Sir Paul McCartney Tour Profile

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

LONGTIME ENGINEER KEEPS MUSIC FLOWING

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For the past 22 years, front-of-house engineer Paul “Pab” Boothroyd has had the best seat in the house for Sir Paul McCartney’s world tours. Granted, he has to work while the rest of the world gets to sit back or bop along, but he wouldn’t change chairs with anyone. It’s too good a show to miss. Mix caught up with the tour in mid-July at Yankee Stadium—McCartney’s return to New York City—to kick off his new On the Run tour, which spotlights hits from his near-50-year career.

CHANGES IN THE RIG
During his tenure with McCartney, Boothroyd has seen numerous changes in technology—some he’s brought into his rig, others he’s dismissed. “You adapt to new technology that comes out,” Boothroyd says. “You take it onboard and see whether it will do anything differently and better. New microphones, recording techniques and mixing platforms. There’s so much out there now, it’s a vast choice from when I first started working with him. I think I started out with a Midas XL3 and then to an XL4—a great analog console—and racks and racks of toys, and now I’m on an [Avid] Profile, which is a very powerful but small console. It’s a good thing because Paul tends to play a lot of different-sized venues—from clubs to really anywhere; I think I mixed inside a cupboard when we were at The Cavern [Liverpool]. It was the only place we could go because the room was so full that we took the doors off of a broom cupboard and I set up in there. [Laughs] You think about all this kind of stuff and you apply what’s around to the job, and if it’s the right thing for the right job, then you use it.

“When new things come out, it’s all exciting and everyone wants to have the latest toy,” he continues. “Just like the latest versions of software. It’s always good to let something sneak on by for a month or two and wait for the bugs to be out. I see what the gossip is—if people are enjoying it and finding good things about it—then I put my own hands on it and see what I think. And if I think it’ll do the job better, than I would slowly move around to it. With Paul, there’s a lot at stake when you’re doing big shows all the time—40,000 to 50,000-plus people—you don’t want to just use something for the sake of using it and then it lets you down.”

With the Profile, Boothroyd is making extensive use of the onboard snapshots, especially with the 50-plus songs McCartney plays each day. “I have many songs on snapshots, which puts everything in order very quickly,” he says. “Our show is about three hours long, and Paul will soundcheck every day and he’ll play for about an hour and do different songs for a V.I.P. audience during soundcheck. Four hours of music just in a day and covering different songs; it’s good to recall from a list and go straight into it a bit more accurately than just doing it manually. With the different sounds and eras of his music, I’ve built in different tweaks that put the song immediately into the character of when it was recorded. So snapshots are really useful for those different EQs on vocals, reverbs, et cetera.”

As for effects, Boothroyd employs a general vocal reverb that he’ll tweak per song—a bit longer or a little more pre-delay. “Paul has basic effects; he likes his ADT delays, a little bit of Harmonizing on BVs, an Eventide HP5000 pitch-shift/delay just to give a bit of shimmer and some mono delay on some songs. Toms reverb, snare reverb and that’s about it. Everything’s onboard; it’s what the desk can offer. Thinking about, ‘Maybe I’ll be in a cupboard’ theory, it’s great. Also traveling a lot with him, all I really need is the console. I just keep it all onboard now and I don’t think anything suffers for it.”






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