Kenny Chesney Tour Profile

Oct 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Carolyn Maniaci



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Kenny Chesney performing live.

Kenny Chesney performing live.

When you're the reigning Academy of Country Music Entertainer of the Year, it's only natural that you'll be selling out stadium shows. And while this touring success is a great boon for the artist, and the industry in general, getting a great amplified sound out of a venue that was originally designed for sporting events can be a chore for the sound crew. But Kenny Chesney's crew — which comprises front-of-house engineer Bryan Vasquez, vocal monitor engineer Phil Robinson, band monitor engineer Bryan “Opie” Baxley and systems engineer Matt Naylor — are up to the challenge, drawing on their longtime experience working with this artist.

Vasquez and Robinson admit that they wouldn't be inclined to go hear a show at a stadium. Vasquez explains, “Since football stadiums are built for sporting events, they're designed to amplify the crowd noise [from the stands] and project it down to the field. When you get a loud band and a loud P.A. setup in the middle of that, the sound gets focused right back down onto the field.” But would this crew rather be playing only sheds instead of mixing it up with the stadium gigs? No, says Vasquez, “That would be boring!”

As the tour is self-contained, carrying everything they need and renting only some rigging when shows are too close to allow time for road transport, the crew is fully equipped to meet the acoustical challenges inherent in stadiums. They rig up Electro-Voice X-Line speakers for the mains and XLCs for sidefills, and Dynacord VL262s frontfills, all powered by Electro-Voice amps.

Systems engineer Naylor starts his day measuring the room, using range-finding binoculars to gauge the depth and height of the fills. He then runs that data through Electro-Voice's LAPS (Line Array Prediction Software) to set the angles and curve of the arrays. “With stadiums, it's basically a flat, tight pack for a long throw,” Naylor explains. The next step is employing Smaart to set the delays between the arrays, working with five different zones: the mains, 240-watt sides, 270W sides, front-fills and subs.

With the P.A. in place, Naylor receives a stereo matrix from FOH that he then customizes for each array. He sends a stereo mix to the front-fills, while he sums the mix to mono for the side-fills. The center fill is a heavy vocal mix with just a bit of the band beneath it, aimed to balance the band's stage sound hitting the area right in front of the stage.

In the FOH booth, Vasquez mans a Midas XL8 and does not require outboard gear. The only rack he sets up contains a hard disk recorder and a CD player. They don't track every show in its entirety, but Chesney advises him to be ready to hit Record if something interesting comes up. Vasquez says, “Sometimes Kenny will stray off the set list and do what we call a ‘keg-in-the-closet set.’ That's where he'll do a bunch of cover tunes and they could pull anything out. I'm always set up to record in case something special happens, guest stars might show up — there's no tellin'!” Robinson adds, “We've got a good idea what song we're starting with, and from that point on it could be anything.”

Up onstage, most of the mics are from Audio-Technica, which has an endorsement deal with Chesney. “They're generous with their endorsement,” says Robinson. “They give us whatever we need, and if they don't have something that fits the bill, we can use whatever else we want.” For vocals, Chesney sings through the Audio-Technica Artist Elite Series 5400; backing vocals are mostly Audio-Technica models and a couple of Shure Beta 58s. All the instrument wireless and drum miking are Audio-Technica: the dual-element AE2500 (kick), ATM 650 (snares), AE3000s (toms) and AT4050s (overheads).

“[The] Audio-Technicas worked out well,” Robinson continues. “They've been super-cool with helping us design stuff, helping us build things that don't exist yet, even design capsules that sound better. And wireless transmitters — we wanted to use one receiver with multiple packs, and they helped us design a system where you just hit a button, and it changes the frequency inside the receiver, so we have guitars A, B and C on buttons on the receiver.”

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