Showco's Mystery PA
Frederick Bannister's Knebworth was probably the best organised festival I have been to — prices both for entry and for food inside the grounds had been kept low, security was good without being heavy, and the PA was excellent. The echo, an annoying feature of previous Knebworth gigs, was only audible outside the arena.
The PA was by Showco, and consisted of the regular Genesis touring outfit of two indoor systems, plus two outdoor rigs — this totalled about 70000W and gave the cleanest sound I have heard outdoors, especially the bass end which was deep and extended. For Jefferson Starship's set an extra rig by TFA Electrosound was cut in, bringing the system up to 85000W, still of very high quality. As Starship started their set, however, the sound did cut in and out a couple of times, but the main victim of any technical jinx in the PA was dj Nicky Horne who had a jumping deck and at one point had the PA fading on him.
The stage itself had a very curious inflatable roof, which made it look a bit cavernous but gave good protection to the lights and other equipment. The PA areas to the left and right of the performance area of the stage were shrouded in black cloth and mystery. No-one would say very much about the PA at all — for example Genesis' company Hit And Run wouldn't tell me anything concrete. Having heard it I would not be surprised to learn it was some new super-PA — it sounded, as I have said, exceptional, and the units themselves seemed small in comparison to the sound being projected.
The light show for Genesis Was itself quite stunning, consisting of over 400 spots, including 12 Super Troopers — six tower mounted and six on stage — and a Spectrophysics 12W laser (Laserium at the London Planetarium use ½W lasers).
Custom guitars were the only out-of-the-ordinary item of stage equipment, with Mike Rutherford using his well known Shergold guitars, and Percy Jones of Brand X brandishing one of Wal's Electric Wood basses. Devo also used some interesting axes, one of which had a body hardly wider than the fretboard — unfortunately I could not confirm who made this. Tom Petty used a Gibson Flying V, and also a Dan Armstrong Perspex guitar on some tunes.
As for the actual music, Brand X opened with some fine tight playing which found favour with the audience, though there were some problems with the mix during their set.
The Atlanta Rhythm Section followed after a short changeover; a very southern States boogie band. Their rhythm section is, predictably, as solid as granite, with Paul Goddard contributing possibly the most magnificent dirty bass sound I have ever heard.
Devo followed, a band that seem to be some critics' choice for '78. I found them stunning in their mediocrity. To me they were just another competent new wave band who happen to dress funny — also a lot of special effects they had with them failed to work, which probably accounts for their lack of impact with the crowd (some of whom threw cans at the stage).
The next set was from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, lacking bite at first but soon showed a great improvement over the last time they were in England. Technically they're not the world's greatest band, but offered some fine playing in lead and bass departments.
Next came Jefferson Starship who, unfortunately, were without Grace Slick. She was taken ill in Germany earlier in the tour, and when she didn't appear there fans rioted and caused, reportedly, over £20000 worth of damage. No such incident occurred here. Starship gave a sparkling performance, much more laid-back than I expected, with an intricate, unhurried almost delicate music. They remain one of the West Coast's finest bands, and newer members Craig Chaquico and Pete Sears are excellent musicians.
Genesis played a technically impressive set, added to by the superb lights. Genesis to me are one of the few bands who combine music and lights and what's happening on stage as a whole, rather than three separate things going on at the same place at the same time. They brought a fine day's music to a climax with their very fine set.
Sound Reports & Views
Show Report by Paul Stewart
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