By Cat Strom. Photos Ken Leanfore
Last year marked the 40th anniversary of Paul Weller’s first album, ‘In The City’, which he released with The Jam. For most artists such a landmark would be greeted with extensive retrospective celebrations: lavish reissues and all that jazz…
Not Paul Weller, who is almost clinically averse to nostalgia and about to release his 13th studio album in May. FOH engineer Ange Jones has worked alongside Paul for twenty-seven years and whilst playing the Sydney Opera House was an ambition for Paul, it was anything but for Ange.
“I last mixed there over thirty years ago with a band called Sky who were a very controlled, instrumental act,” he explained. “I remember the hall as being very resonant and not for a loud band as it was made for orchestras. I wasn’t apprehensive this time round, I was scared.”
Ange prepared for the gig with extra rehearsals with Paul, saying they had to get down to a level that can be controlled in the SOH as normally levels onstage can get up above 103 db.
“That in the SOH would have been catastrophic,” he added. “I normally specify an L-Acoustic K1 / K2 PA but we used the inhouse d&b system which was great. It’s a really well set up system. The SOH crew were brilliant, teaming up well with the JPJ Audio crew who supplied control, and it was faultless.”
Seats were sold behind the stage with Ange impressed by the system the SOH had in place for this: a couple of d&B subs onstage with a couple of line array speakers on top, time-aligned with everything else.
Originally two shows were on sale but they sold so well a third night was added. Unfortunately an important orchestral rehearsal was scheduled in the afternoon of the third show, so after the second night the stage had to be cleared. The third show was scheduled to start an hour later to accommodate the changeover, with the crew not accessing the stage until 5pm, but Ange reports the amazing SOH crew had it all up and working within 90 minutes.
“The SOH crew are an amazing, almost military precision team,” laughed Ange.
FOH Ange ran a DiGiCo SD10 console rather than his usual SD7, due to budget constraints, saying he’s rather old school in his preference for lots of faders.
“The SD10 does the job in a small package,” he remarked. “I use a lot of onboard gear for drums and keyboards, general drum reverb and some delays, but I also have a fair amount of old school outboard gear.”
Outboard gear included a TC 2290 for pan delays where Ange does a delay that sweeps backwards and forwards on a few songs. Vocal reverb is a PCM90, there’s a RE-20 tap delay, and a SansAmp for a distorted vocal sound which is currently on the last album. He also uses an Avalon 737 compressor on Paul’s vocal to add warmth and richness.
“I also have an SPX2000, again for pans to add a bit of dynamic to songs as sometimes it can be a bit one dimensional if it’s straight down the middle all the time,” said Ange. “Things like string pads I tend to pan a little bit so they move around the room. I like it, it’s for me and I’m selfish that way!”
Having been with Paul for so long, Ange has evolved with him as his bands have changed over the years. He describes the relationship as comfortable especially as he knows all of the songs, he knows all the delays and vocal treatments required for songs that go back over twenty years that Paul may suddenly throw into the set.
“He is now playing his back catalogue,” noted Ange. “He used to be a stickler for not playing his old stuff. He allows me to mess around with songs particularly to make live songs sound a little different to the album.”
It’s a busy show for Ange with 64 inputs coming to FOH, two drum kits, lots of samples, lot of keyboards and vocal harmonies.
Paul uses a Telefunken M80 microphone which Ange describes as brilliant as long as you’re right on it with your lips, if you move away it can get thin and nasty. It’s been a god send for the monitor engineer Nikoma Bell also on a DiGiCo SD10.
“I use Shure KSM32’s on the guitars because I really like a fat, full sound where I can,” Ange elaborated. “Everything else is standard kit microphones. I like the old standard stuff because it works. If it’s not broken don’t try to fix it.”
The two drummers and the keyboard player use IEMs and there are twelve wedges onstage for Paul at his two positions, at the piano and centre stage, and the other guitar and bass players also have wedges.
Ange’s fear of playing the SOH turned out to be unnecessary with all three shows an immense success, the reviews were great and most importantly, the shows sounded brilliant. A lot had changed in thirty years!