Backstage Pass: U2 360°
|Joe O’Herlihy||Audio Director|
|Jake Berry||Production Director|
|Dennis Sheehan||Tour Manager|
|Rocko Reedy||Stage Manager|
|Todd Mauger||Head Rigger|
|Willie Williams||Show Designer|
U2 Mixing Staff
|Joe O’Herlihy||FOH Engineer|
|Dave Skaff||Monitor Engineer|
|Niall Slevin||Monitor Engineer|
|Alastair McMillan||Monitor Engineer|
U2 Audio Staff
|Jo Ravitch||Senior System Engineer/|
|Dave Coyle||System Engineer|
|Vincent Perreux||Audio Engineer|
|Tom Ford||System Engineer|
|Chris Fulton||Stage Tech|
|Jason O’Dell||Stage Tech|
|Joel Merrill||System Tech|
|Pascal Haulaut||System Tech|
|Jen Smola||System Tech|
|Ben Blocker||System Tech|
|Hannes Dander||System Tech|
|Kelsey Gingrich||Delay Tech|
|Josh Flower||RF Engineer|
It’s almost a given for U2 shows to push the creative envelope, and U2 360°, the band’s tour in support of its latest album No Line on the Horizon, more than lives up to that reputation by totally redefining the live production experience and raising the bar for live outdoor sound.
The band is playing stadiums exclusively this time out, with a 360-degree audience configuration, ambitious staging, a cylindrical moving video screen, and a Clair sound system which marks the largest speaker system collection in touring history.
U2 360° also marks a 30-year relationship between U2, Clair, and the band’s audio director and FOH engineer, Joe O’Herlihy, who has been involved with the groundbreaking production from conceptualization to implementation.
“This ‘360’ tour concept was first envisioned at the end of the Vertigo tour in late 2006, but had been the band’s dream since the Joshua Tree days,” he explains. “They presented the idea as a goal for the next tour, and I was charged with developing, planning and implementing an audio design which would not only set new industry standards, but would also maintain what U2 and their fans have come to expect—sonic quality, high dynamic range, and crystal clear stadium sound.”
O’Herlihy, show designer Willie Williams, and Mark Fisher and Jeremy Lloyd from production architects/designers Stufish worked collaboratively with production director Jake Berry and Clair’s R&D and engineering team beginning in early 2008 to establish design criteria and structural requirements. “We knew that the PA system, type, and application design had to be a line source array system,” says O’Herlihy, “and the new Clair i-5 was the most timely and perfect solution to accommodate the off center stadium 360-degree configuration.” Final versions were approved nearly a year later, and featured a system which was based around the Clair i-5™ line array and fully integrated into the set design.
In early January 2009, O’Herlihy, the Clair Engineers and Berry tested their system design and theories by setting up the i-5/i-5b stadium system at Toronto’s Rogres Center (a.k.a. Sky Dome). Various tests included verifying sonic calculations and phase references, and establishing low end time alignment. The goal was to maintain full 360-degree coverage, and cover the audience from the highest seat right up to the edge of the stage with an even, uniform distribution of high SPL, full dynamic range, and high quality sound.
The massive sound system covers 15 zones with a combination of hangs: L/R hangs of 36 i-5 & 36 i-5B each side at FOH; L/R 24 i-5 & 24 i-5B, Rear; 16 i-5 & 16 i-5B at House L; and 16 i-5 & 16 i-5B at House R. Main stage front fills include 24 FF2 and 24 BT218 subs, while a “B” stage area includes 72 S4 subs.
For additional coverage and intelligibility in hard-to-reach areas, the main system is supplemented with four hangs of eight of Clair’s newest innovation, the iDL™, a two-way delay cabinet developed specifically to meet the unique requirements of the tour. Designed as a completely modular system to complement the Clair flagship i-Series, the i-DL features a single low/mid element and an interchangeable horn module, providing either 60° or 90° horizontal dispersion and 10° vertical coverage.
In addition, the system is powered by the largest number of amps ever put together by Clair for a tour—more than 150 Lab.gruppen model PLM 10000Q and PLM 14000, plus racks of Powersoft K10 units to power the low end. By conducting measurements with proprietary Clair AlignArray™ software, the crew has been able to calculate SPL required for an audience of up to 95,000.
O’Herlihy chose a DiGiCo SD7 console for its multi-matrix capacities and onboard effects. The SD7 works two 40-input stage racks, and has three stereo outputs for inside L/R, outside L/R and the matrix L/R, a combination of the inside and outside L/R for side hangs.
Monitor duties for U2 360° are shared between Dave Skaff, Niall Slevin and Alistair McMillan. Both Slevin and McMillan mix on DiGiCo SD7s, with one assigned to Bono and another for The Edge. Skaff mans a Digidesign D-Show Pro for bassist Adam Clayton, drummer Larry Mullen Jr. and an offstage keyboard player, Terry Lawless. With the virtually subterranean location of “monitor underworld,” the three have no direct sight lines with the band, and work off video monitors.
Band members use Future Sonics in-ear monitors, paired with Sennheiser G2 hardware, except for a selection of Clair 12AMII “Stealth” wedges for Bono, making for a virtually clean stage.
“This has been a huge challenge for both Clair and for me, but we were able to complete it, despite working on a very stringent timetable,” says O’Herlihy. “A project of this scale would probably not have been attempted ten, or even five years ago. But thanks to lighter weight, highly efficient, lower profile speaker cabinets and digital mixing consoles, a show—even of this magnitude—can be designed, set up, run, and loaded out in a timely manner. Technology caught up with the concept and made it possible.”
U2 will tour Europe through late August, arriving on American shores in September. The band will play in North America until Oct. 28, and the tour projected to extend well into 2010.