All Access: Usher

Jan 1, 2011 9:00 AM, Photos and Text By Steve Jennings

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R&B superstar Usher is out in full force, performing hits from his latest, Versus, on what is being dubbed the OMG Tour. With a stellar backing band, Usher kept the crowd on their feet, beginning with a fly-over entrance to start the show. Mix caught up with Usher and crew at the Oracle Arena (Oakland, Calif.).

When Mix caught up with the show, FOH engineer Mark Dowdle (he’s no longer with the tour) was mixing on a Midas XL8 digital board, using all onboard effects. Current FOH engineer Tim Colvard (pictured) mans a DiGiCo SD7, using such effects as Lexicon 960, Eventide H3000 and Yamaha SPX-990. Says Colvard, “Starting a tour that has been up and running always has its challenges—from learning the MILO system to getting up to speed with the show material—but I have received the support of a good sound crew to make this transition run smoothly.”

A 96-channel Avid VENUE is seen at monitor world, where engineer Simon Kemp relies on Smack compressors on all vocals—and that’s it. “Some additional rack gear I’m using is Dolby Lake EQ on the side-fills,” Kemp adds. “I like to keep it very simple; I won’t just use something for the sake of it. Less is more in this game. The EQ and dynamics on the desk are very good anyway.”

According to monitor tech (pictured on the right) Brian Thorene, Usher’s custom-fit mic headset is a Crown 311. The tour is using a Shure UHFR system for microphones and beltpacks, and a Sennheiser G3 in-ear system. Usher and band are on Sensaphonics’ 3 Max in-ear monitors.

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Usher Tour Gallery

According to drums/percussion/keyboards/DJ tech Benoit Brideau, drum mics include Shure 91 (kick), Beta 52 (kick), SM57 (snare top and bottom), AKG 451 (hi-hat), AKG 460 (ride), Sennheiser 604s (floor tom) and Neumann U87s (overheads). Says Brideau: “My company is Bencin’s Production Inc. out of Las Vegas, and we’re providing the Usher tour with all the wireless Sennheiser G3 IEM, FOH mixer for the opening act, Avid MixRack and all the backline backup gear and cases.”

“For musical director Valdez Brantley’s keyboards,” says keyboard/guitar tech John Ciasulli, “he’s got a Roland V-Synth, Phantom 6, GAIA SH-01, an original Minimoog that literally makes the arenas shake, a Lucina AX-09 portable keyboard [pictured on Brantley below] and an Oberheim OBX-8a as a spare. All this gets mixed in a Mackie 1202 mixer and goes straight to the house—no pedals or effects of any kind.”

The Meyer P.A. system (provided by Major Tom) comprises 60 Milo and 18 subs in the air, and 18 subs on the ground. “The Milo system from Meyer is the best, loudest, yet clearest-sounding system on the market—a real pleasure to work with,” says audio system tech David Litchfield Klann, pictured at left with cohort Jack Dunnett. “I owe everything I have ever done in this business to Adam ‘Hay Stacks’ Schuler—thank you brother.”

Adds Dunnett, “Some of the key mics we’re using on the tour are Shure KSM9 for vocals, SM57s on guitar amps, some Audio-Technica 4050s and other various Shures.”






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