by Cat Strom.
Photos by Troy Constable
In 2017 he caught the attention of Grammy-nominated Khalid, who invited him on the road as main support on his Australian/New Zealand tour, and the legendary Elton John proclaimed on his Beats1 radio show that he had the “most amazing voice that I’ve ever heard from a male singer at 14 years of age.”
Emotional, resonant and astounding considering his youthful age, Ruel has just completed a short tour of the country selling out venues including The Enmore Theatre. With an eye on the future, lighting designer Mike McDonald did Ruel’s first couple of shows in 2017 free of charge because he knew that Ruel’s career was only going to grow.
The budget for this tour was low but Mike is a master at working a small budget so that the results look bigger than they should. There was no video element to the show and management didn’t want to pay for a flown rig at The Enmore, so it came down to a creative floor package that managed to give the stage quite some depth.
“Ruel is quite new at performing so I didn’t know if he would be walking around on stage a lot or there would be guests appearing,” said Mike. “I decided to create side light with ShowPRO Quad LED Pars so wherever he walked he would be covered.
“It’s all about creating layers; we have the upstage riser to help create depth and definition between the band and the artist. It grabs people’s attention just to Ruel as he is downstage and works that space quite heavily. Being only 15 years old he runs around like a spring chicken! If I had tried to pick him up with some front wash, I would have struggled.”
Upstage were three GLP JDC-1 fixtures adding some colour and musical stabs to accentuate the band. Having a responsive strobe is essential as the band’s musicianship is tight with a lot of musical builds and accents. Mike used them in full 68ch mode (SPIX) producing a shimmer effect with the tube and the pixel effects with the outside cells as well.
“To maximise the use of these fixtures, you really need to spend time on the console groups and layout views,” commented Mike. “It’s not a fixture you can patch in the console and press go!”
A total of ten Martin MAC Aura XBs delivered movement to the show with four in front of the riser and six behind the band. More ShowPRO LED Pars were situated underneath the riser helping to create depth between the artist and the band.
“You get a nice shine on the floor and you can black out the band whilst still giving some ambience,” added Mike. “At the back of the stage were six 4-Lite Molefays each mounted on a 2 metre black pipe and they were great for backlight.
“They’re also a camera-friendly fixture and provided something in the background for Instagram because that’s important nowadays. I’ve been doing the tungsten thing for quite a while now – if you put it in the right place it does its work without doing much.”
Management had purchased some Astera AX1 wireless pixeltubes for a video clip of one of Ruel’s singles and these were incorporated into the tour creating detailed design. Unfortunately on the way to The Enmore, they got damaged in transit and had to be dropped from the design.
“There were supposed to be eight of them in front of the riser,” explained Mike. “It was such a shame but these things happen. They have wireless DMX that runs over 3-pin and unfortunately that broke, and I couldn’t control them via DMX. You can control them via your phone and that’s about it.”
Mike commented that he would like to add video further down the track but with artists such as Ruel, he says it’s about small steps and that you can’t progress too quickly.
“He’s gone from selling out 300 capacity rooms to playing The Enmore in four months so the progression is really very quick,” he added. “It’s also about understanding what he wants. He’s only 15, he just wants to play video games. That was the first question he asked me; is there a video screen we can play Playstation on? You have to nurture the artist so he understands what he wants.”
For control Mike used an MA2 light, a console he describes as reliable. Chameleon Touring Systems supplied the tour, except for Perth, which was supplied by Frontier Lighting.
Andrew Troy was running FOH audio from an itsy-bitsy Allen & Heath dLive C1500 console and is clearly a man who doesn’t need to assert his manliness with a massive console of knobs and faders. “I’m touring it for this show because basically it does everything I need it to do, and very well,” he said. “It’s a great little console. Sounds great and is very user friendly. For what I’m doing, it’s the correct option.”
At a recent Ruel gig in Japan, the IEM mixes weren’t up to scratch because of the language barrier, so since then Andrew has done monitors from FOH. “I do all the IEM mixes as well as FOH on the dLive,” he explained. “I’m essentially looking after six independent mixes from one position. Ruel’s voice is quite ‘boomy’ so I treat it quite heavily.
“At some points he sings quite low and soft, which sounds very different to when he’s giving it a good belt. I use the DYN8 multiband compressor over his vocal and that evens it out – that’s another reason why I have the dLive because it has multiband compressors on every input channel, and I can assign them to all my outputs as well without chewing up more DSP.”
Andrew further commented that all of the onboard plugins sound quite good on the dLive, and that with other consoles he has to use Waves plugins to get him out of grief.
“I don’t need to do that with the dLive as it has pretty good sounding effects already,” he said. “The console I hired did have a Waves card in it but I haven’t had to use it. I love that the dLive has such a small footprint yet has everything I need. I don’t need anything else, I just rock up with it and away we go. I’m using it at monitors on the Sticky Fingers tour at the moment too.”
Andrew is pretty much a one man show, so it’s important that he ensures the advance is correct. He has a 36 channel input patch which he says takes a bit of time for people to get their heads around. However his biggest challenge is time as he sets it all himself, but fortunately the band are all experienced session players.
“It’s a consistent show, we designed it at the beginning to be consistent,” he added. “That’s why we have all the guitars and the keyboard going direct, as well as all the tracks, so the only mics onstage are for the drums and two vocals. It has made life a lot easier.”
Drums mics included an Audix D6 and Sennheiser e901 for the kick, a Blue 100i for snare drum top, snare bottom is a Sennheiser e604 or 904, for toms Beyer Opus 98, for overheads, cymbals and high hats Audio Technica 450s, plus a bunch of Radial DIs.
There was a Shure Beta 57 on the backing singer’s vocal, switch mics around the stage so the musical director can talk to the band, and another mic side of stage so anyone side of stage can contact Andrew on the comms system through his console. Ruel uses a wireless Sennheiser G3 Series e945 capsule microphone.
“It’s a real mixture but if anyone wants to give me an endorsement I won’t say no!” laughed Andrew. For IEMs Andrew used six Sennheiser G3 as transmitters and receivers with a variety of in-ears; he uses JH Audio, the drummer has Ear Monitors Australia and the keyboard player, guitarist and backing singer use Shure whilst Ruel uses Audiofly from Perth.