New York (August 2, 2012)—Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw have hit the road hard this summer on their co-headlining stadium tour, Brothers of the Sun. Chesney’s longtime audio provider, Morris Light & Sound, is tackling the singer’s portion of the show as usual, but in a marked change, it has put Shure’s high-end Axient wireless microphones into the gear mix this year.
“For a stadium tour like this, there are literally millions of dollars on the line every day, so we took a real hard look at Kenny’s equipment package before hitting the road this year,”said Morris’ VP of Audio, John Mills, working on the tour as systems engineer/audio crew chief. “He feels very strongly that his fans deserve the best at all times, and that needs to be reflected in the quality of our gear. That’s how we ended up with Shure Axient for his wireless microphone system and the Shure PSM 1000 for his in-ear monitoring.”
Monitor engineer Phill “Sidephill” Robinson is in his 12th year working for Chesney and is a big fan of both systems, handling Kenny’s mix alongside Bryan Baxley, who mixes the rest of the band’s monitors. “The Axient system is just amazing,” says Robinson. “We use it in full automatic mode on Kenny, so it can jump to a backup frequency if we run into interference. We’re totally comfortable with it, and there hasn’t been so much as a glitch from the start of rehearsals in Nashville. And the PSM 1000 is the best-sounding system I’ve heard.”
One of the biggest technical challenges is at the show’s opening, with Chesney starting the concert on a second stage out in the audience, roughly 200 feet in front of the PA. After the first song, he’s transported to the main stage on a flying chair that’s outfitted with an HD video camera, which is transmitting wirelessly to the video system.
“That chair is basically a Faraday cage, plus you’ve got the camera transmitting video at about five or six watts,” says John Mills. “It’s just about the worst situation you can have for a wireless mic system, but in high power mode, Axient cuts right through it. Same thing with the PSM 1000 and the two antennas on the bodypack. Kenny hasn’t taken an RF hit once, which is just unheard of on that chair.”
Oddly, it was at a video shoot for the Chesney single “Rock Star” that Mills and Robinson became convinced that the PSM 1000 was the right system for the tour. “One of the biggest things that messes up RF is lighting ballasts,” Mills explains. “Part of the video included a field of Vari-Lites on the ground…dozens of them. That would be certain death for a regular in-ear system. So as an experiment, I took the PSM 1000 bodypack, plugged in my ears, and walked around in the middle of all that during pre-production. It barely wavered the whole time, even on the low power setting. That was the day I called the office and told our President, David Haskell, we have got to put this system on Kenny.”
Adding to the mélange of gear involved, the singer’s mic is sporting a prototype capsule. “One of the biggest problems with Kenny is finding a microphone that sounds consistent in any situation,” says Mills. “We needed a mic capsule that could be cupped, that could have a thumb put over it, and still have the rejection needed to deal with screaming fans, especially when Kenny’s out in the audience. We talked to Shure about it, and they said they’d been working on something we might be interested in. It’s a new prototype version of the KSM9. You can cup it, then take your hand away, and the sound barely changes. It still sounds like a KSM9. And there’s also way less crowd noise coming in through the PA than there has ever been. Kenny used it at the CMT Awards just recently, and when he walked off the stage, everyone in the broadcast truck was immediately on the comm, asking ‘What was that microphone?’ I don’t know what magic smoke Shure put into this thing, but it is pretty amazing.”