1970s.  Although the band no longer owns Britannia Row  Productions, it still provides equipment for their  tours, which offer the perfect outlet for its  specialist systems. Bands having been playing  huge venues, both outdoor and indoor, since the  late 1970s, it is only during the last ten years that  dedicated long-throw loudspeaker systems have  started to appear. 

 Brit Row holds the worlds largest stock of one of  the leading models, the Turbosound Flashlight,  which dominates the current Floyd tour. The  front-of-house system is made up of 32 Flashlight  highs and 32 low-end units per side, supported by  three units left and right of the wider dispersion  Floodlight for near audience in-fill. 

This reinforcement is further reinforced by nine  of the new underhang cabinet, which, like  Floodlight, was designed by research house  Funktion One (run by original Turbosound  founders Tony Andrews and John Newsham) and  licenced to Turbosound for manufacture. These are  arranged in three Iots of three along the 'skirt' of  the stage. 

 One of the design criteria of Flashlight was to  deliver clear, well-defined sound without the need  for delay towers. This the system does, but a delay  stack is still need to fill in the area directly behind  the mixing tower, a 4-level construction that  houses the sound mixers, a hospitality suite,  lights-lasers and film projection. Right at the top of  this lurks a mirrored rotating ball, which makes a  startling appearance during Comfortably Numb. 

 Ironically, the audience probably noticed the  three quad stations more than the visually  commanding left and right stacks. Each of these  contains eight Flashlight cabinets and four  Floodlight boxes. Early on in the preproduction of  the tour, it was intended to have the fourth quad  cluster suspended over the stage from the  semicircular truss that 'contains' the show.  However, the height at which this is set made it  impossible, so the fourth quad signal comes from  the middle of the left and right stacks, fed from a  subgroup on the main desk. 

Up front   The front-of-house mixing position is  oversubscribed with consoles, featuring two  Yamaha PM4000s, which, over 80-channels, handle  the instruments and vocals; a PM8000 for all  effects returns and tape playback, still a major part  of the Floyd's shows after all this time; and,  although the smallest of all the desks, perhaps the  most innovative and important, a custom-built  quadraphonic Midas XL3. 

 This one-off was designed by Brit Row, with the  blueprints being faxed to the US so that the man  who operates it knew what was going on. Dave  Lohr ran the quad and effects on the last Floyd   tour, which makes him, along with the band's  Mixer Andy Jackson, a front-of-house veteran. The  other two Engineers, Colin Norfield, who shares  front-of-house duties with Jackson, and  Engineering Manager Paddi Addison, are making  their first appearances with Pink Floyd. 

 The XL3 is a dedicated 16-channel quad board,  which features two manually controlled joysticks.  'Because we need four outputs and joysticks to pan,  we needed a board that was designed to do quad,  rather than making do with a conventional stereo  desk,' explains Dave Lohr. 'The quad is used to  heighten what is going on on stage  it adds  ambience to the performance.' 

 The effects and various voices come from two  sources: either one of the two Otari 8-track tape  machines nestling at the back of the mixing  position, or from digital samplers on stage, which  are triggered by the musicians. This last move  would appear to be a fairly recent one and is used  for much of the newer material, including the  samples of Professor Stephen Hawking on Keep  Talking. These, along with four channels of reverb  and four channels of autopan, are fed to the  joysticks and then panned around.

Any of the sources coming through either of the  two PM4000s or the PM8000 can be routed through  the XL3, and either be panned or have ambience  added to them. Likewise, anything from the XlJ  can be fed hack to any of the other boards: in this  way the fourth quad feed is sent to the main  PM4000 and then to the front-of-house stack.  'You've got to mix the quad for the distances,' says  Lohr. 'However, you don't want to kill the people  right at the back but you want to make sure that  the people below get it as well. The quad wasn't  really designed for stadium work, though, and I  told Dave [Gilmour] this. It works great in arena .' 

 Surprisingly, this whole high-tech setup was  designed around analogue open-reel tape machines,  but, as Lohr explains, this is what Pink Floyd know  and are used to. they wanted to use the two-tracks  again and they're a tried and trusted method. With  SR it's close to what digital would sound like.  Digital systems have transportation problems   they're not really practical for touring work yet.  although the band is generating some of the effects  on stage using samplers.' 

