Fresh Spices for perfect piquancy
Whatever your views on the curtailment of the Spice Girls tour, there's no denying that the legs in North America and UK have been overwhelmingly well received. Who can blame band members for being tired and exhausted, the reviews reveal that the girls have given their all, and the show has been counted a great spectacular.
Wigwam Acoustics, in partnership with Eighth Day Sound for the American leg, has provided the touring sound system throughout, and placed the d&b audiotechnik J-Series system at the heart of the PA, a choice reinforced by Ray Furze, sound engineer designate for the tour. "The J-Series loudspeakers I first used on the James reunion tour last year" said Furze during a break in the UK schedule at the London O2 Arena. "We played very mixed venues on that tour and it cracked every one of them. What I really like, and more importantly with the James band this proved crucial, is this. We got to the Manchester Evening News arena late. We rigged the PA, turned it on and began the show, no check, no EQ, no nothing, just turn it on and get the band on stage, and it sounded great. That sold me, I find in most places you can just put it up and you're already onto a winner. In these days of massive visual productions sound engineers are lucky if they get half an hour to check the system, so that's important."
For O2 the PA comprised three line arrays each side of stage; main stereo hang; off axis array of similar dimension to main system; and a smaller array of d&b Q-Series loudspeakers for the bleachers beside the stage. "You need this amount of equipment for the larger arenas," said Furze. "What I've used here at O2 is the same as I've used for most venues in North America. Rooms like these need the high-end energy to do justice to all the seats, and you can only do that properly with lots of boxes. Engineers new to the O2 who specify their normal arena system may have problems with coverage".
Furze mixes from a Digico D5, routing analog vocal signal from the stage through five Focusrite Producer Packs, "I'm using the pre-amp for each of the girls, with compression, de-essing and some EQ, then A to D converters into the desk. Wigwam, and especially Chris Hill, have done a great job with the desks and system for me; at the stage we spilt the signal three ways with analog vocals to me, and to Matt Napier on monitors, and then the third split into the Digico stage box." The digital line to the desk carries all band channels and back-up vocal channels just in case. "I've been spoiled by my system engineer Sid Rogerson; he solved the potential feedback problem of the girls spending a lot of time performing in front of the PA on the thrust, with a trick he'd devised on George Michael last year. The vertical control on the J-Series loudspeakers is as defined and tight as the horizontal; so Sid slightly turned the main system hang outwards so the sound field crosses just at the tip of the thrust. Perfect for getting some decent gain out of the girls' mics, yet still providing excellent coverage to the seats either side of the thrust."
Furze received many plaudits for his show mix, "The girls have never sounded better," was a typical comment. Let's hope they can find the energy to do it again sometime.