Lady Gaga Tour Profile

May 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Sarah Benzuly

PERFORMANCE RINGS TRUE FOR HER LITTLE MONSTERS

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Lady Gaga is an experience. The performer. The artist. The musician. The fashion icon. The brand. And when “Mama Monster” hits the stage, all her little monsters in the Oakland Arena (Oakland, Calif.) eagerly pumped their paws to the sky in time with her chart-topping hits such as “Telephone,” “Paparazzi” and “Poker Face.” In part evoking a dance club atmosphere while quieting down for softer moments where she tickles the ivories for “You and I,” the Lady Gaga Monster tour is part visual spectacle—replete with numerous costume changes, each more interesting than the previous—and part true musicianship of Gaga and her 12-piece band.

ONLINE EXTRAS

WATCH:
Lady Gaga 2011 Tour Gallery

But for front-of-house engineer Horace Ward, he humbly says that his role in the concert’s production is more “invisible.” “A concert is a feel,” he explains. “When you go to a club, you feel the music. It’s the same thing here. There are visuals that take your eye, but you still feel the music. It’s supposed to be that enhancement. It brings you closer to the stage, closer to the artist. The better the sound, the closer the artist seems to you. If you go away and say that guitar kind of hurt, you’re distracted by the sound; there should be no distractions like that. When you look at the P.A. and wonder what’s going on up there, then you’re taking your eyes away from the stage. I’ve got to be as loud as I can because it’s that club-type feel—big low end—but your eyes are supposed to be wandering around the stage. When you look at an instrument, you’re supposed to hear it. That visual thing is what it’s all about.”

Full Lady Gaga audio crew, from left: audio crew chief/monitor tech Dan Klocker, monitor engineer Ramon Morales, P.A. tech Wayne Bacon, FOH engineer Horace Ward, RF tech Bill Flugan, P.A. tech Kevin Szafraniec, FOH tech/system engineer Tony Smith, and P.A. techs James La Marca and James Allen

Full Lady Gaga audio crew, from left: audio crew chief/monitor tech Dan Klocker, monitor engineer Ramon Morales, P.A. tech Wayne Bacon, FOH engineer Horace Ward, RF tech Bill Flugan, P.A. tech Kevin Szafraniec, FOH tech/system engineer Tony Smith, and P.A. techs James La Marca and James Allen

While Ward may be taking a backseat role in the concert’s experience, it’s his deft mixing—coupled with that of monitor engineer Ramon Morales—that truly makes a Lady Gaga show exciting and great-sounding.

A PRE-OWNED RIG
Both Ward and Morales came onto the tour later on the run (the arena dates are an off-shoot of the previous theater gigs) and adopted their respective setups from the previous FOH and monitor crew. Ward is mixing on an Avid VENUE Profile, a board he consulted on with the company. (For more on that collaboration, see the sidebar, “VENUE Input.”) Prior to setting foot on the tour, Ward was emailing desk files with the previous engineer to adapt the setup to his way of mixing, though those changes were limited. “You can’t redo the console without redoing a lot of other things,” Ward explains. “All of my effects would have changed, and I would have had to sit down for two days and really go through it, but I don’t have that time” as he started on the second show of the tour.

Morales is mixing on a DiGiCo SD7, a first for him. He’s using the board’s 80 inputs, with band effects and audience mics (four 414s and two shotgun mics strategically placed around the lip of the main and B stages) taking up the majority of that number; he works with wireless tech Bill Flugan to ensure that all wireless signals are up and running. The band is on Sensaphonics in-ears, while Gaga wears JH Audio; all mixes are straightforward. However, when Gaga takes to an instrument, Morales brings that instrument up in her ears enough for her to hear it, but at the same time, “I have to make sure it does not overpower everything else in her mix,” he says. “Her voice is her main instrument, and I have to make sure that she can always hear herself, the instrument that she is playing and the rest of the band onstage with her.”

For effects, he’s going the onboard route, and using Waves MultiRack (taken MADI through the desk) on vocals. He also uses a TC Electronic System 6000 for Gaga’s vocals and drums. “We have Gaga’s mic inputs going through UA 2-610 preamps, just to warm it up a little,” Morales says.

Ward is also using all onboard plug-ins (Waves, McDSP, Sony Oxford); because the board is Pro Tools–based, he is able to mix the show in a similar fashion as to how they did tracks in the studio. Granted, Ward was not present during those recording dates, but he takes a similar approach to his live mix. “Nowadays, you have to plan the mix like you’re doing an album. For example, the vocal chain, where you’re using compressors and various dynamic compressors within the chain, EQ, et cetera. [With a digital console,] a lot of stuff that you couldn’t compress because you didn’t have enough compressors, you can now compress; it’s all about control. With live, you can’t overcompress stuff like you do in the studio, but you can control everything. You can control the dynamics to where you want it to be, but you do have to get to that studio technique so the quality shines through. I’m working with a sequencer that’s pumping, a full band that’s pumping, string instruments, violin and the harp [which is featured on “Telephone,” as it’s the lead instrument]. I’ve got to be able to let [the harp] shine through. Balancing the drums with the sequenced drums and everything else—it’s all about control.”






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