FATBOY SLIM TAKES A ROUND TRIP WITH MLA AND CAPITAL SOUND
The main reason why most world-class DJs have avoided playing arenas in the past is because of the difficulty in projecting a typical club atmosphere to the back of a long rectangular space.
In 2016 Capital Sound Hire’s Technical Manager, Robin Conway, designed an audio system for an in-the-round presentation of Fatboy Slim (aka Norman Cook) at the O2 Arena, using the trusty Martin Audio MLA sound rig and the unique stage design to bring him closer to the audience. “All of a sudden with the DJ booth in the middle you forget you’re in a big arena. We worked out that’s a way of turning an arena into a huge nightclub,” Cook had declared in an interview. “You get all the benefits of collective euphoria with the budget to do a very big production. “
When he later announced his biggest arena tour yet, with six dates fittingly called ‘The Round Trip, complete with revolving stage in the centre, circular overhead video, confetti cannons and pyro, Capital decided to extend this ‘boxing match meets rave’ concept by increasing the ordnance of the PA.
To pull off this production, including the largest DJ show ever seen at Wembley’s SSE Arena, Capital—in the shape of house engineer/project manager David Preston and system tech Marty Beath—had to meet a number of unique challenges, notably the location of the mix position (30 metres from the mother grid, near the conventional monitor world), while fighting with the vast amount of overhead hardware.
Conway explains, “Whereas last time we fielded four hangs of four MLA and two hangs of MLA Compact, this time we have had six hangs of MLA above the video screen, as close to the centre as possible, so there is a lot more real estate.” The speakers had to be trimmed 10m from the floor to preserve sightlines.
But the most complicated element was the subs. This comprised a flown MLX system—four independent hangs with five elements in each hang, right above the DJ’s head. “These were all positioned close together, firing inwards, to create a perfect omnidirectional sub source.”
Eight Martin Audio DD12s were also deployed, two on each side of the square stage, for front-fills.
“This design is highly efficient and for this application it was perfect—there’s no comb filtering because it’s essentially one single source. I’m a huge fan of this design, it really works well, and Marty managed to achieve extremely good coverage.”
However, the efficiency also needed to extend to the rigging process, with the need for shared cable management and 100 metre looms required for each one of the MLA and MLX hangs.
In terms of sound optimisation Marty Beath programmed a core design in the dedicated DISPLAY software, building six cross-sectional files every day from the centre of the room, with all speakers under proprietary VU-NET control.
With the lights firing inwards from the perimeter trusses on movable motors, this circus was every bit a club rave in all but name, which will have pleased both the artist and production manager Mark Ward.
Also helping to ensure a first class production were Capital crew chief, Jonny Buck and PA tech, Ben Turnbull.
Photography by @AliveCoverage / @AshYoud / Graham Finney