Michael Buble "To Be Loved" Tour

by Kevin M. Mitchell
in Production Profile

Michael Buble in St. Louis, 2013. Tour photo by Lauren MitchellThe artist wants a dinner club sound and vibe — nothing too surprising about that, except for the fact that the artist is on a world tour playing packed hockey arenas.

FOH Engineer Craig Doubet“The St. Louis Scottrade Center is one of the larger arena’s we’ve played,” says Michael Bublé’s FOH engineer, Craig Doubet, of the 19,260-capacity venue. “It will always sound large, but by careful design and tuning, it can be minimized. To get the feeling of that “intimate” sound in a reverberant space, we take care to avoid directing energy at reflective surfaces, and mixing with dynamics. I can get away with a song at 85 dB in this show — the audience listens!”

And that listening audience is sizable. The To Be Loved tour began in London, where Bublé sold out 10 consecutive shows at the huge O2 Arena there before the rig was scaled back a bit for five shows at the O2 in Dublin. Now the tour is making its way across North America, wrapping up at Oakland’s Oracle Arena on November 30. An international leg follows in January, with more shows in Europe and Australia.

While Bublé is no stranger to arenas (he noted at this show that St. Louis was the very first arena show he did back in 2006), he told the St. Louis Post Dispatch that he was purposely making this tour “more music-heavy and more into the production — it’s a massive production, my biggest yet.”

Indeed. Twenty-two musicians is a lot of sound to mix.

Craig Doubet and Dean RoneyDean Roney, who first worked with Bublé back in 2005 and was there for his first arena show, is the production manager. Roney had gotten off the road, taking on the position of VP of touring for Solotech, but Bublé personally asked him to come back out with him. “[Solotech] was happy to let me go,” Roney jokes, noting that Solotech is the sound vendor of Bublé, so providing Roney with a hall pass to take care of this important client was prudent.

“I haven’t been ‘on the bus’ since handling Britney Spear’s 2009 tour,” he says. “And while sleeping on the bus again took some getting use to, it’s been an amazing experience, with a great crew. The tour is going smoothly — which is something, because it’s the biggest tour I’ve ever done.”

Doubet has been mixing for almost 30 years, the last seven with Bublé, starting with the Call Me Irresponsible tour in 2007. Before mixing live for Luis Miguel in 1995, followed by gigs for Sergio Mendes and k.d. lang, Doubet moved faders in the studio. In addition to Bublé, Doubet also recently added the Jonas Brothers to his client roster.

The stage right main system hang. It includes 14 Meyer Sound LEO-Ms and four MICA downfills. There's a separate side hang with eight Meyer 1100-LFC subs and 14 MICAs.P.A. and FOH

This tour has 14 Meyer Sound LEO-M cabinets flown above four Meyer MICA downfills, with eight flown 1100-LFC subwoofers operating in cardioid patterns. The side P.A. includes another 14 MICA’s and three 700-HP subs in cardioid patterns on the floor. Filling it out are two Meyer JM-1P’s and two Meyer M’elodies.

“I’ve been using Meyer whenever I can since 1995 — I’m a big fan,” Doubet says. “This new LEO system and the 1100-LFC’s are quite impressive. The dynamic range is huge, and the vocal reproduction is outstanding. And the throw of the LEO is such that we can fill large arenas like this one without delay systems. It gets all the energy to the farthest seat, and sounds just like a seat on the floor of the arena.”

At FOH, an Avid Venue Profile with old school outboard choices such as a Lexicon 480L, Lexicon PCM92 and BSS DPR 901ii dynamic EQsDoubet says he’s also a longtime Avid Venue console guy, and is particularly pleased with the Profile control surface. “I like how it sounds, how it works, and the ease and speed of operating it. And I almost maxed out on this tour — I currently have 88 inputs plus 16 stereo returns being used!”

To mix a band of this size, Doubet did his homework, which included listening to the band acoustically during rehearsals to figure out what approach to it all he would take. Once he got behind the board, he started making alterations per song as needed.

One uncommon old-school element to the show not normally seen with a modern artist is Bublé’s microphone. It is on a cord, and a long one at that. He would swing it around, and at times need to gather up its sizable length. Doubet says, first and foremost, despite all the leaps in technology, he’s yet to find a wireless mic that sounds as good as one on a cable. “Michael sings into a Neumann KMS104, which is a good match for his voice. But yes, he also likes pulling the cable around, and he makes it part of his onstage persona.”

But Bublé also doesn’t let himself get tied down by the cord. One of the show highlights is when he comes out into the audience and goes to a smaller “B” stage built around FOH to sing to the people in the back of the arena. Bublé brings out his opening act, the vocal group Naturally 7, to join him. For that, he’s on a Sennheiser SKM 5000 with a Neumann KK104 capsule. “It’s always challenging bringing a vocalist into the audience, and add seven additional singers. It’s a little hair-raising,” Doubet admits. “The solution has been to be especially vigilant about the system tuning, and then ringing out each mic on the B-Stage.”

