Roger Waters The Wall Tour Profile
Feb 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Sarah Benzuly
RESURRECTING THE ALBUM WITH A LIVE TWIST
It’s been 30 years since Roger Waters penned Pink Floyd’s mind-blowing album The Wall. Fast-forward to today, and the same political issues, fear and stress on global matters that formed the basis of that album are still quite relevant—and Waters demonstrates this in his jaw-dropping, two-hour (with half-hour intermission) show. The double-disc album—played in its entirety on this tour—concentrates on the walls people build around themselves for survival. While this may seem like a purely philosophical topic, Waters also brings it into physical reality: By the time the first-half of his performance is complete, a 36-foot wall made of cardboard boxes has been erected onstage. Of course, the wall comes crashing down at the end of the second-half. As each box is put into its place, the audience’s view of the band and Waters is slowly blurred out. Each box also displays occasionally chaotic video images, some of which include pictures of armed forces casualties, snippets from the original The Wall video, and B-52 bombers dropping crosses, stars of David, Islamic crescents and logos of Shell Oil and Mercedes Benz.
It’s a visually stunning experience with top-notch sound, helped out by the incredible backing band: guitarists Dave Kilminster, G.E. Smith and Snowy White; background vocalists Mark Lennon, Michael Lennon, Kipp Lennon and Jon Joyce; keyboardists Harry Waters—Waters’ son—and Jon Carin; drummer Graham Broad; and, of course, Waters on bass. Taking care of David Gilmour’s vocal parts is second lead singer Robbie Wyckoff.
Tour manager/front-of-house engineer Trip Khalaf has been mixing for Waters since 1999, watching the artist become more comfortable in the limelight. “In 1999, he hadn’t done a show in 10 years and nobody knew what to do with it,” Khalaf recalls. “It was odd because Pink Floyd always tried to avoid the spotlight, so no one really knew who was in the band, except for the real diehards. It has been interesting watching it grow to what it is now.”
ANALOG RULES AT FOH
For this run of 94 dates, Khalaf is manning three boards: a Midas XL4 to handle the stereo P.A. (more on that later), another XL4 to cover the band and the end of the second-half, and a Yamaha PM5D for surrounds and effects. “For the analog side of it, it’s because of the number of inputs,” Khalaf says. “There are two bands, really. The front XL4 does all of the main stage—which is behind the wall—and the one on the left [another XL4] does all of the surrogate band, the forestage.” Inside the effects rack are Lexicon 480s and PCM91s, TC Electronic D-Twos, an H3000, a Helicon vocal double, Aphex gates on drums, Crane Song STC8 on basses, TLA100s on vocals and dbx 900 on background vocals. Why XL4s? Khalaf replies: “Because I’m tired of pretending that digital audio sounds as good as analog. It doesn’t. This record was made when people cared deeply about sound quality. These days, that is not as important as the size of the video screen on your console. If it comes at me analog, it will stay analog.”
Those surround speakers are Clair R4s clustered in three configurations—left, right and rear—that handle the playback and sound effects, provided by playback engineer Mike McKnight. “They’re there so that there’s something happening for everybody,” says crew chief/system engineer Robert Wiebel. “We’ve had quite good luck with them; they sound good.” Adds Khalaf, “The Yamaha takes care of all the surround stuff, which comes from a hard disk operator [Mike McKnight]. We tried carrying around live pigeons to make pigeon noises but it didn’t work, so we put them on hard disk. [Laughs] It also gives me the opportunity because all of the effects are digital anyway; I just bring them back into the Yamaha and leave them all there. All of the surround effects need to be controlled all the time, mostly because the height of those surround clusters varies from building to building. I have the VCAs linked between the two XL4s so that I can more or less control that left-hand board from the main board.
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