From STUDIO SOUND, august
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
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
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
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
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
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.