New York, NY (April 11, 2011)—For more than a year now, Canadian power-trio Rush has been traveling around the world on its current Time Machine tour. Giving fans a chance to look both back and to the future, the group has been performing its classic 1981 collection, Moving Pictures, in its entirety for the first time, while also road-testing two new songs from a soon-to-be-released studio album, Clockwork Angels.
Some things don’t change, however; as has been the case for many tours now, Front-of-house engineer Brad Madix and monitor engineer Brent Carpenter are the men in charge of making Rush sound as powerful as ever, overseeing an audio system supplied by Clair (Lititz, PA). The engineers’ resumés are quite expansive, Madix having worked with the likes of Shakira, Def Leppard, Marilyn Manson, Shania Twain and Queensrÿche, while Carpenter was hanging with All-American Rejects, Audioslave, Marilyn Manson, Journey and Kiss. ProSound News caught up with them during the second leg of the Time Machine Tour at New York’s Madison Square Garden on April 10, 2011.
With over 35 years of material to pick from, Rush has quite an extensive musical library, so it becomes a challenge to re-create its different periods onstage. That puts the pressure on Madix to somehow create a cohesivesounding show.
“It would just be really weird to me to make it sound like the ’70s, and then sound like the ’80s—you can’t totally change it every four or five songs in the set,” he admitted. “We approach it as, ‘This is the sound of Rush now,’ but with a nod towards the different eras. There was definitely a keyboard era, and a power- trio era without a lot of synths, and there’s the part where there are glockenspiels and all that stuff—so we try to fit all that in, based around the sound of the band as it is now. They play ‘Free Will,’ and it sounds like ‘Free Will,’ but it’s definitely from a modern perspective.”
Helping achieve that perspective is equally modern equipment. Both Madix and Carpenter mix on Avid Venue Profile consoles, taking 78 inputs from the stage. Madix has been making the most of the desk’s Virtual Soundcheck feature to tweak the show with the band’s suggestions. “They’re definitely involved,” said Madix. “One nice thing about being able to record and play back is that they can listen to the performance. We track the inputs, and we can talk about the balance of the bass in real time and actually make adjustments. It’s made it much faster than listening to a CD and having them say, ‘No, no, I could use a little more of the Avalon on the bass or something.’ That communication with the artist— to sit in a room playing through the speakers and talk about the blend of things—it’s a giant time-saver. It can be so hard to describe the way something sounds. You can do a week’s worth of work in a few minutes now.”
Another benefit, he noted, was the compactness of the gear: “Everything’s onboard. There’s dozens of plug-ins at work here, SSL emulation, stuff like Echo Farm, some Waves Renaissance stuff, and everything from simple tape emulation to vintage kind of things. I can remember when we had two Midas XL4s and four double-wide racks—tons of gear. If you needed to do something, you had to get out of your chair, you’re off adjusting the compressor on the vocal, and you’re totally out of what’s going on. The longer it takes to get this just right, the more your focus is taken away from riding the level. So there’s a big advantage to putting everything right there, not only in the engineer’s reach, but up in front of you. Now all that gear has been replaced with popcorn makers and beef jerky.” [And that’s no joke—security detail at MSG included a bomb-sniffing dog that briefly joined us at front-of-house and tried to consume the beef sticks.]
For three musicians, there are plenty of microphones on stage, as Carpenter rattled them off: “It’s mostly Audio-Technica. Some Neumann, some Shure, Audio-Technica vocal mics. The guitars are direct, we use Palmer speaker simulators on the guitars; ditto on the bass.”
One of the attractions of any Rush concert is Neil Peart’s massive drum kit (which looks like it should be in a museum instead of at a rock show). Capturing the drummer’s nuanced live performance is no simple task; surrounding the kit are 21 mics crammed into a tiny space, explained Carpenter: “We’re almost completely an Audio-Technica stage except for three Shure SM98s, for some specific cymbal things that get a bit lost in the big overheads that we use—Audio-Technica’s AT4060 tube mics, which I absolutely love.”
Madix chimed in, “On all the larger toms, I use the AE3000, which is a very large diaphragm condenser in a very small housing. We have a Neumann KM84 under the ride cymbal, a couple of little spot cymbal mics, a couple of Shure 98s to pick up some of the smaller cymbals. One thing we do a little different is we have two top snare mics. We have a rock snare mic in the normal position, but then we have a little Shure 98 kind of riding on the rim; it picks up a lot of ring that we blend back in.”
Hanging above the stage are Clair i-5 line arrays supported by i-5b subs, along with P-2s used as front fill. For monitors, the band hears itself via Sennheiser SR 2050- XP IEM wireless systems and a Shure PSM 600 hardwire for Peart, but all that’s supplemented. “As a monitor engineer, I find that being able to use a sub onstage as well as ear monitors grounds them to the stage,” said Carpenter. “A lot of times with ear monitors, things can sound thin. It doesn’t have the girth, it doesn’t have any warmth in it and you lose the chest. I’ll tend to put keyboard, bass guitar, kick drum and the lower toms in the subs that are on stage, which are Clair versions of an old Martin Bin, and each one has two 115s driven by Crown 3600 amps.”
The band members are legendary for their sense of humor, so on this tour, they share the stage with a sausage maker, a “time machine” called The GeFilter, crewmembers wearing chicken and gorilla suits who jam stuffed animals in the sausage grinder, and more—not to mention the occasional celebrity cameo by Blue Man Group, Jack Black and others. “On the last leg, there was a guy in a hot dog suit, and the gorilla and the hot dog started slow dancing on the stage,” Madix recalled with a grin. “I thought when that happened, they actually might stop playing. It was the only time I’ve ever seen them kind of go to the other side of the stage—they couldn’t watch.”
On the other hand, moments like those are part of what keeps the audio team coming back, year after year. “They are a pleasure to work for; that’s all I have to say,” Carpenter mused. “It’s the best gig in rock ’n’ roll.”
Clair (Lititz, PA)
Crew Chief/Systems Engineer:
Avid Venue Profile
Avid Venue Profile
Clair i-5, i-5b, P-2, BT-218 sub
Lab.gruppen PLM 20000 Q
Trillium Lane Labs; TL Space Ultimate Verb; Eventide Anthology; Crane Song Phoenix; Waves V8
Crane Song Phoenix; Eventide Anthology II Bundle; Mc DSP Emerald Pack; Eleven
Audio-Technica ATM 35, ATM 23- HE, ATM -450, AE2500, AE3000, AT 4050, AT 4060 tube, AE-5100, AE5400, AE6100, AT 4071; AKG 414B-ULS; Neumann KM 184; Shure 55SH Series II, Beta 98, URD4 with SM58A capsule; Countryman Type 85 DI; Radial J48 DI