Borsato's Wit Licht show provided an eclectic mix of latin, pop, rock and jazz
In the topsy-turvy world of pop music things can change in the twinkling of an eye. Shorter attention spans demand constant re-invention. While much has changed in the Marco Borsato camp since 2006's record-breaking series of concerts at the Gelredome in Arnhem, Holland, ten nights with thirty-two thousand per night, his latest outing 'Wit Licht' in late 2008 (a slightly shorter six nights) saw one key element remain completely unchanged.
'The PA supplied by Peak Audio, is all d&b audiotechnik's J-Series loudspeakers. System design is by three people, Will-Jan Peilage the company owner, my system technician Paul van Baasbank and me.' The me being Barak Koren, Borsato's house engineer. Koren performs the same function for Borsato in the studio, making him the ideal choice for these long residential gigs; for these are shows where the luxury of time allows for the sound to be a true rendition of that which is recorded. But wait, the Gelredome is a football stadium, how can that be? 'The primary goal when designing the system installation is making sure that on stage is absolutely clear of any sound from the main system. Do that and you can achieve good levels, even in a room as big as this.'
Easier said than done; there were more than one hundred J loudspeakers comprising J12 and J8s hung from the roof, two line arrays either side the stage (main stereo system, and outer hang for this very wide venue), then two complete sets of delays down the field (each comprising four hangs, as with the stage) rigged in a row across the mid-field point, and again a row in front of the rear most grandstand at the opposite end from the stage. Paul van Baasbank took major responsibility for system tuning once the PA was rigged; he explained the finer points of Koren's aim, 'To keep the stage clear of sound from the main system.'
'Besides the flown system there are front fills in under the snake.' The snake to which van Baasbank refers is one of the two major elements of Borsato's show; a long winding tongue of stage set that stretches far out into the audience. You begin to see Koren's focus on keeping PA sound off the stage. 'We chose to use J12s in the front fill position, not for power, the levels are not so high; these cabinets are there for intelligibility. Selecting the J12 keeps the system simpler and the sound consistent.' The snake, by virtue of its shape, does leave two difficult areas between bends, where J12s couldn't cover without spill onto the stage. 'Here we have flown d&b C3s directly above. They're rigged very high, over 20m, but they have the tight pattern control and the reach to cover this area, again without spill onto stage.'
No less attention was paid to low-end sound as you might imagine in such a large cavernous space where reverberation could run riot if not carefully controlled. Flown J-SUBs hang either side of stage, and van Baasbank also has an extensive J- SUB array spanning this unusually wide floor area. 'I time these for a uniform dispersion across the venue.' You can imagine the modelling required in order to get this working successfully. 'Putting subwoofers in the air as well really helps; they give me the projection to the far end of the room while their inherently cardioid pattern keeps the stage clear, and they allow me to focus the floor system more easily.'
This was a loud show with all the push and pull of Borsato's eclectic mix of latin, pop, rock and jazz that makes him such an interesting performer. Koren listens to the mid-field delays to mix. 'I'm very happy with the PA: I mix off the delays because they are identical to the main system beside the stage, the same curve and the same number of boxes. This is the only system I've used where the subwoofers match the main system so I'm a big fan of the J-SUBs. Those guys in Germany did a very good job; equal diffusion of sub, no dips and no lobes. The modelling is not so hard; the tuning and where they cross does take some time, but time well spent; I get to put punch exactly where I want it. The Gelredome is difficult, but better than you might imagine.' There are almost two hundred thousand Dutch fans who would agree with that.