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RyG ‘Area 52’ demystified by iLive

Allen & Heath’s iLive console handled sound duties for Rodrigo y Gabriela’s salsa-tinged Area 52 tour with the C.U.B.A. orchestra, writes Erica Basnicki

Allen & Heath has once again teamed up with Rodrigo y Gabriela to bring the duo’s latest album Area 52 to stages all over Europe.

The Mexican guitarists’ latest album features nine previously released songs, reworked into salsa-flavoured instrumental pieces by pianist/arranger Alex Wilson, with a 13-piece Cuban band (called, um, C.U.B.A.) added to the mix.

David Marchant, FOH engineer for Rodrigo y Gabriela, explained the album’s sound: “This guy (Wilson) did amazing salsa arrangements. The same songs by Rodrigo y Gabriela, but in pure salsa, with three percussionists, strings, horns – lots of horns – a huge set-up.”
After recording the orchestra in Havana, Cuba, Rodrigo and Gabriela added guitars in their home studio in Mexico. The Area 52 tour would be the first time the pair toured with a band, and compromise was necessary in order to make the sound work on the road.

“We knew that to bring the whole band would be too expensive. Rod and Gab aren’t used to that; they’re only two people! So we cut the band as much as possible; we have one guy doing percussion instead of three, two horns instead of seven, and that makes the salsa change a little bit. We’re not really salsa, we’re not really Cuban; we are a little bit rock, a little bit Latin, and a little bit Rodrigo y Gabriela,” Marchant said.
At the centre of the production are two Allen & Heath iLive T-112 consoles; one for Marchant, and the other for monitor engineer Mike McGrath. An iDR-64 MixRack handles all 60 inputs from the stage – a combination of Sennheiser microphones and Radial DI boxes – while a 60-channel Dante link sends the audio to Marchant’s laptop, who records each show using MOTU’s Digital Performer.

Marchant takes his gain structure from McGrath, which frees him to concentrate on the live show, rather than having to worry about peaking recording levels. He certainly can’t afford to split his attention; despite a stripped-down band, Marchant is still mixing 64 channels of audio each show, 26 of which are reserved exclusively for percussion. “If we were to walk in to a club with a normal house board like a (Yamaha) PM5D or something like that, we don’t physically have enough inputs to do this show,” said McGrath. “I don’t think we’d be able to do the show without them (the iLives) and that’s not a sales pitch. Literally, that’s true.”
On stage during soundcheck for their February gig at the O2 Academy in Brixton, Rodrigo, Gabriela, and C.U.B.A rehearseHanuman a loud, rocking, Santana-inspired piece blowing out of the PA system provided by APR Audio. The main FOH system consists mainly of Electro-Voice X-Line and Xlvc components; eight Xvls elements per side flown for Brixton’s balcony and stalls, 10 XLD281s across the front of the stage and lower stalls, and a total of 12 X-Subs – six per side.

The side fill system included two XDS sub bass cabs, four XB bass cabs and four XCN MB/HF from Electro-Voice’s X-Array system. Finishing off the system are 12 HK CT115 monitor wedges coupled with two HK CTA118 powered subs.

According to APR Audio’s Matt Gunter, the system used at the O2 Academy Brixton is about two-thirds of the kit that they’d normally use at Glastonbury. In a word: loud. Marchant credits the iLive for easily being able to keep track of the incredible sound bursting from the stage.

“The advantage of the iLive when you’re mixing this show is that you can easily see what’s going on in each channel. Because the dynamic range of this music is so huge, you need to be able to see everything in a glance. I don’t want to be looking at a little screen. With the iLive, I can just look quickly, see everything, and keep my eye on the stage. Everything is colourful, everything is handy, everything is right there.”
McGrath added that the consoles are also helping the musicians on-stage, who are using in-ear monitors – Sennheiser G3s – and many for the first time: “There’s a lot of jazz players in the band, and they’ve never really gone near in-ears before. It’s always been smoky jazz club gigs. With this desk I have so many effects I can make it sound ‘live’ rather than really dead, dry sounding, like it normally would. I can add little reverbs, little ambiances on them that make it sound real, it really helps.”
Rodrigo y Gabriela begin their summer festival tour this June at Bonnaroo in the US.