Bruno Mars recently finished a three-month European stint of his world tour. At the time of writing, we're in Paris, the tour is a week from completion, and front of house engineer, Chris Rabold, tells me the team has barely been able to catch a breath.
“We’ve been all over Europe, and we still have another month to go, and then that’ll be the end... of this part,” Rabold smiles, adding that the US is next – and there will probably be a couple of one-off shows and TV performances in between.
I last saw Rabold in Pittsburgh at a Kenny Chesney concert, where I watched him keep entirely calm as the front of house cage almost took off during a wild rain storm. Today, we’re indoors, of course, so nothing to fear on that front. I spy a Clair PA system, and ask him to break it down for me (not literally, that would be madness).
“Yeah, we have the flagship Clair offering - the Cohesion system – which is fantastic,” he explains. “We have our main hangs, side hangs, and our 270s – the far rear hangs. It’s not a huge rig, and Bruno was having trouble with the sub bass on the stage as a lot of it is flexiglass, so we don’t even have ground subs - yet it’s still a very punchy show.”
His console for the Bruno tour is a DiGiCo SD7, which is the only desk that can accommodate the multitude of I/O required for a show like this:
“There’s like, a million in and out, so the SD7 has been kind of a default for me for several years now,” Rabold smiles. “But the console is so fast, and everything is right there; it’s easy to program offline, and the speed at which you can move things around - particularly in the rehearsal period when things are changing – is fantastic. What’s also good about the SD7 is when you’re in promo, which is often a super-intense scrutinised process, Bruno will want 10 things in five seconds, and that desk is just so fast with regards to that. I also use quite a lot of snapshots – again, because it’s just so quick - and that capability really matters.”
Rabold is running his SD7 at 96kHz:
“Systems are so much better these days, so you definitely hear the improvement running at 96kHz; there is so much working against us on a daily basis, so any little thing we can do to improve the source helps. When you get into the shittier places, it can be a little harder to discern, as you’re essentially working in concrete barns, but why not use the 96kHz to add that extra level if you can?”
Rabold has his SD7 pretty much maxed out – which he never deemed possible – which gives you an idea just how big this show is. He is also running Waves SoundGrid, using a handful of Waves EQ and FX plugins, and he has his trusted rack of outboard kit that he brings with him on every tour. His mic package is mainly Sennheiser for vocals, with some Shure, Telefunken, and Audio-Technica offerings, too.
“I do love the good old AT-4050 on the guitar; it’s just one of my favourite live guitar microphones to use, as it sounds so great,” Rabold declares.