U2 360 Tour Profile

Dec 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Kevin Becka
Photos: Steve Jennings



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The 170-foot-tall steel structure and stage at University of Phoenix Stadium (Glendale, Ariz.)

The 170-foot-tall steel structure and stage at University of Phoenix Stadium (Glendale, Ariz.)

The U2 360° tour that recently ended its first leg in the U.S. has taken the stadium show to a new level. The sheer scope of the production is mind-boggling. It took two years to design and develop, travels on 180 trucks, employs more than 400 people — including 12 system engineer/techs — and uses an astounding amount of audio and video gear. The best thing about the show is the communication and contact between the band and the audience provided by the 170-foot-tall steel structure perched over the stage.

Originally inspired by the Theme Building at Los Angeles' LAX airport, the four-legged “spider” incorporates all of the lighting, some of the 12 manned cameras and spots, massive speaker arrays and a huge 360-degree vertically expandable LED video screen. And as ridiculous as it sounds, once the show starts, you forget it's there: Instead of being the elephant in the room, the structure focuses attention on the band and how they interact with the crowd, both near and far. The inner ring nearest the main stage gives more than 3,000 fans close proximity to the band, while the outer ring gives the band access to standing and seated concertgoers farther out. At different times during the show, The Edge, Bono, Adam Clayton and even drummer Larry Mullins Jr. use two moving bridges to perform between the areas and are followed by video and audio all the way.

Of course, you'd expect the audio system used for such a massive setup to be huge — and it doesn't disappoint. The setup comprises the latest in digital tech offered for live sound and, surprisingly, some tried-and-true analog gear. The tour's look and systems design was a collaboration between the band and audio director/front-of-house Joe O'Herlihy, show designer Willie Williams, production architect/designers Jeremy Lloyd and Mark Fisher, and Clair Global R&D and engineering teams.

Front-of-house engineer Joe O'Herlihy (left) with senior systems engineer Jo Ravitch

Front-of-house engineer Joe O'Herlihy (left) with senior systems engineer Jo Ravitch

The speakers used are all Clair and comprise FOH left/right hangs of 36 i5 and 36 i5B; 24 i5 and 24 i5B rear; 16 i5 and 16 i5B at house left; and 16 i5 and 16 i5B at house right. Main stage front-fills include 24 FF2 and 24 BT218 subs, while the “B” stage area carries 72 S4 subs. There are also two towers carrying 32 iDL delay cabinets. That's 336 separate enclosures, all powered by Lab.gruppen PLM 10000Q and PLM 14000s and Powersoft K10 amps that are positioned at each leg of the structure and are fed audio from the stage racks. All EQ and control is via Lake/Dolby I/O software Version 5.3, with most of the processing resident in the Lab.gruppen PLM 10000Q and PLM 14000 amplifiers; system tuning is via EAW Smaart software.

Consoles at FOH are redundant DiGiCo SD7s, each running identical shows. Jo Ravitch, senior systems engineer/Clair Global crew chief, says, “There are two main stage racks, one of them distributes AES to each leg and there's a backup system of analog feeds to each amp, as well. If we have an issue with anything in this setup, I walk over here and switch to analog and Joe [O'Herlihy] walks over to the other board and picks up the mix.”

The front end for Bono and The Edge's vocals and some of the compression for the guitars called for some unusual gear choices. Ravitch says, “When the tour started, there wasn't very much [processing] available on the board so we're using outboard stuff.” For Bono's vocals, O'Herlihy calls on the Manley Vox Box; The Edge's vocals take an Avalon 737. Compression for the guitars is on a Summit Audio DCL-200 comp/limiter, with the rest of the limiting provided by the SD7.

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