KANYE TOUCHES THE SKY WITH W8L
Kanye West, the world's leading-edge rapper and producer, recently wrapped a hugely successful 46-city US Touch the Sky tour which showcased the artist's gifts as a producer of sophisticated new music.
A multiple Grammy Award winner, Kanye was supporting his second album release, Late Registration with his first headlining tour in scaled arenas and theatres, featuring a grand-scale production concept extending far beyond traditional rap shows.
The expanded presentation included DJ Atrak, a keyboardist, percussionist, two background singers and a string section with four violins, two cellos and a harp. Openers include American
Idol winner Fantasia and Keyshia Cole, featured with West on his previous tour opening for Usher.
Obviously this lineup produced a sophisticated blend of sounds far beyond the standard voice, bass and drum arrangement, so Genesis Audio Systems of Phoenix, Arizona was called in to extrapolate West's innovative production sound into a live sound context.
To deliver the highest quality and coverage across the different venues, Genesis opted for a 36-box Martin
W8L line array with 28 Martin WSX subs.
Veteran FOH engineer Phil Strong (inset) ran the show from Digidesign's VENUE console (drawing on the vast library of TDM software plug-ins), with a Yamaha M5D-RH handling monitor mixes under the supervision of Genesis' John Clark III. Outfront, the Martin W8L system was generally flown in 12-box main arrays, with larger arenas supplemented with six-box side arrays. New W8LD Martin Audio downfill boxes were also provided for the bottom of the main array to ensure the required 20? by 120? pattern and the coverage needed in the first four or five rows.
System power was provided by Martin MA 4.2s amps, augmented with XTA DP226 DSP. To ensure optimum coverage, Genesis system tech Mike Arnold worked with Martin Audio's Rob Hofkamp to optimise cabinet angles as well as low-end response via differing subwoofer configurations.
For monitoring, John Clark provided a dozen mixes for a combination of wedges and in-ears supplemented by two additional WSX subs and sidefills.
According to Strong, the key to the tour's success was to know the music and the desires of the artist. 'To accomplish that, you need to really understand the musical vocabulary and know how to identify what is important about the record,' he explained. 'If you choose incorrectly you can alter the perception and feel of the song drastically, and for a detail-oriented producer like West, that is unacceptable.
'People think of hip-hop artists as being more bare bones, like early rap artists, but this was a full blown production from one of the hottest producers in the studio and on the road.'