Soundcheck: Billy Joel

Jan 1, 2008 12:00 PM, Photos and text by Steve Jennings


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Following an extended North American tour last year, piano man Billy Joel made a few select stops across the U.S., including Oakland, Calif.'s Oracle Arena, where Mix caught up with the artist and crew. Front-of-house engineer Brian Ruggles, who's been working with Joel for the past 35 years, is mixing on a Harrison/Showco Showconsole, using built-in dynamics. “I chose to use this board for its rich analog sound quality and the fact its two work surfaces can accommodate a total of 80 inputs. I like certain digital consoles like the Digidesign, but there's a certain warmth I like with analog.” Ruggles' slimmed-down outboard rack houses a TC Electronic TC 2290 and TC 5000, Lexicon PCM70 and Eventide Harmonizer.

Mike Pirich

Mike Pirich

Monitor engineer Mike Pirich is also manning a Showconsole, using somewhere in the vicinity of 70 inputs. Rack gear includes Dolby Lake Processor, Yamaha SPX990s, Drawmer DS201s and Summit DCL-200s. Joel sings through a Shure SM58 and is on Sensaphonics in-ears; all the musicians who play upstage of Joel are using 2XS models. “As for Billy's keyboard setup, that is completely top-secret info!” Pirich declares. “No, it's really a Kurzweil keyboard and PC1 sound module. All the patch changes are done by Billy's longtime assistant, Wayne Williams.”

Brian Ruggles with Billy Joel

Brian Ruggles with Billy Joel

The Clair Bros. P.A. comprises 14 i4s and 12 i4Bs per side, eight i4s and eight i4Bs per side (sidefill), eight i3s a side for rear-fill, four R-4 under the stage (front-fill), four S-4 subs/side with four P-2 speakers/side on top of the subs.

Both engineers send special thanks to the rest of their crew, including Cliff Downey, Craig “Sprout” Robertson, Tony Rossi and Josh Weibel.

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