System specification for Heinz Field, Pittsburgh.
- Main hangs: 24x M46 + 24x B112 + 2x M28 x2
- Subbass: 24x S118 flown x2, 24 groundstacked across centre
- Aux hangs: 15x M46 + 15xB112 + 3x M28 x2
- 270 hangs (90° offstage for the side and back, at the top): 12x M28 x2
- Delays: 12x M28 x2
- NEXO NUARs featuring NXAMPs
- Everything run on fibre via Dante
The Wall Street Journal has called him “The King of the Road,” and The Los Angeles Times has deemed him “The People’s Superstar”. He is the only country act on Billboard’s Top 10 Touring Acts of the Past 25 Year, thanks to his high energy performance style, incomparable ability to connect with his fans and the fantastic musicianship from his band.
He is committed to delivering an effective and state-of-the-art production. Under the leadership of tour manager Ed Wannebo, Chesney has built a production team and crew that understands the demands of maximizing the stadium-sized experience without losing the intimacy of the musical performance.
Production audio — as well as lighting — is provided by Nashville-based Morris Light and Sound. Working with Chesney’s front-of-house engineer Chris Rabold, they have pioneered the use of NEXO’s STM Series modular line array to deliver in such large venues.
The 2015 Big Revival Tour marks ML&S and Rabold’s second outing with NEXO. Both parties have been instrumental in providing invaluable feedback on the systems operation to NEXO’s R&D team. Chesney’s regularised tour schedule – playing many of the same venues, with the same crew and the same rental provider – has provided near-scientific conditions for judging the development of NEXO’s radical modular system over the first 3 years of its life.
STM M28: “very, very controllable”
The most visible of changes this year is the inclusion of a new downfill cabinet to the system. The M28 module was added to the STM Series at the end of last year,
and FOH engineer Chris Rabold describes it as “the missing piece of the puzzle. One of its primary uses for us is as a downfill, but I don’t think of it as a traditional downfill box at all. That usually means a cabinet smaller in size that often times doesn’t share the same voicing as the array above it, and that’s definitely not the case with M28. It’s an extension, which is voiced very similarly to the M46 main cabinet, so it’s just giving us that extra bit at the bottom of the array. And it is very, very controllable; I can manipulate it if I choose to, but a lot of the time I really don’t need to because it’s so seamless and smooth.
“M28 also works great for the delays and the 270 hangs, so it’s been a pleasure to work with.”
Rabold’s point about the voicing is echoed by ML&S systems engineer John Mills. Describing himself as “the scientist” of the partnership, Mills takes care of the networking and the system modelling. He explains their work dynamic, “We work together on the tuning, then Chris works his magic on the console.”
Mills continues, “The M28s are a problem-solver. Because the M46s are so powerful, we found ourselves wanting to turn them down, but of course if you do that, you break the line array. M28 has acoustically less output, so it’s the right box to have on the bottom of the line. When you walk between the seam, and it changes boxes, you would expect something fairly significant to happen, but from M46 to M28 is a very, very smooth transition.”
From his front-of-house console, Chris Rabold provides an artistic verdict. “STM is voiced specifically, and, although I discovered a while ago that it’s not your standard PA voicing, I know how important it is to work with the system the way it was designed. Last night, I think we had just six cuts on it, and that was cool. It’s about what makes my mix translate the best, so that I know whatever I am doing here is going to come back at me accurately. It needs to translate, but we don’t have to do a lot to get the results we want, which is fantastic.”
“The throw of the system is unbelievable.“
ML&S has moved some of its new M28 inventory to the delay towers, using anywhere between 12-16 per hang, depending on the venue. The high frequency output power of this small STM cabinet has impressed John Mills. “I can basically do whatever I want with it. When we first made the move from our previous rig to the NEXO system, we had 16 delay boxes back here; we now have 12, and I’ve turned them down!
“The throw of the system is unbelievable. We have done a few shows where we’ve had to throw 500-feet with no delays, and STM does it. Incredibly, it still sounds fairly hi-fi in the back, too. Sure, you have your physics of air loss, but it still sounds better than anything at distance, and the vocal still sounds like it’s right in front of you. It’s pretty unreal.”
