Lloyd Cole & The Commotions
Lloyd Cole and the Commotions take the high road to Glasgow; Stuart Gillan gets the lowdown
VENUE: Glasgow Barrowlands
PA Co: Audio Lighting Services
BAND: Lloyd Cole And The Commotions
For those uninitiated, the Glasgow Barrowlands is a 1950's dance hall/ballroom. It's situated in Glasgow's East End in what could be termed as quite a 'colourful' area, not exactly reputed for its sedate atmosphere.
Come with me, if you will, up four flights of stairs with no lift and on into the concert hall — an interesting little piece of architecture and interior design. Imagine an aircraft hanger and bring the really high curved ceiling down a bit so that the apex of the curve is about 10 metres high and around six metres high at the sides. The floor space is approximately 35 metres long and 25 metres wide. At one end and almost the entire width is the stage, about one metre off the ground. The speaker stacks, if one can call them that these days, are placed on either side of the stage thus leaving 13 metres for the band's gear. At the other end of the room and at the same height as the stage is the FOH desk and lighting desk position.
An interesting anomaly is the inclusion of side areas about five metres wide running the length of the hall which are separated from the main area through some arches and pillars. The ceiling in this area is normal room height — (about three metres).These are a great little facility for having a quiet drink and a pleasant chat but no damn good for listening to a band. You can't hear a bleeding thing! This is a bit of a shame for the people who have paid the same as everyone else to hear the band.
Speakers used were Martin RS1200s. There were six of these full-range cabinets on each side, stacked three across and two high because of the fairly low ceiling, which was a bit of a shame since the bottom cabinets, due to the height of the stage, really pointed straight into peoples' bodies and being full-range, it wasn't just a bit of bass out of the bins being absorbed but the whole spectrum which made the sound perhaps a little less intelligible than it could have been. These cabinets are quite nice but very heavy at approximately 400lbs each. (Remember the four flights of stairs?) Inside are 2x15s in a folded horn, 2x12s in a horn and a couple of bullets, passively crossed for super-high. Crossover points, as recommended by Martin, are 250 H3. Each cabinet delivers between 1200 and 1500 watts and was powered by Yamaha P2200s (very nice).
FOH desk was a Soundcraft 800B 32-8-2, an increasingly common sight on the road these days and a very good desk too! This was operated by Tony Patrick who used the sub-groups hence:
1&2 — Drums
3&4 — Guitar & Bass
5&6 — Vocals
7&8 — Keyboards
Effects rack (toy box) was fairly standard comprising:
Roland SRE-555 (not used)
Yamaha E1010 Analog delay
Yamaha R1000 Digital Reverb
MXR 01 reverb
Klark Teknik DN27A Graphics x 2 (surprise surprise)
BSS cross-over on previously mentioned frequencies
Sony TC-FX35 Cassette Deck
The delay was used for various vocal 'flattening' effects, as was the MXR reverb. The Yamaha reverb was making the keys a little brighter but the musician also had some personal effects on stage. The BSS compressor and the DN27As were across the main outputs to provide overall system correction.
On monitors was Michael Bosley who used a Soundcraft 400B 24-8 monitor desk which sent each of its outputs through four Klark Teknik DM30/30 graphics, so effectively there was a 30-band graphic on each output. The signal went from these out to more Yamaha P2200s for the wedges and P2100s for the drumfill and sidefills. A BSS two-way crossover was in circuit for the fold back, set at around 2kHz for frequency dividing purposes. This would suggest that all foldback was two-way. Wedges were (2x12s) x2 and (1x15s) x2 by ALS. The sidefills comprised of 2x15 (Martins), 2x12 and 2441/bullet and the drumfill was one of these cabinets. Keyboard monitoring was provided courtesy of a Peavey KB300 plus a 2x12 with a 2441. "He likes it to be really quiet!" to quote Michael, the monitor engineer, speaking of Blair Cowan.
Talking of Blair Cowan (how's that for a subtle introduction?) — he used a Yamaha DX-7, a Korg BX-3 organ and a Casio CZ101, all through the aforementioned KB-300 and DI'ed through BSS active boxes. On electric guitars was Neil Clark who played a Gordon Smith semi, a Gibson Firebird and an Ibanez Acoustic AE400 through a Mesa-Boogie and miked with an SM57, as was Lloyd Cole's guitar amp, a Fender Deluxe Reverb. Lloyd played a Gibson 330 and Fender Telecaster. Becoming very predictable was the sight of a Trace Elliot GPII 250Wamp with an 1818 cabinet. This was miked with an AKG D12E and DI'ed from the amp pre-eq. Lawrence Donegan played '62 Jazz bass and some sort of six-string Tokai. All vocal mikes were SM58s. On vocals were Lloyd, Neil, Lawrence and Stephen Irvine (drums).
The drum mikes were as follows:
Bass Drum & All Toms— MD421's
Snare — SM57
Overheads & Hi Hat — 201s.
Using a 421 on the bass drum was an interesting choice and I was very impressed with the sound it gave. Stephen also used a Roland TR808 drum machine which again was DI'ed into the desk.
Overall, once the concert got underway, the balance was quite good with some very nice guitar sounds and, as I've already mentioned, the bass drum was good as well. Initially the vocals were a bit low which was surprising since it's the opposite of the traditional Lloyd Cole sound. I did feel that although the drum sound was good it was contributing to some of the vocal problems. After all, doing sound is not only about level balancing but eq balancing too, a technique too often forgotten about. The vocals were a bit muddy and a bit difficult to make out, which initially I thought was down to the hall, as it is a little boomy. After going for a bit of a walk, I soon learned that they were muddy everywhere, even right in front of the speakers. This, I'm sure, is an example of 'familiarity syndrome', whereby the engineer knows the songs too well and manages to convince himself that he can hear the words simply because he knows what's coming next. Learning to be completely objective in sound engineering is a difficult task, but completely necessary.
The evening was enjoyable, however, even if Lloyd Cole seemed a little inexperienced in handling an audience. Just one thing more. If you ever go to this venue, wear a T-shirt and shorts, it was absolutely boiling!