The triumphant return of 90s Britpop poster boys Blur rocked the music world at the end of 2022, as Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, Alex James and Dave Rowntree announced that they were back together for the first time in eight years to headline two dates at Wembley stadium. Built to exceed the ambitions of touring productions, DiGiCo’s Quantum7 was the mixing desk of choice for the band’s biggest ever headline shows, ensuring that the 180,000 fans that flocked to Wembley felt the full force of Blur’s influential back catalogue.
The mammoth gigs marked 35 years since the band’s formation, which was followed by a lengthy career of catchy chart-topping hits, numerous music awards and bust-ups with fellow Britpop stars. Alongside the Wembley shows, Blur also announced intimate warm-up dates in Colchester, Eastbourne, Newcastle and Wolverhampton, as well as festival appearances and brand-new album The Ballad of Darren.
Monitor engineer Dave Guerin and FOH man Matt Butcher are long standing, loyal Blur crew members and DiGiCo users. Back in 2015 when the band were last on the road, the two engineers were working on pair of DiGiCo SD10 consoles which helped them tame the sound at London’s acoustically tricky Mode Club – a venue the band chose to celebrate the release of 2015’s The Magic Whip. This time round, two DiGiCo Quantum7 desks made sure that Blur’s return packed as much of a punch as Song 2’s instantly recognisable riff.
The Quantum7 covers all bases, including functionality and audio performance, and can adapt to large scale stadium shows, as well as more intimate spaces. This was key for Blur’s tour, as the shows were switching from small 2,000 capacity venues to the mammoth stages of Wembley, which currently holds 90,000 spectators.
“The Quantum7 is a different beast!” begins Dave. “I now have 200 channels on the surface with 43 unused, 25 mono and 35 stereo aux with four unused, and 36 control groups with 11 unused. That channel count also includes inputs and outputs for the 34-person choir that joined us for the two Wembley shows.
“We added a third SD Rack with AES inputs and outputs on top of what we already had, and radio mics and IEMs for the choir. The Quantum7 accommodated it all without breaking a sweat and no additional desk or monitor engineer was required.
“For the album launch show, the choir weren’t with us, but Damon’s in-house string section Demon Strings were and the Quantum7 could additionally accommodate them without running out of resources.”
Supplied by rental company Entec Sound and Light, Blur’s tour benefitted from two additional full SD Racks with 32-bit input cards and a mixture of line output and AES output cards, all on two Optocore loops. “We have a long association with Blur and have been supplying DiGiCo consoles to them for many years,” notes Entec’s Dan Scantelbury. “We’re always confident that they’ll deliver a rock solid performance and meet Dave and Matt’s needs in terms of functionality and audio quality.” Entec also supplied a 192 channel record system that sits on one of the Optocore loops. “The benefits of having the record system on Optocore and not the usual MADI is that it works on both Engine A and Engine B of the FOH Quantum7 with just a couple of HMA connections. It also means that all 192 channels of playback are available at the monitor desk,” adds Dave.
“I basically fool my Quantum7 into thinking that those channels are its own record and playback channels by adding two DMI-BNC to my desk and then patching all the desk MADI outs back to MADI ins. A virtual soundcheck on monitors is as easy as at FOH. For me, this is a game changer. For example, the strings section were able to rehearse songs without the band having to be there.”
One of the major positives of using DiGiCo SD and Quantum desks for Dave was that he was able to use iPad apps Faders and Macros from dgApps. This meant that the use of buried parts of the desk such as Shout PFLs were sped up and he was able to programme and send specific instruments to multiple aux outputs with just one app fader .
“DiGiCo’s Mustard EQ is also great. I’ve moved quite a lot of channels over and drum sounds come easy, too,” says Matt. “The dynamic EQ is still useful in the precision EQ, but the mustard dynamics give more interesting options. For example, the FET compressor does a great 1176 style limit compressor for vocals.”
Blur are still on the road for the remainder of the year, with gigs across the globe in Norway, Japan, Belgium, Portugal and Colombia. The nostalgic return of the four quintessentially British lads from London has been met with sold-out crowds and 180,000 of them were there to witness the power of DiGiCo at Wembley. A desk made to exceed the ambitions and expectations of stadium sound.
“The Quantum engine certainly brought the work surface up to a whole new level,” Matt concludes. “The flexibility of the audio network and ease-of-use is second to none. Removing passive splits and all the connectors and cable impedances, including the preamp input really improved the clarity of signal, especially from the dynamic mic capsules. We have been rack sharing and using this for Blur, Gorillaz and Damon’s solo projects, too. DiGiCo is the only way to go.”[ENDS]
Maria Fiorellino at DiGiCo
Tel: +44 1372 845600
Sarah James at Gasoline Media
Tel: +44 1483 223333
DiGiCo is the only way to go
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