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Review of the The Who Concert and equipment used at the Granby Halls, Leicester on January 25th, 1981

Article from International Musician and Recording World, March 1981

By Ken Dibble

The Venue:

The Granby Halls at Leicester are in effect, a complex of large brick barns with concrete galvanized steel roofs supported on hefty steel pillars and girders. Inside, there are no fittings or fixtures whatsoever — just a huge empty space which echoes like an underground tube station. There are no seats and the 4,200 strong audience stood on their feet for the whole of the four hour sojourn between the doors opening at 7:30 and the end of The Who’s set at about half eleven with amazing good humor.

There was ample room in the hall for that number and as a consequence, Who devotees could stand around in small groups in comfort instead of all crushing together like the proverbial sardines in a tin can in order to get a view of the proceedings.

There was something of a fair ground atmosphere about the whole thing, with pop-corn vendors, soft drink stands, beefburger bars, tea urns, memorabilia stalls, and a beer servery made from rusty scaffolding, rough wooden planks and sheets of canvas standing about the perimeter of the hall. The entire stage had been constructed of scaffolding specially for the concert, as had the follow spot gantry. Various rooms and lobbies off the hall itself had been appropriated for use as dressing rooms, instrument tuning rooms, crew canteen, administration office and a Leslie sound room — more of which later.

The Instruments and Backline:

The legendary Pete Townshend as wild as ever except that on this occasion no gear was smashed up, played seven or eight guitars which although not exactly identical were very similar indeed. These comprised black Telecaster pattern bodies fitted with Schecter double coil pickups and mainly Schecter fittings, but some has the new Sperzal machine heads.

Some of these guitars were made by Schecter and some by Roger Griffin. All were custom built for Townshend. The reason for so many instruments is so that each guitar can be pre-tuned by Pete’s roadie, Alan Rogan, with capos already in position on various frets to avoid the de-tuning hassle. Alan had some of the new American Sabine capos which are supposed not to detune the when fitted and he gave me one of these to try out-it seems to work well but it is a fiddle to fit, so Pete continues to use his seven or eight guitars — a nice solution if you can afford it!

Townshend amplification set-up is fairly straightforward on stage, although a whole multitude of effects are added out front at the PA desk as we shall see later. His basic set-up is two Hiwatt Custom 100 amplifier heads, each driving one standard Hiwatt 4x12 fitted with JBL K120’s. He has a third similar stack, but this is only there as a spare in the event of a breakdown. He uses an MXR Dynacomp compressor to provide more drive to his lead breaks and is currently experimenting with a Roland “Dimension D” flanger/phaser unit as well — and that is all.

John Entwistle has an equally interesting set-up which includes a number of custom built Alembic basses of various shapes and styles, some of which are decorated with fine sterling silver tracery. The two he had at Leicester were an “Explorer” shape and a large “Flying V”. Both guitars are active — ie: they have electronic circuitry built into them including such features as LED indicators set into the neck, and are fed to the amplifier via a special Alembic pre-amp/splitter unit so that the mid and high frequencies are fed to one amplifier and the lows to another. The amplifiers themselves comprised two Stramp pre-amp units feeding four Sunn Coliseum power amplifiers which in turn fed three Mega 1x18 cabinets fitted with Gauss drivers and three Sunn 4x12 cabinets. John used no effects units at all on stage.

John Bundrick, otherwise known as Rabbit is The Who’s now permanent keyboards man. His set up consisted of a Prophet 5 polyphonic synthesizer, a Yamaha CP70 electric grand piano and a Hammond B3 organ with two heavily modified Leslie cabinets. These have been fitted with JBL K140 15″ loudspeaker units, JBL 2482 compression drivers and 180w. power amplifiers so as to give a little more drive to the sound. One of these was alongside the keyboards equipment while the other had been locked in a separate room off stage so that the Hammond B3 can be miked up and fed to the PA without picking up all the rest of the racket going on on-stage.

A Shure SM58 was used to mike the bottom end and a Sennheiser 421 for the highs. Rabbit mixed his own keyboards blend on stage using a Yamaha PM430 desk and had a few effects units as well including a Roland Vocorder, a Roland RE301 Chorus Echo, an MXR Phase 100 and number of Morley volume pedals. Besides the Leslie, his stage amplification comprised an Ashley SC50 4w. active crossover and MXR 31 band graphic feeding two Yamaha 2200 power amplifiers, a custom built 2 x 15 bass cabinet also with ATC drivers and two JBL 2410 compression units fitted with 2370 diaphragms.

Kenny Jones, had a large Premier kit made up of an 8″, 10″, 13″, 14″ and 15″ concert toms, an 18″ Resonator floor tom, a 25″ timpani, a 22″ Resonator kick drum which had been specially made 4″ deeper than standard, with Pearl pedal and a 5 1/2″ x 14″ snare drum. Most of the cymbals were Zildjian and comprised three 17″ crash/rock cymbals, an 18″ ride, a 16″ brilliant splash, an 18″ pang and a chinese. The Hi-hat was a 14″ Paiste “Sound Edge”.

