by Cat Strom.
Photo Credits: Troy Constable.
Australia’s most popular vocal group, Human Nature, celebrated 30 years of making music with a national tour entitled Little More Love Tour: A 30-Year Celebration Tour 2019.
In their 30-year career, Human Nature have sold more than 2.5 million albums, earned 27 platinum awards, scored 19 Top 40 hits and have had five Top Ten albums worldwide.
They have consistently appeared at the top of the charts for every decade they have been performing. They’ve opened for Michael Jackson and Celine Dion’s global tours, sung for Oprah, and to a worldwide crowd of over 4 billion at the opening ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
Production Manager and FOH Engineer David Rudder has been with them for much of that journey including their Las Vegas residency. Recently he returned to live in Australia but once again took up the reins for this tour, the planning of which began nine months prior.
“Its second nature for the boys and myself to work out the flow of a show,” commented David. “We knew that this time we wanted a riser which could be lit through, so we had the staging people strip out all the internal structure so it was free-standing and could be lit entirely from the rear.
“It’s a simple idea that’s very effective and strong. We also discussed the split screen look and the proscenium arches, with rows of lighting between screens makes the lighting look massive.”
David remarked that the audio design was fairly standard with the first two shows utilising L-Acoustics V-Dosc, but JPJ Audio, the tour provider, suggested he might prefer the L-Acoustics K1s and K2s.
“I switched to K1 and K2 for the third show and they haven’t disappointed,” said David. “They’ve been really coherent and clear and I’ve enjoyed using them.”
The PA also included SB218 subs and ARCS for infill. Smaart was used for time alignment and flattening the curve.
“As it’s a very musical show with four very loud, live lead vocal microphones we have to make sure we take care of all the resonances,” explained David. “You can’t put up an EQ that’s just flat according to Smaart and let it be that way, you have to dig deeper and find all of the room resonances.
“I do this old school with a microphone and my voice and that’s incredibly effective. You soon find out where the real problems are. Once we’ve fixed that we adjust the curve so that it’s back to sweet and musical.”
For this tour David also switched from an Avid VENUE Profile to an S6L which he describes as a steep learning curve.
“When the S6L first came out, they weren’t compliant with the Waves infrastructure so I couldn’t put my Profile file straight into one, and that show file had been evolving for ten years so it was very detailed and structured,” he elaborated.
“However, last year we did a private show with John Farnham and Jimmy Barnes whose engineers were both using an S6L and it was suggested that I should as well.
“Fortunately by that time the Waves server was available as a MADI option so I spent a day redoing my files one for one. I got to the show, put up the faders and there was my show only deeper, wider, sweeter and I was really sold on the sound. It was then just the issue of whether I wanted to go back to Waves and have my old show, or dive in and use the new Avid plugs.”
David considered the fact that you need a $2500 per year license to have the Waves Server available which can be a problem for smaller production companies. So with that in mind, he changed all the plugins over, saying there are a few Waves favourites that he misses but the console’s plugin compressors, multiband compressor, and EQ all sound great.
David says it’s a busy show and his starting point is to ensure the four vocals are out on top of everything else.
“The great thing about the S6L is that it has a feature called Layouts where you can assign any fader I/O to the surface of the console which makes things much easier,” he commented, adding that ten shows in, he’s very comfortable with the console.
Many of the microphones are fairly old school; drum mics are a Shure Beta 52 on kick, Shure 57s on snare and toms and an Audix D4 on floor. Shure is the preferred microphone for the boys, and they have spent many years looking for the perfect capsule. A while back they discovered the Telefunken capsules, which three of them use.
“It’s really bright, like a Shure Beta 87, and gives them the detail in the voice they need,” said David. “We used to use 87s as they provided the detail but they were a little shrill and had a wide pickup pattern.
“As the bass baritone, Toby has a Heil PR35 mic which has a large diaphragm but a similar sound to the Telefunken – he really feels his voice vibrating around the room with that big mic!”
With stage aesthetics a priority along with the vigorous stage moves of the performers, Sennheiser G3 IEMs and radio mics were a necessity. The band also had body packs for their instruments as well as radio ears.
Monitors were mixed by Kez Kesby on a Yamaha PM5D with David saying that the boys love it when they play Australia; “ah yes, that’s the Kez mix”.
Lighting designer Jeff Pavey has worked with the band for many years. This time his brief was to make it their biggest and best show ever. The first third of the show maps their boy band period from the 1990s, the middle tracked the jukebox era and the final segment was Motown, which made them so big in Vegas.
Jeff particularly enjoyed implementing the show opening where the silhouettes of the four boys were projected onto a scrim making the audience believe they were about to appear onstage but instead they pop up in the middle of the audience.
“It’s an opening I’ve been wanting to do for about 20 years and I finally snuck it in!” laughed Jeff. “It worked well and Denis Handlin of Sony said it was one of the best openings to a show he had ever seen.”
The design makes great use of two stage ‘frames’ of TourPro Dicolor M-Plus 4.8mm IP65 LED Screen, a simple yet effective and versatile visual. For the first part of the show, Jeff creates fake proscenium arches, which are particularly successful. At that time the band are hidden behind a white scrim and downstage are six GLP Force 120 fans.
“Each segment has its own looks and gags,” said Jeff. “The back wall of video and brief was to make it their biggest and best show more lighting is revealed. Living in Vegas the boys see a lot of shows and they had seen the idea of a segmented back video wall and wanted to run with it.
“I wasn’t sure at first because a fair amount of the video we use is panoramic and I thought it wouldn’t work, however it actually enhanced the video! It meant we could give each of them their own screen and do some really cool stuff for them.”
Creative Productions supplied lighting and audio. Hanging from the back video truss and separating the five TourPro LED panels were six dropper bars each holding four GLP X4.
There were 43 X4s throughout the rig with eight X4 Bar 20s also used for side light. The main moving light fixtures were a total of 22 Robe BMFLs, four of which were on the floor and 18 on the flown trusses. Back of stage on the floor were five GLP JDC-1s and Molefays on the front truss lit up the audience when required.
“The Imag screens were also LED so the whole video feel had the same warmth,” said Jeff. “Again I was hesitant at first because I wanted it for the colour correction but I also wanted them to look good.
“After the first show I was happy and it actually looks massive because rather than just having a bunch of LED on stage and then the projection on the outside, it all blended as one. Under each Imag screen we have four GLP GT-1 fixtures.”
As usual, Jeff used a Hog 4 for control and he had only one day of rehearsal for the tour. Fortunately Creative Productions has built a previz studio in their new offices so he was able to spend a couple of days in there preparing for the tour.