The primary pitch for the STM Series, according to NEXO, has always been the flexibility factor, made possible by its modular design. Chesney’s tour plays 23 NFL football stadiums, but it also moves through sheds and arenas, providing a good test of NEXO’s claims.
“System configuration does differ quite a bit, but only in numbers of boxes, never audio,” says John Mills. “Two nights ago, for example, I was 18 and 2 on the mains, and now we’re 24 and 2, so that’s going to change the array length and low mid section of it. Then last night we were 18 and 3; and we’ve done smaller still, such as a 12 and 3. So it’s scaling almost in half in some of our venues, but the beauty of STM is, it really does translate. Array length will change some low frequency, and how much there is of it, but tonally, this system is really exceptional, and consistent.”
The versatility extends to the sub-bass, provided by the S118 modules, which can be used in omnidirectional or cardioid mode, flown or groundstacked. Chris Rabold has called for double the amount of subs this year. “We did that not to add volume, but to produce perfect coverage, and to smooth it out. Some of the guys in the band are pretty sensitive to excess boom, but now we have more boxes with less resulting low end effect on stage — and we run them in cardioid mode to spread out the coverage. I have to say, on this tour, the subs and the flown subs have been flawless.”
STM Rigging: “It’s astronomically faster than most systems“
Flexibility is built into the STM Series because of its modularity, but a vital part of STM’s appeal for the ML&S crew is the ease of its rigging system, not only on a stadium tour, but for other ML&S projects.
“It’s astronomically faster than most systems out there,” says John Mills. “I wouldn’t do a stadium by myself, but with any 12-box gig with one motor and myself, I have comfortably flown the whole thing. It’s super-fast.”
In 2013, Morris Light & Sound was the first major rental company to put STM onto a premium tour. They increased their already substantial investment the following year, adding the M28 modules to its inventory. ML&S CEO and President David Haskell maintains close contact with North American supplier Yamaha Commercial Audio, and with NEXO in France.
“We went everywhere to listen to systems. Because of the size of Chesney’s tour, the cost wasn’t a big issue, as long as the system was right. I didn’t just love the way STM sounded, it was the versatility that really got me, the whole modularity element. Historically, we are a big box company, but now, when we’re done with this tour, we can break the system into pieces. And hey, I can take the M28s and hang them at a corporate gig. The versatility really caught my eye as much as the performance of the system.”
The 3-way relationship has proved beneficial for all parties. The front-line input from M&LS and FOH engineer Chris Rabold continues contributing to STM’s ongoing development.
“NEXO has been unbelievable,” says Haskell. “Being the first people to take it out on this big a tour, support was always going to be of paramount importance. We were doing a little R&D on it, of course, like we would any brand new system, but the dialogue as we have toured has been great, and it’s very real-time data. This transcontinental thing hasn’t been an issue whatsoever; NEXO has been so very supportive, and extremely quick to act. Impeccable service, basically, no matter how small the issue.”
1 million+ tickets – no audio refunds!
ML&S is rightly proud of the fact that, at the time of writing, there have been ZERO audio refunds for well over 1 million tickets. And that the man whose name is on the ticket — Kenny Chesney — is equally pleased with his audio production.
“Kenny loves the system, too. If there was anything wrong, I’d know about it. Kenny is so hands-on with everything he does in his life. He looks at every lighting cue, every video element, every bit of design; and as long as everything sounds good, and is working, he is happy.”
A word from Kenny Chesney himself. “Every year we go out, I try to make the sound as crisp and as loud as possible, which is seemingly impossible. I’m very lucky that my team combs the globe looking for the best possible options to make that happen – and they’re as relentless as I am about what they do.
“When they said they found a PA system in France that could be twice as loud and was smaller, I wasn’t sure I believed them, but I respect them enough to listen. Sure enough, they were right! The amount of sound these speakers put out is amazing, but it’s also super-clear which is always the challenge. You want people to make out the lyrics, for them to be able to pick out the instruments. No matter how loud we are, those things can happen.”
Morris Light & Sound
Tel: 001 615 890 6277