Who are you? The Who Live at Leeds, who else?
"You've got to feel sorry for the English football team," said a tongue in cheek Roger Daltrey, "having to play for ninety minutes in all that heat." This from a man old enough to be their grandfather, who for two hours, produced a performance that, had this been the world cup final, he'd be bringing home the trophy. Opening with 'Who are you?' The Who dispelled in seconds any doubts about their passion and fire; having hit the stage at pace, Daltrey, Townsend and the rest of the band then proceeded to lean gently on the accelerator and amaze us all for two hectic hot, sweaty and triumphal hours.
This show, the first in a tour that's set to run for a year, was epoch making in so many ways, not least that it was staged at Leeds University refectory, where thirty-six years earlier the band had drawn a line in the sand for live recording with 'Live at Leeds'. "The pressure was really on," said a remarkably relaxed Paul Ramsay at the FOH desk, "this needed to sound authentic." Ramsay was in the fortuitous position of mixing for The Who thanks to a recommendation from Dick Hayes at Entec Sound and Light; Entec being the audio contractor for this short first leg before the band move into festival mode for the summer. Although this was the first time the band had played here since recording that famous live album, Ramsay had been to the refectory several times so he was fully conversant with the venues shortcomings.
"For the Leeds Uni I just did a bit of EQ to the system; the room can be a bit boomy, but in actual fact once the audience were in, it was less of a problem." Ramsay explained. "It's not a nice sounding room generally, but being able to fly the PA, I believe this was the first time it's ever been done in there, helped a lot. It was only because of the willingness of Tom Kenny and the PRG lighting crew, and the fact that the d&b audiotechnik
Q-Series system is so small and light, that we were able to do it." Ramsay had six Q1s dead hung from each end of the front truss, trimmed tight to the refectory ceiling. "I just had to add a couple of Q1s on top of the B2 subwoofers on the floor below. I ended up not needing the Q-SUBs at all, except for the delay PA system in the bar area immediately behind the mix position." The bar area is virtually a separate room at the opposite end from the refectory stage; here Ramsay deployed a ground stacked Q-Series system, five high SUBs in cardioid mode, as were the B2s at the stage end, with Q1s above.
So how did the d&b Q-Series system get to be chosen? "I'm very much a fan of d&b; I've used the C4 system a lot," replied Ramsay. "The Q not so much, but for the few shows I have done with it, here and elsewhere, I have been really impressed with what I've heard. Here it was great for sightlines and its low weight; and it does sound very good. I was amazed at what I saw in terms of SPLs. I also have used d&b's new J-Series system; I was booked to do the Hedgestock event at Knebworth with it as my first show for The Who. So I went along to the last night of the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts at the Albert Hall for the Cure show, where Entec were also supplying a J-Series system. I thought it absolutely stunning, and the Albert Hall is not an easy venue."
As Ramsay mentioned, his misgivings regarding the refectory room acoustic were ameliorated by the effect of the large crowd. The high temperatures of a balmy June night and high humidity the audience produced enhancing sound transmission generally, and soaking up any inherent low-end boominess. When it all finally climaxed with a howling rendition of 'Won't get fooled again' members of Oasis and Kaiser Chiefs, and an audience of two thousand one hundred turned open mouthed in amazement and headed for the doors. This had been the authentic sound of The Who.
"Big thanks to Richie Gibson, Adam Draper and Owen McAuley (systems tech)," concluded Ramsay, "and thanks to Entec."