 Despite this pivotal role, the XL3 is not the main  console in the front-of-house setup: it was designed  so that any board could feed inta any other. 'The  whole thing is linked up as one,' explains Colin  Norfield. 'The chain comes through the instrument  and vocal desks Ithe PM4000s , from which you can  either send to the effects console fthe PM3000I or  to the quad panner, The Yamahas have their own  buzz link for the VCAs and mutes, while the rest  goes via XLRs to multiconnects. All three of these  desks then link into the quad. Anything can be  sent to any of them.'  The instruments and vocals build up across the  two PM4000s from left to right, starting with the  drums and percussion (which Norfield calls his  'baby') and progressing through the other  instruments. The right-hand PM4000 primarily  handles the vocals and keyboards, with the  output from both being sent to the PM3000 to be  'treated' and then, finally, routed to the quad  board to be distributed. 

Cause and effect  Pink Floyd's sound has alwavs been very effects  orientated, both in terms of voices and noises  suddenly popping up out of nowhere, and weird  and wonderful ways of processing the vocals and  instruments. Despite the sophistication of much of  the system, most of the tape effects are played in  manually. Only the introduction of Money  cash  registers, the clanking of coins  is hooked up to  time code. This section is driven by the tape, the  band taking its cue from a SMPTE click track that  also runs the projection. 'In the past, the band have  used a lot of time code,' says Lohr, 'but they felt  locked into it, so they use less now.' 

 Processing effects appear on just about  everything going through the desks, although the  drums and percussion get most of this. There are  24 Drawmer gates across all the drum feeds, AMS  reverberation on the snares, Roland SRV2000  reverb over the toms and percussion, and DPR 402  compression on the bass drums. 

 The vocals are not left out, with a mixture of  tc electronic 2290s and the new Roland SDE330  being used for effects on the lead and backing  voices. The delay returns from these units are fed  to the PM3000 and then into the quad board. A  quad-panner, the SPX900, is used for a specific  effect during One of these Days, where the signal  is panned between front and back and left and  right. Two Lexicon PCM70s are used for  quadraphonic reverb. Lead Guitarist and Vocalist  David Gilmour has a BSS FCS8960 specifically for  his vocals. 

 The delay and quad stations are equalised by a  bank of BSS Varicurve remote units, controlled  through a remote interface. 'We can control these  either from the front-of-house position or by a radio  unit wandering about the field when we're setting  up,' says Paddi Addison. 

 Power for the front-of-house system comes from  14 racks of amplification, each one containing two  BSS 780s for the low and low-mid cabinets, and  two 760s on the high-mid and high units. The delay  stack and three quad stations each have two racks  to drive their loudspeakers. 

 The monitor mix is equally complex and  important, but only has one person in charge of it.  Seth Goldman has worked with the Floyd for over  20 years, and in the sometimes long gaps between  their tours has also monitored for David Bowie and  Mariah Carey. 

 Two Midas XL3s by the side of the stage take  80-inputs and give 22 mixes. These are distributed  to the band through a mixture of floor wedges (the  Turbosound 1xl5) and the Garwood in-ear  monitoring system. 'It's a sophisticated system, but  it's still very straightforward, although a little on  the large side,' explains Goldman. 'The main desk  is mostly used for the floor wedges, which everyone  has. The in-ear moulds complement these and are  used mostly by the two drummers and the sax  player, who wear them throughout the show. 

Others in the hand may want to use them if they're  getting a lot of slap-back from the arena. I use  them all the time, which allows me to walk around  the stage and keep tabs on what is going on. They  give a lot of freedom.' 

 Flexibility appears to have been built into this  whole system, giving the players communication  with Goldman and, in some cases, control over  their own feeds. Brit Row have designed a  buffering foot-pedal that takes a microphone out of  the main mix and turns it into a talkback unit.  David Gilmour has the luxury of a VCA crossover  which allows him to adjust the level of his vocals in  his own wedge by means of an external button on  the mic stand. 

 'This gives him total level control over what he  wants to do,' says Goldman. 'I set things up and  tweak it, but it's usually only very minor up and  down movements, especially when the vocal is a  little more laid back.' This philosophy extends to  the whole setup, with the BSS 960 graphic  equalisation, Varicurve 9260, BSS 402  compression, 502 gates and Yamaha SPX990  effects units being set up every day and only  adjusted where necessary. 

 'The Varicurves are pretty much set, while the  EQ on the floor monitors changes a bit each day,  but not much because everything is very much in  our own environment,' Goldman says. 'I fine tune  all the monitors everyday but it's still a complex  mix, with lots of cues coming in.' 

 Even with all this going on, it all seemed to work  well, producing a clear and fully extended sound,  the track Sorrow in particular reaching the parts  you'd rather it didn't. The Floyd themselves were a  little on the loose side  not that this bothered the  crowd, who flooded out into the Tampa night  proclaiming it the best gig. Ever.

 

 

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