20 minute read

DEF LEPPARD HYSTERIA

DEF LEPPARD: HYSTERIA

The British heavy metal titans return the UK to play their seminal album, Hysteria, front to back. TPi’s Stew Hume was onsite at Manchester Arena to learn how the band embrace modern touring technology, 31 years after the album’s famed release…

PRODUCTION PROFILE

DEF LEPPARD

“In 1986, something strange happened. Heavy metal became the most popular music in the world and everywhere you looked kids were growing their hair long, flashing the devil horns and playing air guitar…” You might be familiar with this quote from Sam Dunn’s documentary Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey. Even if you are not, you’ll certainly recognise the cultural impact of large-scale heavy metal shows of the late ‘80s, which created an aesthetic in the genre that remains in the zeitgeist to this day. One of the most revered albums to come out of this era was Def Leppard’s Hysteria. Released in 1987, Hysteria was an ambitious project, with the band going on record saying they wanted to produce a hard rock version of Thriller. Three decades on and many of the classics are still commonplace in rock clubs around the world and, I dare say, many of you reading this have drunkenly sung Pour Some Sugar On Me at 1am once or twice in your time – I know I’m not alone!

With ‘80s nostalgia at an all time high – from Netflix hit Stranger Things to the kind of fashion that’d have Molly Ringwald in check, it only seems right for Def Leppard to pay homage to the famed album. The arena run, which saw the band power through sides A and B of the record for audiences in the UK and Ireland, wrapped up a whole year of intense touring. Yet, while the tour material is deeply rooted in the ‘80s, the band and crew – as is tradition – used the opportunity to utilise some of the latest technology the touring world had to offer.

LOVE AND AFFECTION Chris Adamson filled the Production Manager’s seat. “I suppose you could say my history with these guys goes back three decades, to my roots in Hull,” mused the PM as we sat backstage at Manchester Arena. “These guys

were local heroes” – the band formed down the road in Sheffield – “but professionally, I only started working with them this year. I was on tour in the US with Dead End Company when I got the call to ask if I was interested in taking up the position.”

After re-arranging his calendar and completing some other prior commitments, Adamson jumped aboard what was, at the time, a coheadline production with Journey. Since then, Adamson and the rest of the crew have collected their fair share of passport stamps touring in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii.

In the UK, Adamson called on the support of HSL Group to provide lighting and rigging, SSE Audio for PA, Sound Image supplied audio consoles, Screenworks for Video and Pyrotecnico for lasers. Transport came courtesy of Beat The Street and McGuinness with The Touring Company working as the travel agent for the crew. Finally keeping the crew fed throughout the tour was Eat To The Beat.

“When it comes to suppliers, you try and be loyal whenever you can, especially for the companies with such great people working for them,” stated Adamson. “Whenever I get a tour, the first thing I do is book busses and trucks as they are in such high demand. Def Leppard had a previous relationship with McGuinness and I was more than happy to stick with them. Then, as far as Beat The Street goes, they are one of the few companies servicing at this level and were a natural choice for us.”

Adamson also gave special mention to HSL Group. “I have a very high opinion of HSL,” he stated. “They have done several shows with me including John Mayer as well as Tom Petty who I worked with for 22 years. I can always rely on their crew and the equipment stock.”

With almost 90 shows in 2018 under the crews’ collective belt, Adamson

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Lighting Crew Chief, Kevin Cassidy; FOH Engineer Ronan McHugh; Monitor Engineer, Ted Bible; The Def Leppard video crew; Head Rigger, Ian ‘Tufty’ Bracewell.

spoke of his managerial style for the 64-strong team. “As much as being a Production Manager is about being in charge, you also have to be there to motivate and keep an upbeat vibe. No one can be happy 24/7.”

HYSTERIA Def Leppard’s top priority was to replicate their sound as true to record as possible. “When you come and see a group play this kind of show, you want to hear the songs just as you remember them,” commented Adamson, adding with a smile, “I doubt many want to come and hear a blues or reggae version of Love Bites.”

