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MLA delivers Paul Rodgers’ Memphis R&B sound

Capital Sound fielded its full Martin Audio MLA system for the first time at the Royal Albert Hall for a special one-off performance

Capital Sound fielded its full Martin Audio MLA system for the first time at the Royal Albert Hall, London, on 3 November for a special one-off performance by Paul Rodgers.

The former Free and Bad Company frontman was backed by a Memphis R&B band comprising musicians who had played on his latest studio album, The Royal Sessions, which was released earlier this year.

In order to extract the optimum performance from the 14 MLA enclosures (plus downfill) that formed the main front facing PA and 14 MLA Compact (outfills) on either flank of the historically difficult venue, Capital technical manager Ian Colville undertook a site survey and re-evaluation prior to the gig. “As this was our first combined MLA/MLA-C show at the Royal Albert Hall, it seemed a good opportunity to check the architectural data to ensure that we had the most accurate information to enter into the [Martin Audio] Display 2 software,” he explains.

This verification process, he says, was greatly assisted by drawings of the venue he had not previously seen, which enabled him to deal with issues such as trim height, interbox angles and uptilt.

On FOH duties for the concert was Robert ‘Nitebob’ Czaykowski, fresh off a 56-date Steely Dan tour which also used MLA. “I have a long history of using Martin Audio systems going back to the legendary 212 bass bins, Philishaves and F2 days, and have been a Martin fan forever,” he says. “As a man that goes back to WEM columns and Voice of the Theatre system, I was thrilled when I heard Martin Audio had made a quantum leap above everyone else – and really wanted to hear this new MLA system.

“What I miss most is the moving of air and certain things that happen with the horn-loaded stuff, so I was immediately impressed with it and the level of controllability it offered.”

“It came down to a choice of two [systems],” adds Perry Margouleff, producer of The RoyalSessions and Rodgers’ manager,and since it was such a special gig, at venue that is traditionally not an easy venue for covert sound, we opted for Martin Audio. I had seen the superior coverage it provided and the way you could tailor the PA to the different rooms, particularly where you want to lose bounce off a hard back wall.”

As the production was using the house lighting rig, a central cardioid sub-array was eschewed in favour of three front-firing MLX subwoofers, flown behind the MLA rig. The fill package included two MLX subs on stage with Martin Audio W2 fills, while out on each flank another potential ‘hole’ in the coverage was provided by a Martin Audio XD15 atop a WS218X sub to draw the image down and compensate for the 10-metre trim height of the PA.

Czaykowski mixed the show loud, bringing out the “deep funk and timbre” in Rodgers’ voice, who played a two-hour set backed by many musicians who had played on original Stax R&B hits from the mid-60s. “I wanted to achieve even coverage,” concludes Czaykowski, “so that no matter where they were in the hall, the audience would enjoy the experience. And we most certainly achieved that.”