DiGiCo Desks Bring It All Back Home For The Revolution's Prince Memorial Shows At First Avenue
MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota - November 2016 - The passing of Prince on April 21, 2016 will be one of the days forever marked on the music calendar, remembered like the losses of John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix and Elvis Presley—brilliant artists gone before their time. To commemorate Prince’s untimely death and celebrate his life and artistry, members of The Revolution, Prince’s backing band at the time of his most iconic song, album and film, “Purple Rain,” recently came together again for three shows at First Avenue, the Minneapolis venue where they stood behind the artist in 1984 for the live recording of that landmark track. And as Wendy, Lisa, Brown Mark, Dr. Fink, Bobby Z and other guest artists kicked off the set with “Let’s Go Crazy,” the audience connected with the band on the very first note.
“It was really an emotional show,” recalls Andy Meyer, the FOH engineer who mixed the shows on a DiGiCo SD7 console. “You could tell the musicians on stage were feeling it.” Meyer, who is most closely associated with Justin Timberlake as that artist’s longtime FOH engineer, was brought on board for the Prince memorial gig by Matt Larson, national sales manager for DiGiCo distributor Group One Ltd.
But Larson had a deeper connection to the event: he was also the crew chief for Prince from 1986 to 1992, a period during which the artist created some of his most enduring work around the world and at his Paisley Park Studios in the Minneapolis suburb of Chanhassen. “These performances were such a moving musical memorial and really important shows for The Revolution and past staff, as well as early band mates Dez Dickerson and André Cymone,” he says. “I think most of us were in such shock hearing the news of Prince’s death—it was almost unimaginable. Prince impacted the lives of so many musicians and crew over the years, getting everyone to raise their own bar.
“During these shows, it felt like a big family reunion and transported everyone back to the days when Prince was putting on incredibly tight shows with ultra-tight timeframes. The first night was magical as it was all coming together; the second night was even better as we all had a chance to breathe and watch the audience really enjoying themselves. On the third night, it was like the encore performance of the three shows, and then at the end, the last song of the night, “Purple Rain,” I think it really hit us as a personal closing and goodbye to Prince. It was great to be with each other as so many past employees made the journey back to Minneapolis. In a perfect world, we would have been able to get all of the past staff together, but in this industry there are always other shows that must go on, but they were all still with us.
“The band really strived for the highest possible production levels and spent two and a half weeks reconnecting with each other as musicians and friends rehearsing in L.A. even before coming here to Minneapolis to rehearse with the crew, many of whom had also worked for Prince back in the ’80s. The demand for these shows was so big that even though they had only originally planned on two nights, a third night was quickly added after the first two sold out in mere minutes.”
It was “a given” that First Avenue, Minneapolis’ iconic venue, was the perfect location for the Revolution to get together and perform to fans that flew in from around the world. To pull off such a tight schedule of rehearsals and shows in the club, a digital audio platform had to be the driving force, hence the choice of a DiGiCo SD7 and SD10 at FOH and monitors, respectfully.
“Past front-of-house engineer and family member Rob ‘Cubby’ Colby was booked over these dates and we wanted to make certain that we did the show justice,” Larson continues. “Andy’s experience on the DiGiCo platform was perfect as we could move from rehearsals to the show and keep building it up. If you think about it, most historical shows are already touring then get booked to do a big event. This was a ground-up collaboration with the some of the best musicians and special people we’ve had the pleasure to work with, and all stress was replaced by the love and respect we have for each other and for the cause.”
The DiGiCo SD10 used for monitor mixes was helmed by locally based engineer Kirk Schutrop. Working with the house Electro-Voice PA system installed at First Avenue, Meyer says the Waves-equipped SD7 he used performed flawlessly. “The SD7 gave me all the tools I needed for the show,” he says, noting that he’s been an enthusiastic DiGiCo user of the desk from the start. “And it just keeps getting better. For instance, Stealth Core 2 has taken the SD7 to the next level—it’s now quicker and more powerful with a newer user interface and dynamics and effects section. I was able to get virtually all of the processing I needed—dynamics, EQ, reverbs, delays—right on the console itself, with some additional help from the Waves plug-ins. Everything I needed was right at my fingertips.”
Coming into such an emotionally fraught situation, Meyer knew he needed to pull off the best possible mix for every show. Studying Prince’s catalog and individual songs as the set list developed, he played these back through the SD7, listening through L-Acoustics 108P reference monitors, dialing in the sounds that Prince and The Revolution had worked so hard to perfect. He then compared those with multitrack recordings made during the band’s soundchecks, creating snapshots for each song.
“We had three days of rehearsals and then three nights of shows—a solid week of turning knobs,” he says. “But it was well worth it. The shows came off wonderfully and sounded fantastic. It was a fitting event to remember a great talent.”
Larson agrees, “Aside from The Revolution and Prince’s other early collaborators, we had many very special guests come out to share the stage, including Bilal, Kimbra, Maya Rudolph and Gretchen Lieberum, along with The Roots’ Questlove, who DJ-ed. It was such a great bonding experience for everyone and a wonderful tribute to an amazing musician. We all miss him.”
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1) DiGiCo_Revolution_FOH.jpg – FOH engineer Andy Meyer running the house mix on a DiGiCo SD7
2) DiGiCo_Revolution_mons_1.jpg – Kirk Schutrop manning monitors via a DiGiCo SD10 desk
3) DiGiCo_Revolution_live_1.jpg – A full stage of Prince’s protégés and fellow band members musically celebrated his life for three consecutive nights
The SD7 gave me all the tools I needed for the show. And it just keeps getting better. For instance, Stealth Core 2 has taken the SD7 to the next level—it is now quicker and more powerful with a newer user interface and dynamics and effects section. I was able to get virtually all of the processing I needed dynamics, EQ, reverbs, delays right on the console itself, with some additional help from the Waves plug-ins. Everything I needed was right at my fingertips.
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