FOH Engineer Ronan McHugh was well-placed to do so. McHugh first worked with the band in the studio back when they recorded Euphoria and took on full time live duties back in 2003 during the X Tour.

McHugh began by explaining how he had to retread old ground. “We’d actually done this concept before, back in 2015 in Las Vegas,” he said. “Prior to the residency we had a big rehearsal to prepare. Side A of the album gets played almost every single night by these guys, but from the B-side it’s really only Hysteria itself and, from time to time, Gods of War which get played regularly. Some songs had never been played live.”

When it was announced the band would be reproducing the Las Vegas shows for a European tour, McHugh pulled out the show files, giving the audio team a head-start.

For control, McHugh opted for a DiGiCo SD5. “I had been using the SD7 for some time but when our Monitor Engineer was ready to make the switch to the SD5 from the earlier D5 console, it made sense (cost and spares wise) for both of us to switch.” The latest DiGiCo software update meant we’ve moved Waves to a different computer which has sped up my workflow

considerably,” said the engineer. Waves was integral to McHugh’s control set up and effects. The only element from the band’s analogue past were a selection of Empirical Labs Distressors which the engineer used for all the vocal inputs.

Both monitor and FOH control packages were supplied by SoCal-based Sound Image which had supplied the gear since May during the band’s co-headline tour with other ‘80s icons, Journey. “Having our own gear with us throughout the year has been really nice,” said McHugh. “It keeps a level of consistency and familiarity for us, which is really appreciated when you move into new territories.”

In the UK & Ireland, SSE Audio provided an L-Acoustics system. “It’s a big rig,” laughed McHugh as he talked thought the finer points of the 20 box per side hang consisting of 16 x K1s over 4 x K2s along with 8 x K1-SBs and 24 x KS-28s on the ground… Rock music is meant to be played loud, after all. “It’s a big physical show with a lot of low end,” stated McHugh. “We try and get as many speakers as we can. For Manchester Arena, we opted not to have a delay set up, but when we played the O2 in London, we also put in three hangs of 6 x K1s to give us greater coverage.”

He continued to explain why L-Acoustics was the perfect match for the rock legends. “In short – it’s got lots of balls!” he laughed. “There are lots of PA brands which are great but when it comes to the big rock sound, L-Acoustics is perfect. You can turn it up without it sounding too harsh, unlike any other PA.”

TPi also caught up with Monitor Engineer, Ted Bible, who has been with Def Leppard for the past 16 years – previously as Systems Engineer to his current position. “Up until this year, I was still wearing both hats,” began Bible, in the midst of cleaning the band’s IEMs. “Officially, I’m only doing

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Stage Manager, Danny Spratt; LD, Kenji Ohashi; Production Manager, Chris Adamson.

monitors, but I still come in early to help fly the PA. I’m not one of those guys who will happily sleep in until noon.”

As stated, like McHugh, Bible mixed on DiGiCo SD5. He continued: “I have worked through several models, starting on the D5. The thing I like about the SD5 is the workflow. In my mind it’s the most ‘analogue’ layout of any digital desk on the market. Def Leppard are old school and came up in the heyday of analogue gear. So if they ask to hear something, they expect it to be done then and there. On the SD5, I have everything I need on the surface and can get to it in seconds.”

Bible discussed the band’s on stage sound set up. “When I first joined the camp the entire band was on wedges but over the years we have been moving to IEMs.” As it stands, almost all the band are using IEMs save bassist Rick Savage, who only used them for a few songs in the set and opted for onstage monitors the rest of the time. “For Rick, we have three sets of wedges across the front, a set of side fills and a set on the rise staging either side of the drums.” Also on the stage was a selection of drum fills to enable Allen to simulate the power of an acoustic drum.

For IEMs, Bible opted for Shure PSM1000s. “The best sounding in-ear unit on the market!” according to the engineer. For moulds, Jerry Harvey JH Audio Roxanne’s were the model of choice. “I have personally known Jerry for many years and stayed with him ever since. It’s incredible how much space the JH models have. It’s not like I can hear between 14 - 24k, but it gives so much room in the mix that I don’t have to have everything on top of each other.”

