Multiple DiGiCo D5's Offer Production 'Freedon' To George Michael's '25 Live' Concert Tour
For the first time in 17 years, mega popstar George Michael heads to North America, bringing the smash “25 LIVE” tour to arenas this summer. In promotion of his latest Twenty Five recording, the North American segment is the third leg of Michael’s worldwide tour, the first two having covered 12 European countries in 80 shows for an estimated 1.3 million fans over the past year.
Because of the massive 100+ input configuration, multiple DiGiCo systems were employed at the onset of the tour to spearhead the audio production—two DiGiCo D5 Live consoles for FOH and Michael’s monitors with a D5T employed for band monitors. The systems were built by UK contractor, Wigwam Audio (with additional amps and cabs provided by Eighth Day Sound in the U.S.), under the direction of Michael’s audio consultant/FOH engineer, Andy "Baggy" Robinson.
“Initially, we took an overall look at the requirements of the show and drew up input/output lists,” Baggy recalls. “FOH needed a large number of ins.. Monitors very quickly became 2 desks and 2 engineers. Each engineer was asked what their preferred model of desk was, and easily the choice was DiGiCo . But, before confirming that, we went through whether the desks could actually handle 100+ inputs and 15 band members on stereo in-ear monitors, and have the flexibility to be able to give GM what he wants without upsetting band mixes. We then approached Webby and James from DiGiCo with a big blank white board in front of us, and as we called out our requirements they drew up the plan. It was one hell of a picture. I had mixed on one many times, but didn’t realize how far you could expand the whole DiGiCo system. I believe what we have achieved here is the biggest system of its time. Wigwam did an amazing job; we don’t believe another PA company could have duplicated this system with the same attention to detail and style.”
Once the tour was underway, the production crew—Gary Bradshaw at FOH (standing in for Baggy on the U.S. segment), Steve May on Michael’s monitors, and Simon Hall on band monitors—were thrilled with the overall performance and sonics of the system.
“I have used a DiGiCo console on numerous other tours,” says Bradshaw, whose previous FOH credits include Annie Lennox, Depeche Mode, Simple Minds, Pink Floyd, Roger Waters, and Bryan Ferry. “First and foremost the console has to sound good. For me this is the most important feature. Working with someone like George Michael means the sound requirements are very exacting. The desk has to deliver a sonic image as close as possible to that of the original CD. I think DiGiCo has produced a digital desk that is sonically on a par with any of the top of the line analogue desks. The transition from analogue or other digital consoles is very straightforward; it’s laid out in a very user-friendly format. Simply put, the DiGiCo D5 provided the capacity and flexibility to accommodate a production of this size, coupled with the high sonic spec of the desk. And the fact that all three engineers who started the tour were very familiar with its operation and performance was a bonus.”
The D5’s small footprint and onboard features kept the need for multiple racks of external gear down to a veritable minimum. “While this is by no means a small production,” Baggy offers, “with any other system… it would be out of control for sure.”
“In order to accommodate the large number of inputs for this production,” adds Bradshaw, “I have had to disable the D5 on-board effects. However, I am using no external dynamic processing or additional EQ. All the compression and equalization for every input is done in the desk. This has resulted in a very small FOH footprint that keeps production very happy.”
Another aspect that keeps production happy, Bradshaw in particular, is the D5’s playback feature. “Being able to play back a previous show or rehearsal via the ‘Listen To Copied MADI’ feature is invaluable It means mixes can be built up in rehearsals after the band have finished playing. A complex section of a song can be cycled over and over until it sounds right.”
All shows from the 2007 leg of the tour were recorded using an ADK 112 track recorder running Cubase, and they are continuing that practice for all the US shows as well—and are looking to link up with Pro Tools somewhere down the road.
Diane Gershuny • DGPR
Image 2 Caption: L- R Simon Hall (Band Monitor Engineer), Gary Bradshaw (FOH Engineer), Steve May (George Michael's Monitor Engineer)
I have used a DiGiCo console on numerous other tours. First and foremost the console has to sound good. For me this is the most important feature. Working with someone like George Michael means the sound requirements are very exacting. The desk has to deliver a sonic image as close as possible to that of the original CD. I think DiGiCo has produced a digital desk that is sonically on a par with any of the top of the line analogue desks. The transition from analogue or other digital consoles is very straightforward.