On tour with P!nk
P!nk’s Beautiful Trauma world tour is one of epic proportions. It kicked off in January 2018, but before she even hit the road, she embarked on six months of promo work, including performances at The Grammys, the MTV VMAs, the Billboard Awards, and the Country Music Awards. Skip to present day, and P!nk and her team are doing their thing very well indeed across a string of major arenas. In June, she descends on London to play two shows at Wembley Stadium. Not a bad 18 months, then. We go backstage with her monitor engineer, Jon Lewis, to see what makes everything tick, and to find out what kit he’s using on this tour.
Jon Lewis is a highly revered audio engineer who has graced Headliner’s pages several times in the past. He’s working monitors for P!nk on this tour, and it’s a pretty complex setup.
“Monitors is split across two systems: one for the band, and one for P!nk,” opens Lewis. “This is because of the nature of the show; due to the acrobatic elements, the environment in which she performs is constantly changing - sometimes on the main stage deck, often above it. A lot of the show is in front of the main PA, which adds its own complications to her mix!”
His main monitor system is centred around a DiGiCo SD7, and Lewis uses a combination of the console’s onboard FX, and some external processing.
“My main vocal reverbs are from a Bricasti M7, and I use a Yamaha SPX 2000 during some songs for big vocal effects, distortion, and so on. I also use a Drawmer 1973 multi-band compressor to help control my overall mix,” Lewis explains.
Lewis shares the same stage racks as front of house, and the whole system is on the same optical loop, which allows ror maximum flexibly in terms of networking and workflow. Because P!nk’s voice is right up there with the best, I ask Lewis what’s on her vocal chain, and whether the artist gets involved in this kind of decision making.
“Her vocal is definitely one of the best I’ve mixed,” Lewis admits. “This, coupled with the fact she is often singing upside down, spinning through the air, or while suspended on bungies, is even more amazing - and she doesn’t miss a beat! It is also important to note that there is no track vocal to cover these performance segments; she sings totally live all the time.
“In terms of the [vocal] chain, we try different things during rehearsals, but the choices are mine. The Drawmer compressor is something I have used for a while on other gigs, including Cher, and AC/DC - it helps so much, especially when you have a singer who only uses one IEM.”
P!nk’s in-ear system has been custom-made by Sennheiser, purely due to the nature of the show:
“She uses a custom ear which integrates a headset mic into the earpiece, allowing no movement of the microphone when the artist is upside down,” Lewis reveals. “A traditional headset has too much movement, and would be unusable. It’s a pretty amazing bit of kit.”
We chat a little about P!nk receiving the Outstanding Contribution to Music at the BRITs - what an achievement.
“It was a great evening, and well deserved; the performance [on the night] was a complex piece of segued songs split across many places and stages in the O2,” Lewis says. “And when we do such performances, we approach each in a very individual way, with the RF and audio design being very specific to the event.
“It was also great having [audio supplier] Brit Row onboard for The BRITs as, along with Clair, they also look after P!nk’s tour.”
The most difficult part of the BRITs performance was the rain curtain feature; waterproofing, and keeping the vocal quality, is always a challenge on a live broadcast show, Lewis explains:
“We always give ourselves options, and for this performance, we opted for JH Roxanne IEMs, as the four-pin connector offered the best reliability for the movement and elements of the piece. We have eight musicians all using Roxanne IEMs; we chose to move to these at the start of the tour, as they offer the best depth of sound and clarity on the market at the moment. Whether it’s for a violin player or drummer, the Roxanne has the capability to perform with whatever mix is sent to it. This, coupled with the reliability and after service care from the whole JH team in Florida makes it a total no-brainier to choose them.”
We chat a little about looking after yourself on tour, as schedules are getting harder, and the pressure to constantly perform to the highest standard is increasing.
“This has a real impact physically and mentally, so days off should be spent relaxing,” Lewis insists. “I love discovering food, and it’s a joy to travel the world, and have the opportunity to experience this. I’ve even started to document it via Instagram (@themaniacalman). I think burning the candle at both ends is slowly diminishing at this level; people’s physical and mental heath can’t deal with it. I don’t think yoga, and vegan treats, will ever become the norm, but you definitely see more people adopting a healthier, more, some might say, realistic approach to touring.”
Finally, I ask Lewis if he has any advice for a budding engineer who wants to get into tour production or live sound. He does...
“It’s important to have a balance of formal schooling, and real life touring experience,” he declares. “There are some great courses out there, but nothing will beat hands-on experience. I studied at LIPA, and tried to tour or work at PA companies at any opportunity I had during holidays.
“This industry is built on people imparting knowledge to others; we all had someone who took us under their wing, and showed us the ropes. You’ll always be more accepted as the new guy if you are willing to listen. One day, you’ll be that person helping form the foundation of another’s career.”
According to Lewis, this touring show is truly stand-out, and a real spectacle.
“After every short break away, it blows my mind to be part of such a production and team that works so hard to put on such a complex show night after night,” he concludes.
P!nk’s new record, Hurts 2B Human, went straight to number one on the Billboard 200 chart this week. For more information on this, and her tour, check out the links below.