Shure was also the brand of choice for microphones and instruments wireless packs, utilising Axient Digital system. “The Shure equipment’s network capability is one of its biggest draws for me,” commented Bible.

“I’m coordinating all the frequencies then sending the info to everyone’s units so all they have to do is sync their packs.” For vocal microphones the Beta 58as were used across the stage.

Bible also gave his thanks to vendor, SSE Audio. “As well as the PA, they have provided us with all our transformers as we are carrying a lot of American gear which runs at 120V. They have also provided me with brand new antenna cables which has made a sizable difference!”

It was clear from speaking to Bible and some of the backline team just how much Def Leppard have adopted to modern touring technology. “We are almost completely digital on the stage, the only live microphones are the five vocal mics along with two for the hi-hat and ride,” stated Bible. The rest were direct inputs including Rick Allen’s famed digital drum kit with the rest of the band using Fractal Audio systems Axe-Fx III.

Speaking about the band’s move to a digital amp model, Guitar Tech for Phil Collen, John Zocco, told TPi: “Phil has been using the Axe-Fx system for some time but originally it was just for effects while still using the Marshall JCM preamp for tone.” However, after touring with G3 [the yearly concert tour organised by rock guitarist Joe Satriani which features famed guitarists], Collen spoke to fellow shredder, John Petrucci who had used got an earlier version of the Axe-Fx III.

“Phil fell in love with it so we ordered a couple,” explained Zocco. What followed was a trial period with Zocco programming from his home, then sending patches over to Collen to test on his systems. “The rest of the guys used it in rehearsal and also liked the system so we moved the whole band over to Fractal. It has made for a much cleaner mix and the sound has been much clearer on this run. It really helps the sonic aim for the whole ensemble.”

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While we had the ear of the lead guitarist’s tech, it felt only right to talk about the impressive 11-strong rig of electric guitars. “Phil uses more instruments than the other guys, with a fair bit of switching,” he stated. “He has brought out a few vintage instruments on the run including Crackle Jack, which he used during the original Hysteria run and can be seen on the Pour Some Sugar On Me video.”

POUR SOME SUGAR ON ME The design origins for the UK Hysteria tour, like so many other elements, had developed during the co-headline tour with Journey. It saw Def Leppard’s long time LD, Kenji Ohashi and Journey’s LD Kevin ‘Deuce’ Christopher join forces. Due to popular opinion, the design was kept on when Def Leppard set out on their own.

The stage itself consisted of a three-part LED screen set up, made up of a large LED backdrop upstage, two downstage LED risers, left and right of the drums. Finally, there were the three automated LED ‘Crown’ screens, that ascended to the top of the rig at the start of the show.

Discussing the video treatment for the tour was award-winning Video Director / Designer Chris Keating, who is enjoying his seventh year with the band. Keating’s main responsibility, in his own words, is to “ensure every video element enhances Def Leppard as a live rock band.” He elaborated: “My whole philosophy with video directing is for people to not just watch the screens, but also where is the band onstage. I’m here to help make the show, as a whole, look great and it always has to come back to the guys on stage, ensuring focus is on them.”

Screenworks provided the LED and camera package for the Ireland and UK shows, which included a ROE Visuals MC12 screen, a Ross Carbonite Switcher along with a selection of 4 x Sony HSC300 long lens cameras, two handhelds and 3 x Marshall Electronics remote cameras. John Mcleish took on the role of Media Server Operator overseeing 2 x disguise Gx2.

“We are running our package off a Control Freak control system,” explained Mcleish. “They produce customised software which controls our Gx2s to make certain processes easier to integrate with other systems.”

Keating then explained his treatment of content and live camera footage. “A lot of the content used for the show is created by Roger Staub from Infect Productions,” he said. “I usually come up with a concept which I run past the band before passing it onto Roger to make the content.”

