Beck and the Flaming Lips

Feb 1, 2003 12:00 PM, BY ROBERT HANSON


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Last fall, Beck and the Flaming Lips, two enduring icons of ‘90s modern rock, teamed up for a somewhat unusual tour: The Flaming Lips doubled as the opening act and as Beck's backing band. Mix caught the show at the historic Paramount Theatre in Oakland, Calif. The evening began with an energetic performance by the Flaming Lips. Beck then treated the crowd to a relaxed acoustic performance that included a healthy dose of material from his latest album, Sea Change. The Flaming Lips then rejoined Beck onstage, and the two acts played through a wide sampling of Beck favorites, including tracks from Midnight Vultures and Odelay. Beck's scaled-down solo performance was framed on both sides by two over-the-top stage shows. From a technical standpoint, the tour also eschewed convention; FOH engineer Jon Lemon mixed from a prototype Digico D5 digital console.

Beck uses a Neumann KMS 105, while all of the other vocal mics are Shure SM58s. The miking scheme for the drum kit includes Neumann KMS 103s on kick and toms, Sennheiser E609 on snare and Neumann KM 184s for overheads. Other stage mics include Neumann TLM 193s on guitars. The multiple keyboard rigs and the bass were taken direct using Countryman DIs.

The main P.A. consists of Showco Prism cabinets and subs. The tour is carrying 20 full-range cabinets and 10 subs. All of the amplification comes from Crown.

FOH engineer Jon Lemon, whose recent FOH credits include The Cure, Depeche Mode, Oasis and Nine Inch Nails, mixes from a Digico D5 digital console, capable of 192 inputs arranged in layers and accessed though fader banks. Each channel includes dynamics, multiband EQ, insert/send effects and extensive automation features. A majority of the parameters are recalled and adjusted via flat-panel touch screens.

“We did an acoustic tour [over the summer],” Lemon explains, “and that's when I really wanted to get a digital console because we were doing 1,000 to 1,500-seat theaters, but I couldn't get one in time that I liked. Then the whole Digico D5 thing started happening, and they offered me one of the only two prototypes for the tour. The console has all onboard compressors and gates, and they're the best digital gates that I've ever heard. Still, for that extra warmth, I use the Manley VoxBox on Beck's vocals, the Summit DCL 200s on the main backing vocals, the TLA 100 on the bass and, of course, the Smart compressor on the left and right. In all honesty, I find myself relying on them less and less because the compressors onboard are really good. But there is still something about the movement of valves for your main bass and vocal.

“I suppose the other interesting thing is that we have a Pyramix hard disk recording system from Switzerland,” Lemon continues. “It gives me up to 112 tracks, but in actual fact, I'm just using 56. And I can do an hour and 40 minutes on about 40 gigabytes. The benefit is that it splits off at the digital interface on the back of the console. The next day, I can come in and just return the multitrack straight onto the console, and it comes in its inputs at exactly the gain the microphone was at the night before. I've got the self-powered Tannoys here; I can just start dialing in more stuff. Since I started doing this, I always dreamt about being able to come into the gig without the musicians and really hone down the sound.”

Lemon also carries selections from TC Electronic, including the System 6000 Reverb, and an Eventide H300 for occasional vocal doubling.

Monitor engineer John Shearman, a longtime fixture with the Smashing Pumpkins, mixes both IEMs and traditional wedge monitors with a Midas XL4 console running 46 mono and three stereo inputs. Beck uses a Sennheiser 3050 wireless IEM system with custom ear molds from Future Sonics. All of the onstage monitors are Showco SRM wedges and Prism sidefills. Shearman manages seven wedge mixes and Beck's IEMs. The drummer and keyboard player also use IEMs at varying points during the show for click tracks.

“I'm now just mainly using the sidefills for the Flaming Lips when they're the opening act,” Shearman says. “Beck has really gotten into the in-ears on this tour. He's using them constantly now, so we don't use the sidefills and wedges as much. On Beck's vocal, I have the TLA 100As: a main and a spare. And I've got Drawmer gates on the kick and toms, and there are compressors on the kick and certain keyboards. Some of the keyboard stuff tends to get a bit freaky. I've also got a dbx 1046 on Beck's in-ear mix.”

Also in Shearman's rack is a Lexicon PCM 70, which is used on Beck's vocal, as well as a complement of Klark Teknik EQs.

Portraits of Beck onstage by Mix photographer Steve Jennings

Photo: Steve Jennings

Photo: Steve Jennings

Photo: Steve Jennings

Photo: Steve Jennings

Beck FOH engineer John Lemon (left) and system tech Jim Ragus (right).
Photo: Steve Jennings

Beck guitar tech Jeff Tweedy.
Photo: Steve Jennings

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