Live Sound Showcase: Marc Anthony - Touring on a Need to Know Basis

Playing a handful of Northeast dates early this year—it’d be more accurate to call it a series of one-offs than a mini-tour—the artist and his production staff hit the road with audio provider VER Tour Sound (Nashville, TN) for the first time.
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Keeping the audio pristine for Marc Anthony at every stop are (l-r): Jimmy Ibañez, artist system engineer; Eric “Pyle” Ramey, monitor engineer; and Jose Rivera, FOH engineer. While Marc Anthony’s biggest U.S. chart hit might be 1999’s English-language “I Need To Know,” it’s his Spanish-language Salsa smashes that have provided him with such longevity in the music world, powering album sales of more than 12 million worldwide, not to mention two Grammys, five Latin Grammys and an endless string of tours. “We’re averaging about 50-60 concerts a year; in 2014, we did about 70 if I’m not mistaken,” said Jose Rivera, Anthony’s FOH engineer for the last five years. “We only do about 15 shows a year in the States; the majority of it is in Central and South America, and the Caribbean.”

Playing a handful of Northeast dates early this year—it’d be more accurate to call it a series of one-offs than a mini-tour—the artist and his production staff hit the road with audio provider VER Tour Sound (Nashville, TN) for the first time. “They’ve done a hell of a job on these shows,” said Rivera. “They’ve been very responsive to what we need and quick, professional; can’t complain. I wouldn’t be surprised if this venture will continue with them.”

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The upbeat assessment included that complicated day, as the production landed at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, NY for an in-the-round performance, placing the singer and his 15-piece band at the center of the arena. “This is our sixth in-the-round concert in the last year,” said Rivera. “Marc seems to like the format. We used to use a turntable, but we got rid of it and he runs everywhere. The band is spread around, and they’re completely live; his words are, the day he sings with a track is the day he’ll retire.”

Whether in-the-round or using traditional staging, the production team aims for consistency, bringing its own audio infrastructure everywhere, including Central and South America. “The only thing we don’t travel with is the lighting rig and the PA, but we try to keep it consistent,” said Rivera. “Most times, we’ll pick up a Meyer Sound LEO system down there, or L-Acoustics or a d&b—and we keep it to those. We have our own system engineer, Jimmy Ibañez, and he makes sure the rigs sound good no matter where we go.”

Hanging above the in-the-round stage at Nassau Coliseum were eight hangs of 10 Meyer Sound LEO and three LYON line array elements. Accomplishing that is no simple task, as Ibañez noted: “The hang is always important, whether you have the best PA in the world or a not-so-best PA in the world,” he said. “When you do a 360 show like today, it’s always difficult because of all the reflections and the coupling—but it is easier when you have a better box.” Aiming to make that happen, VER Tour Sound provided Meyer line array elements, marking the first time the singer’s audio team had worked with LYON boxes. “Today we have 10 LEOs and three LYONs per hang, and there’s eight hangs around the stage,” said Ibañez. “It’s amazing how LYON stays consistent to LEO; there’s some differences in SPL, but they match the LEOs pretty well.”

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Beneath all those boxes, Anthony covered the stage, his vocals captured via a Shure Axient wireless microphone system with a KSM9HS capsule. “We’ve been using it for almost two years with no issues,” said monitor engineer Eric “Pyle” Ramey. “As a matter of fact, we have a total of four receivers and four transmitters, just to make sure that we’re covered wherever we go because of different frequency ranges or bands—and we’ve never had to use the spare.” Meanwhile, background singers were heard via a Mytek mic and three Beyerdynamic M88s. Rivera recalled, “With our end-stage set-up, the background vocals are in front of the percussion section, so I said, ‘Why don’t we get something a little darker up there?’ Those vocals are mostly high in pitch, so it worked out great.” The rest of the stage was captured with a variety of Shure and Sennheiser microphones, along with A-Designs Audio’s REDDI and Radial J48 direct boxes.

At stageside, Pyle mixes on a DiGiCo SD7 console, tackling 14 stereo mixes and 21 mono mixes sent to a variety of wired and wireless Shure in-ear systems with Ultimate Ears UE7 ear buds, Anthony sporting a PSM 1000 system which he wears in only one ear. Meyer Sound wedges also adorn the stage with four MJF-210s used as backup measures for the singer, and an MJF-212 for the bassist.

Out at the FOH position, Rivera also uses a DiGiCo SD7 console, overseeing 73 inputs from the stage. Nearly 50 of them are open mics, so he has a variety of macros for quick muting—a necessity as Anthony perpetually mixes the setlist around, often calling audibles mid-show. Rivera also keeps various Waves plug-ins on-hand, too. “I’m a big fan of the CLAs—the 3A, the 2A and the 76—and the C6 compressor,” he said.

“Another favorite is the S1 Stereo Imager—one of the keyboard players plays strings in the ballads and I just love the way I can open them up and get them out of the way with the Imager.”

Not that there’s a lot of ballads, however; Anthony likes to keep the audience on its feet. “Marc’s crowds are loud—very loud,” Rivera laughed. “This is a crowd where if you’re the type of person that likes to go to a show and sit down, you’re going to have very unhappy time.” Pyle agreed, adding, “He doesn’t have dancers; there’s no video gimmicks—it’s just singing from beginning to end. He goes up there and lives the songs. When he sings, he doesn’t know how to not give 150 percent.”

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