For this touring cycle, Keating and Drum Tech Jeff Diffner opted to utilise a timecode backbone for the content streamed onto the LED screens. “We went back and forth at the start of this year about how we would handle the sheer amount of information - I had previously done it manually using an Arkaos VJ system. Going down the timecode route has certainly taken a lot of the pressure off me. Nothing on the screens is specifically synced, so, from a directorial standpoint, I have to just make sure everything is working correctly.”

Keating continued: “When it comes to specific equipment I’m not too fussed as long as it works in the creative context of how I want the show to look and it allows me to make the show as impactful as possible. The band themselves are the absolute best! As performers, they are really invested in how the fans see their show and how the crew feel.

“Every show I do a lock off wide shot record of the performance. The band sit down and talk about the show and they always ask me how it went. It’s fantastic that even after forty plus years, they still care about every element of their live performance. Even now, we’re already into discussions about shows looks for the 2019 run”.

Continuing the visual discussion was Kevin Cassidy, Lighting Crew Chief. Although this was the first-time Cassidy had worked with Def Leppard, the Crew Chief has a long history with

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Production Manager, Chris Adamson. “Both Chris and I worked together for over 20 years with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers,” he commented, still proudly wearing a tour hoodie from one of the singer’s last tours. “I started with these guys back in May during the co-headliner with Journey, taking on the role of Crew Chief for the entire tour.”

Cassidy outlined the benefits of the design, explaining that it remains virtually identical to that of the co-headline tour. “This has been a massive help as we move into new territories,” he enthused. “We’ve had a very tight schedule and as we move from continent to continent there was not a huge amount of time to re-program a whole new show and system.”

The band’s latest design is a far cry from some of their show rigs from the original Hysteria tour with an almost entire LED arsenal of fixtures. “One of the rig highlights is the Elation Professional CUEPIX Blinder WW4,” said Cassidy. “It’s a four-way LED mole light that still has the warm kelvin temperatures of the ordinal tungsten blinders. Strobes and moles used to eat up a lot of power in a conventional rig but the move to LED has certainly helped the overall production, as we don’t have to use additional power for the show.”

In the roof there were five straight runs of truss, three of which were split into three sections. These nine elements were fully automated via a Kinesys system to create a range of different positions, all overseen by Automation Engineer, Christian Alvarado.

The primary wash fixtures were Vari-Lite VL3500 Wash FXs. “I really like the VL300s” commented LD, Kenji Ohashi. “It’s a strong beam and very bright. I enjoy using them on every show.” The main profiles were Claypaky Scenius Unicos (with the shutters) with Claypaky Sharpys, A.leda K20s with B-Eye lenses for additional washes and soft key lighting. Also flown were GLP JDC1 LED strobes. On the floor 12 x Claypaky Sharpys and 12 x Martin by Harman MAC Viper Profiles were specified for the design.

Another break from conventions of the past were seen in the follow

spots, with the lighting crew opting to utilise Follow-Me’s remote spots system. Controlling a rig of 10 Robe BMFLs were four Follow-Me terminals assigned to two fixtures in the rig. The operators controlled the pan/tilt parameters of the spot movement, with two BMFLs assigned to each band member.

Meanwhile, Ohashi had control of iris, colour, and dimmer, through his MA Lighting grandMA2 console which was running multiple protocols including MANet and SACN as well as ArtNet for the Follow-Me system. “It’s a great system,” commented Cassidy. “It gives Kenji at FOH so many more options to do more effects than you would ever be able to do with conventional spots from strobes to colours. Not to mention, all the blackouts are now super crisp as one source is controlling them simultaneously.”

HSL, which supplied lighting for the Hysteria UK tour were familiar to both Cassidy and Adamson, most recently on John Mayer’s 2017 tour. After received such a fantastic service and support, they asked HSL to deliver once again. Cassidy added: “In the grand scheme of things, most companies can provide the same equipment, so ultimately it comes down to the people. Simon Stuart and Jordan Hanson provide a great service, and do so in a very positive environment.”