The microphones used on the kit were the new Shure SM77/Tan on all rack tom-toms and snare, ElectroVoice RE20 and Sennheiser 455 on kick drum, Sennheiser 421 on the 25″ timp, an AKG D224 on the ride cymbal and a pair of Neumann N47’s overhead. The hit-hat was double miked with another SM77 feeding the monitors and one of the little Sony lapel microphones you often see on Television interviewers, taped to the Shure and feeding the PA. A most unusual practice — especially as the Sony ECM-50 is omnidirectional and was sitting in front of the drum monitors!

Whilst on microphones, Pete, John, and “Rabbit” were all using the familiar SM58 for vocals while Roger Daltrey has one of new SM78/Tan models to try out, and had its lead securely taped to the body of the microphone so that it did not fly off its lead when swung through the air by its cable — which, if it happened once, it happened a dozen times during the show. What a shame to hide all that nice tan “suedecoat” finish (which is the main feature of these new mikes) so that it was indistinguishable from a standard SM58 — especially when Shure had given the band the mike to promote sales! The bass stack was miked using Sennheiser 421 and the lead stack with a Shure SM58.

Monitors

There were three monitor systems in use. One was a normal system of sidefills and floor wedges fed from a Midas 24 into 8 PR series monitor desk, one was specifically a drum monitor system fed from another Midas 24/8 desk and the third was to replay backing tracks off tape onto the stage. The main stage monitoring system has an impressive array of “outboard effects” equipment whose sole purpose was to provide special effects over the monitors for the benefit of the band themselves. The effects as heard by the audience were added separately at the PA desk as we shall see shortly.

These goodies included an MXR Pitch Transposer used on vocals and guitar, a Delta Lab DDL used to provide phasing for Pete Townshend’s guitar, a Kemo Stage Echo used on Rogers vocals, a Dynacord DRS-78 digital reverb system used on Pete T’s guitar and an MXR modular phaser and flanger rack also used on Townshend’s guitar. In order to accommodate all this lot, the two normal auxiliary send/returns provided on the desk had been modified so that each aux. channel can be routed to any one of four effects units. All the monitor speaker systems were actively crossed over, all were driven by Amcron DC300A’s and all had Klark Tekniks DN27 graphic equalizers.

The monitors themselves were either Showco 3-way, Tasco/Harwell 2-way or Martin LE200’s and the side-fills were the usual 4560 type bins with JBL acoustic lenses on top.

Backing tracks for the three of the numbers, “Who Are You”, “Baba O’ Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” were provided by two Sculley 4 track (1/2″) tape machines located on stage by the monitor desk instead of out front. These were on a remote varipitch control so that Pete Townshend could “tune” the tapes to the band from onstage. The backing tracks were played onto the stage via two Martin stacks while being simultaneously sent to the PA desk out front. Two of the four tracks on the Sculleys carried the actual music in stereo while a third track was used click tracks to Kenny Jones over Koss headphones driven by a BGW 100w power amplifier!!!

The drum monitors were comparatively straightforward and their prime purpose seem to be to re-amplify the drums themselves and blast this into the back on Kenny Jones’s head via a pair of 4560 type bins fitted with Gauss 400 watt drivers and a pile of JBL acoustic lenses! What, with a 100w. amp driving his headphones and something approaching 120 decibels of monitoring, this guy must either have the constitution of an ox, or else be deaf!

P.A.

This, considering all the gadgets and complexities of the stage set-up was fairly straightforward — if somewhat large. The main mixing was performed by Dick Hayes of ML Executives on two beautiful Neve 20 channel 4 group desks. These were fed to the main loudspeaker system via a pair of Klark Teknik DN27 graphic equalizers and a Brook Siren Systems 5 way modular crossover system going over 250HZ, 1.5kHz, 3.5kHz and 6kHz. with limiters on all channels except below 250Hz.

The power amplifiers were the new Amcron PSA/2’s and an Amcron RTA/2 real-time analyser was used to provide a visual display of the spectrum shape throughout the concert and as a guide to setting the graphics. A whole rack of outboard effects were in use including one of the new Roland RE-555 rack mounting Chorus Echo machines used for front-of-house effects on Pete’s guitar, and AMS Stereo Harmoniser used on all vocals, a rack of Kepex Noise Gates used on all rack tom-toms, a Urei limiter on an insert jack on John’s bass guitar channel, an Ashley SC55 stereo limiter and stereo parametric equalizer — both on Pete T’s guitar and another Ashley limiter on the vocal sub-group. An interesting variation to most rigs of this type was that all the incoming and outgoing lines were terminated at jack field and assigned to their various destinations by patchcords. This arrangement is so much more flexible than hardwired multiways going direct into the equipment however neat and tidy this may be.

The loudspeaker stacks — as with the rest of the rig, employed components of the very best quality, although these has been stacked in a most incoherent fashion with lows, mids and HF sections all jumbled up together with little or no attention to distribution patterns. Each stack comprised of seven Martin Audio 215 bins with two of the earlier Martin bins with the larger flare openings, all fitted with Gauss 400w. drivers at the bottom end; eight Martin Audio “Philishave” midrange cabinets fitted with RCF L12P/24 12″ drivers; nine JBL 2350 radial horns and a single JBL 2396 slant plate lens to provide near field coverage — all fitted with JBL 2350 and five JBL 2355 radials, along with a single JBL 2390 crinkle plate lens — fitted with a mixture of JBL 2440 and 2441 drivers covered the HF while the ultra highs were catered for by means of three boxes of four JBL 2402 “bullets”. As I said, a huge stack with lots of goodies there.

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