The eight-piece string section that comes out for a four-song set is another new element. “We have them all on DPA 4060 mics, using Sennheiser RF,” he says. “Having live strings in an arena is always challenging, especially since they are way downstage. But it works, and gives a real nice contrast to the rest of the show.”

Matt Napier at monitorsMonitors

Matt Napier started his career at FOH about 20 years ago, mixing local bands at a music club in Oxford, England. From there, he went to London’s O2 predecessor, the Millennium Dome, in late 1999, and about two years later started large scale touring — first mixing at FOH before mixing at monitors.

Napier notes that he previously did monitor work for Kylie Minogue on her Aphrodite Live tour, which was supported by Solotech. “As always they did a great job on that,” he says. The feeling must have been mutual, because when Roney took the reigns for this tour, he gave Napier a call.

At the side of the stage with Napier is a DiGiCo SD7 paired with Sennheiser 2000 IEM transmitters and Ultimate Ears 11 Pro IEM’s. “It’s a great combination,” he says. “The end result is a very natural, transparent sound. There’s no other kit on the market that comes close to doing as good a job, in my opinion.” He adds that he thinks it’s important that everyone on stage is on the same — or at least very similar — IEM. “For this tour, we switched everyone over to the UE11, and everyone is happy.”

Michael Buble tour photo by Ric Lipson. The crew works to make 20,000-capacity rooms sound like much smaller performances spaces.With 22 musicians, Napier has his work cut out for him every night. “All the strings require their own individual mix, as all musicians are different in what they want to hear,” Napier says. “The trick is to find out what that is!” For the brass section, they are using an Aviom system, so the players have a certain level of control over their own mixes. “This has been a great help — during the show, I am mainly focused on what Michael is listening to.”

As for Bublé, “like most modern artists, he wants it to sound as authentic and balanced as possible,” Napier explains. “Initially, he was very weary of IEM’s, so I have to be very creative with the mix and try to keep it as natural-sounding as possible — not always an easy task in a hockey arena!” Filling out the monitor package are six Meyer MJF 212 wedges along the front of the stage.

A much-talked-about feature of the show is the motorized moving risers. The horn section is moved forward to the edge of the stage to create intimate moments, and then pulled all the way off when the strings come on (also on moving risers). It’s a neat effect for the audience to see the band setup moving in various ways during the show, but for the monitor engineer, it’s yet another challenge. “The show starts with the drum kit 30 feet away from Michael’s vocals and then ends up at a few feet from him at other parts of the show. That, combined with the six violins and two cellos, keep me on my toes!”

Napier is grateful for the experience of working with Bublé. “I’d done classical, rock, R&B, pop, world music, and dance, but I’ve never gotten to work on anything involving the classic American songbook,” he says. “It’s been a lot of fun, and way Michael and the band interpret these songs is fantastic!"

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Michael Bublé To Be Loved Tour

Sound Company: Solotech

Audio Crew

FOH Engineer: Craig Doubet

Monitor Engineer: Matt Napier

Production Manager: Dean Roney

Audio Crew Chief: Louis-Philippe Maziade

P.A. System Tech, W.L. Tech: Chuck Déziel

System Techs: Philippe Pigeon and Marc-Olivier Magnan

 

P.A. System

Main System: Two L/R hangs, each having (14) Meyer Sound LEO-M’s and (4) Meyer MICA downfills.

Flown Subwoofers: (16) Meyer 1100 LFC subs (eight per side)

Side Hangs: (14) Meyer MICA’s/side

Ground Subs: Meyer 700HP subs

Fills: (4) Meyer JM1P; (2) Meyer Melodies

 

FOH
Console: Avid Venue Profile

Outboard: Lexicon 480L; Lexicon PCM92; (2) BSS DPR 901ii dynamic EQs; (plus plug-ins).

Near-Fields: Meyer HD-1’s

System Drive: Meyer Galileo AES/EBU and (3) Galileo Callisto processors

 

MON

Console: DiGiCo SD7

Wedges: (8) Meyer MJF 212

Personal Mixers: Aviom

IEM: Sennheiser 2000 IEM transmitters, Ultimate Ears 11 Pro earpieces

Band Mics: DPA 4060’s (strings); DPA 4099’s (horns/reeds); Shure Beta 52 (kick); Audix i5 (snare); Neumann KM184’s (hi-hat and drum overheads); Radial Engineering DI’s.

Wired Vocal Mic: Neumann KMS 104

Wireless Vocal Mic: Neumann KMS 104 capsule on a Sennheiser SKM 5000-series transmitter.