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Adlib provides audio for Russell Howard’s challenging ‘in-the-round’ comedy tour

Several arenas on the itinerary are not designed for in-the-round presentation, so that was a major challenge for the sound team

Adlib supplied a full production package of sound, lighting, video, and rigging for the recent UK leg of comedy star Russell Howard’s “Respite” stand-up tour. 

The Liverpool UK-based production and rental specialist had previously presented Howard performing in the same format in 2017 and was thrilled to be back on the road with him.

As for the audio, systems engineer Sam Proctor was familiar with the in-the-round format from previous tours, ensuring Howard’s FOH engineer Sam Cooknell received comprehensive service and back up.

A CODA system was chosen to create a 360-degree sonic experience for everyone in the room, utilising eight main hangs – each comprising eight CODA AiRAY speakers with six ViRAY down hangs. One array either side of the four LED screens around the stage created a large ‘sphere’ in effect, with two PA hangs at each of the four corners. These were complemented by 12 CODA HOPS (high output point source) speakers around the front of the stage and six flown TiRAY speakers per side for Howard’s monitors.

AiRAY was chosen to project the extreme vocal clarity and detail right to the back of the room. Also, with 112 cabinets, they needed to be light, so CODA ticked that box with both speakers and the Linus 14D amps which were also flown on the main four trusses. This meant most of the weight loading in the centre of each venue could be allocated to flying the lighting and video screens.

Several arenas on the itinerary are not designed for in-the-round presentation, so that was a major challenge for the sound team. With an in-the-round design, multiple arrays are positioned in close proximity. This results in a lot more interaction between hangs in the lower frequency domain, audible as slower low frequencies can obscure clarity. Getting this absolutely spot-on is achieved by limiting the interaction between the speakers. 

In this case, the low end content was primarily delivered by the larger hangs doing the long throws.  This content was attenuated down in the hangs covering the sides of the arena. The coverage pattern of the lower frequencies meant that the audience in the side seats were still hearing this low end content, but without hearing multiple smeared versions.

This approach was one of the elements shaped by Adlib’s learning curve of previous in-the-round comedy tours. “The knowledge we have gained is invaluable and this has been progressed in multiple areas,” explained Proctor, “from the speaker arrays to the signal distribution, the cable looms, trussing arrangements, etc., everything was fine-tuned from before to help deliver even better results on this.”

The console was a DiGiCo SD9 running both FOH and monitors, with a fully redundant backup. Russell Howard’s vocal mic was a Shure Axient with an SM58 capsule, with a backup hand-held. Being so mission-critical, there was also a wired Shure SM58 as a third backup for that ‘just in case’ scenario.

Client manager Phil Kielty commented: “Delivering a tightly-scheduled in-the-round arena tour is incredibly challenging, but with all of our departments working solidly as one team, there was never stress or a problem that couldn’t be solved quickly. 

“Being the sole supplier has many benefits to our client base, and the public’s comedy experience is so much more inclusive with an in-the-round performance. Russell’s tour continues around the world and we would like to thank Kumar, James Taylor & everyone at Avalon for – again – pushing live comedy boundaries.”