US: An XL8 console was at the FOH position for King Crimson's first live performances since 2003, writes David Davies. The 11-date tour - intended to celebrate the pioneering rock group's 40th anniversary - visited a quartet of US venues during August: The Belcourt Theatre in Nashville, Park West in Chicago, Keswick Theatre in Philadelphia, and the Nokia Theatre in New York.
In each case, engineer Ian Bond utilised the Midas console - the supply of which was arranged at short notice by the manufacturer's technical sales manager, Jason Kelly - in conjunction with a house or hired-in PA system.
Having undergone many line-up changes and several extended hiatuses during its four-decade history, the 2008 King Crimson line-up includes founder member/guitarist Robert Fripp, guitarist/vocalist Adrian Belew, bass/Stick player Tony Levin, and drummers Pat Mastelotto and Gavin Harrison (all pictured here, with Bond third from left). The most recent addition to the group, Harrison is also a full-time member of Porcupine Tree, with whom Bond has a long association.
Enlisted some way into the preparatory period, Bond had only five days of rehearsal time prior to the first show in Nashville. An experienced Heritage user, he found the process of programming and patching the XL8 relatively straightforward. "Although it looks quite scary, once you have labelled a few things up it is very easy to plug in and take down again," he tells PSN-e.
Both Bond and Crimson were greatly assisted throughout final rehearsals by the use of a Klark Teknik DN9696 hard-disk recorder. The device proved particularly invaluable in fine-tuning the drum parts, many of which had been sketched out during email exchanges between Mastelotto and Harrison.
"Each day, we were able to come in and listen to the previous day's rehearsals, isolate various instruments, and identify what was working and what wasn't. The DN9696 was brilliant," says Bond, who subsequently used it to capture all eleven shows.
As sole engineer for the tour, Bond also had to grapple with Crimson's extensive monitoring requirements. Most band members were on Aviom headphone mixing systems, although Mastelotto and Fripp also utilised stereo wedges. Belew made use of two mono wedges, while Levin was on in-ears only.
In total, Bond ran about 44 inputs into the XL8, enacting an internal 'Y' split that effectively made channel 1 and channel 49 the same. The clear demarcation (1-48 for FOH, 49-96 for monitors) allowed the provision of separate EQs and Dynamics, as required.
While the shows were limited in number, they embraced most aspects of the band's diverse repertoire. "King Crimson has a fan base which knows the songs infinitely better than I ever will," admits Bond. "Each line-up of the band has its own signature sound and arrangements; my aim was simply to find the best path for each song."
A recent purchaser of Midas' new PRO6 Live Audio System, Bond is currently using an XL8 on Porcupine Tree's latest European trek. Beyond that, his PRO6 system is set to make its debut on Marillion's European tour in November before heading out on a week-long UK jaunt with Oleta Adams in December.
Debuted at PLASA08, the PRO6 has already found favour with a number of prominent rental companies, the latest customers being Eire-based MG Audio and Murt Whelan Sound and Lighting.