Recently, front of house engineer, Rick Dickerson, was called upon after almost a decade away, to work some shows with his old pals, Blake - a super-talented British three-piece, who have topped the classical charts several times. He takes us through this reunion, and grabs a chat with the band about their musical story, and some recent live shows.
It’s 2009. I’m on a UK tour with a vocal group called Blake who’d had some success with their first two albums, both of which had reached number one in the classical chart.
As part of the PA spec, the company was providing them with four radio microphones from in-house stock. However, the band had spent the previous year on tour supporting Katherine Jenkins, and prior to the tour, her engineer, Dick Rabel, had acquired them a radio system from Audio-Technica. I’ve known Dick Rabel 30-odd years, and he’s a guy who has always picked and supported products on their individual merit, not on a brand name, so I knew I had to try them out.
At the time, I was a little sceptical, although when the guys presented the rack unit to me, and I had a look in their microphone case, I was pleasantly surprised to find the radio mics fitted with Audio-Technica’s superb AE5400 condenser capsule. I had long been a fan of the AT4054, which I believe the AE5400 was the upgrade to, adding a high pass filter tailored specifically for vocals.
I had two wired 4054s, and an AE5400 in my mic stock at the time, so I was curious to see how they compared to each other, and what difference the radio system would make when added into the equation.
During the tour, Blake’s radio mics were flawless; and at no time did I have any drop-outs or interference. The mics were colour-coded, and placed on the same mic stands every night, and the guys often changed places, sharing each other’s kit. At no time did I feel the need to punch in, or set up alternative EQs for their respective voices.
All in all, a very impressive microphone and package - and, may I add, a significant saving in terms of investment against some comparable systems. At the time, I think I might have remarked, ‘well, they’re great now, but I wonder what they’ll sound like after a couple of hundred shows?’
Fast forward to July 2018. I got an email from Alex, Blake’s manager, asking if I could cover a number of Blake gigs in September. Having worked for them before, I was more than happy to oblige. Imagine my surprise when Ollie turned up still carrying the same rack case I’d seen some nine years earlier. I was surprised for two reasons: firstly, there has been a change of frequency allocation for PSME devices since these mics were first purchased; and second, these guys work and work, with over 100 shows a year.
To my reckoning, if these were indeed the original microphones, they’d done well over 1,000 gigs. When I asked the guys if it was the same equipment, they said ‘yes, of course’. The guys sounded as wonderful as I’d remembered, and so did their microphones.