Few bands are more immediately recognizable—visually and sonically—than The Cure, whose enduring career is now entering its fourth decade. London-based Britannia Row Productions has been with singer/guitarist Robert Smith and his mates for most of that time, since 1979, providing global touring support for the post-punk group, which is currently out on the road with an L-Acoustics K1/K2 system.
Aside from a few short jaunts and various one-offs at major festivals, “The Cure Tour 2016”—which played 33 shows in North America this spring and is now journeying through 34 shows in 17 European countries—marks the first real outing for the band since the release of its 13th studio album, 4:13 Dream, and subsequent tour in 2008. In anticipation of this year’s worldwide tour, Britannia Row added a large quantity of new L-Acoustics products to its already bursting arsenal of gear, including K1, K1-SB, Kara, ARCS II, ARCS Wide, X8 and 5XT enclosures, plus the manufacturer’s brand new KS28 reference subwoofers and LA12X amplified controllers.
Selling out every arena, amphitheater and shed on its North American leg—including three nights at both the Hollywood Bowl and Madison Square Garden—The Cure is fast repeating that success on its European/UK run as it performs 40 years of songs, mixing hits, rarities, favorites, and as yet unreleased tracks in a new stage production that culminates with three dates at London’s SSE Arena in early December.
The typical loudspeaker arrangement for the current tour leg features left and right main arrays of K1 over K2 down, plus hangs of K1-SB low-frequency extension enclosures flown behind each K1/K2 array. Additional side hangs of K1 over K2 down address the far left and right seating sections, while dual arrays ARCS II cover the area behind the stage. Low-profile Kara enclosures spread out across the stage lip deliver front fill, with ARCS II cabinets on each side of the deck serving as stereo outfills. Ground-stacked KS28 subs anchor the show’s low end, and a combination of LA8 and LA12X amplified controllers power and process the entire loudspeaker complement.
“Providing consistency day to day for Paul Corkett, the engineer at front of house, is paramount,” says Brit Row Managing Director Bryan Grant. “But equally important are the thousands of listeners in the audience each night across the floor, up high in the top seats, and out back in the fields who expect and rightfully deserve a great sounding show regardless of where they are.”
The challenge, particularly on the US run was to adapt the system to such a wide range of venues and their ever-changing environments, both indoors and out. “Going from large American arenas to scaled down college basketball floors, huge amphitheaters with extreme elevation, a flat green field site, and then back into sheds—often with dated ‘house’ lawn delays and low tin roofs—was what our technicians had to contend with week after week,” Grant recalls.
“However, our K1/K2 rig was more than up for the challenge; it’s simply the best system on the road today in terms of audio quality, coverage and modularity. We have, of course, put a control and amplifier package together which makes it extremely versatile for use in the varied venues that The Cure are performing in around the world, and the reviews of the sound in the press and on social media have all been overwhelmingly positive—not to mention the fact that the production team and band are extremely satisfied as well.”
According to Brit Row Business Development manager Dave Compton, L-Acoustics’ Soundvision was absolutely essential in making the 2016 tour a success. “Once the final system spec was confirmed, the majority of work was done well in advance of the tour starting,” he says. “We pulled room data from the L-Acoustics database, and for venues that were not included, David Brooks and other friends and colleagues from within the L-Acoustics network helped.
A model was created in Soundvision, containing all the system resources available for the tour, with speaker groups that included different array types, both flown and ground configurations, as well as multiple sub designs. This allowed for a quick start when preparing and working on designs for each particular venue. The mute/hide function within the speaker data window proved invaluable.
“Adam Smith, the tour’s system tech and Soundvision operator, then tweaked ‘on the day’ first thing in the morning upon arrival—double checking room data, confirming flown array types and numbers, finalizing ground configurations and sub design, and so on.” Some additional work could then be applied within source settings to achieve the necessary SPL target over distance, Compton notes.
“We try not to rely too heavily on acoustic modeling, as in live sound there are so many variables and parameters of change—from installation of any given system and the show itself—that influence the final result. There is no question, however, that Soundvision is extraordinarily powerful and extremely reliable, providing the user with an accurate means of simulation and the necessary platform to deliver consistency. It’s an essential and invaluable tool in any L-Acoustics speaker application and venue system design.”
Primary audio crew on “The Cure Tour 2016” includes FOH engineer Paul Corkett, monitor engineer Rob Elliot, system techs Adam Smith and Laurie Fradley, FOH tech Collin Burrell, and monitor/stage tech Luke Chadwick.