GODS OF WAR Finally, adding to the visual landscape was AJ Seabeck, Laser Technician using Pyrotecnico’s Kvant Spectrum 25s lasers, six to be exact, all controlled via Pangolin Laser System’s Beyond. Seabeck stated: “I have four Spectrums on the down stage and the other two are to the left and right of the drum risers,” he explained. “We are running them on the songs Love Bites, Pour Some Sugar on Me and Excitable.” Kvant’s flagship laser series Spectrum have been designed and built for touring and packed with cutting edge technology. The main features of the latest Spectrum systems

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include a robust and IP rated touring construction, unparalleled visual intensity of LD systems and colour correction display mode - the push of a single button will set all output colours of all Kvant systems so they match each other.

When Seabeck first entered the picture, the show was designed by Pyrotechnico’s Derek Abbot. “Effectively this means every day my main responsibility is to set everything up make sure all the equipment is clean and, most importantly, safe.” The tech went on to describe his health and safety procedure each day. “The things I have to watch out for is obscure reflections in the venue. Once I am happy with the set up, typically, it will then be double checked by a health and safety authority.

“It’s been a great tour,” concluded Seabeck. “I have been doing a lot of pop shows recently but these kind of tours are really my speed. It’s old school at its finest.”

ARMAGEDDON ON WITH IT! Along with providing lighting, HSL was also on hand to supply the rigging for the latest outing. Ian ‘Tufty’ Bracewell, Head Rigger for the show, spoke to TPi about all things in the air for the tour. “It’s a fairly heavy rig,” he began. “It’s about 50-tonnes in weight and I’m up to about 80 points a day when we are running the full show with side hangs and delays. It’s quite a handful but we smash it out every morning, mainly thanks to the multitude of riggers I bring in each day.”

For the Manchester show, Tufty had 20 local riggers on site – 12 up and 8 down. “It’s quite the army,” he joked. “The most important thing with this many people is keeping the job under control and keeping an eye on everyone.”

As the band toured through the UK, the other main challenge laid at Tufty’s feet was the height of the show. “It’s very tall, and I’ve got my hooks at 57-ft minimum. When we are walking into venues, which are only 60-ft, things get a bit interesting. However, we are really in the swing of this one now and the head-scratching portion of the tour is mainly out of the way.”

Tufty also gave his compliments to supplier HSL that provided all the motors for the tour, adding “all their crew have been great to work with.”

On the ground, Danny Spratt, the tour’s Stage Manager, discussed the day-to-day running of the tour. Having been with the band for the last three years he was more than accustomed to the work which goes into making a Def Leppard show happen. “The way this tour started could have been awkward simply because double-headliner shows can sometimes be hard to negotiate,” he said. “Thankfully, it was an amazing experience and both bands’ production teams basically became one big crew.

“The band have certainly moved with the times in terms of the technology used on this tour,” he continued. “It’s cut down a lot of equipment and set elements we used to have on previous tours, from guitar cabinets to elaborate risers. We have a quarter of the set we used to have. Essentially it’s four risers and that’s pretty much it.”

Collectively, the carpentry department was made up of two crewmembers, David Boyd and Gavin Harris. “We are usually rolling the stage back out 25 minutes after the show then in an hour and half the stage is down and loaded up 30 minutes after that,” said Spratt.

Concluding, he reminisced about the last year of touring. “We have done 94 gigs this year; it’s been a great run but I’m ready to trade the load out for the school run next week!”

Def Leppard and their loyal crew wrapped on what was an incredible year of touring. However, ever the dedicated team, the Leppard family were already looking forward to the future and the band’s busy summer schedule on both sides of the Atlantic. TPi Photos: Kevin Nixon www.defleppard.com www.screenworksnep.com www.hslgroup.com www.sseaudiogroup.com www.sound-image.com www.beatthestreet.net www.mcguinness.eu www.thetourcompany.co.uk www.pyrotecnico.com

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