Jew.el / jul 1: a precious stone
2: one that is highly esteemed

…Webster is correct on both accounts!

Jewel’s current tour is supporting her latest release Spirit. The North American part of the tour started on the 29th of June with confirmed dates through September and a completion date some time in the the next millennium – wow, that sounds strange! The previous six months were spent in Europe, Australia and Southeast Asia. The tour only graced Canadian turf on two dates. The first was the Vancouver show on the 2nd of July and the second in Toronto on August 1st. The show in Vancouver was held at GM Place in concert bowl mode, which incorporates approximately one-third of the facility’s seating capacity. A concert of this magnitude requires a lot of hard work and polishing.

Ore from the ground…

Any good sound system must be solid from the core. Dave Cousins’ Sound Art based in Winnipeg, MB, are this core – they are providing the full sound rig for the tour. Some of Sound Art’s other 1999 tour clients include Amanda Marshall, Tom Cochrane, The Watchmen, Big Wreck, Big Sugar, Cowboy Junkies and Blue Rodeo. Given that life is not just music – please don’t tell the gang at Canadian Musician I said that – Sound Art also has its ears in the theatre sound business. Some of these projects include Cirque Ingenieux, Why Good Girls Like Bad Boyz and the ever so quintessential Sound of Music. In a telephone conversation I had with Dave, I asked how they landed the Jewel contract over the big American bidders. Cousins response: "We treat our clients like gold." He also added that the big companies have so many shows on the road at one time that they can often overlook specific requests made by artists.

The Cut, Brilliance, and Facets…

Well as we know, without a skilled cut a jewel is but a stone. Enter FOH Rob Howick (Cowboy Junkies, Blue Rodeo) and MON Colm O’Reilly. These two have worked together for over six years; actually, the sound team has been together, in some cases, for close to 10 years. I have raved in the pages of Professional Sound before about my experiences, but I have to take my hat off to these guys, they’re professional and precise.

During the pre-show set-up, I was talking to Rob and apologized in advance about getting in the way. Rob assured me that it was no problem for him to take some time out to chat. He then mentioned that he is the Production Manager on the tour as well! Cool! Cucumber Cool! Occasionally, the two –way radio on Rob’s belt would squelch during the interview and someone would ask for his "20", but there was never any panic, pacing or distraction on his part. Rob, who hails from Toronto, was hired separately from Sound Art. He has mixed for Jewel since 1997. He feels that with the performance being predominantly acoustic, the mix has to sound very clean and clear, with special attention paid to the voice. Jewel has started playing the electric guitar in concert as of late, which requires some changes in the mix.

Colm is another cool guy. As monitor engineer, he has it all – the best seat in the house for the show and the cappuccino machine. Colm and Rob have been working and evolving as a team for many years. "When you work with someone for a long time you get to know each other’s needs." Actually, I noticed that with the entire crew. Everybody gets along and has complete confidence in each other. As I tell my students: "Ability will get you the job; attitude will keep it." Let’s face it, no one wants to work with a dork. Whoa! Back to the article. Speaking of confidence and teamwork, let’s talk a bit about the technical support crew.

Auger & Drill Operators…

Any excavation requires a crack technical support team. If you don’t have one you’ll wind-up with the roof caving in! The Sound Art technical crew consists of George Addis (FOH) (George, I am still looking for that cappuccino for you), Shaun McLean (MON), Mike "Catfish" Brownlee (Systems), and the handling the stage are John Farnsworth (SL)and Trace Foster (SR). These guys keep the system running and offer support to Rob and Colm.

Fool’s Gold…

On most tours there are technical bugs that have to be dealt with. This tour was less than a week old when I talked to Rob, so I expected to hear about equipment problems. When I asked him he said that the show had none. "The system worked fine in pre-production in Bakersfield. We spent three days there and had a concert on the last day." The show then went out onto the road. Rob told me about a few of the fun moments where they had four TV performances in four European countries (Germany, Sweden, England, and Holland) in 48 hours! All this was between concerts too! He also mentioned a couple of shows in South East Asia where the sound system was locally supplied. At one venue it took the local crew 12 hours to set up the stage and then another four hours to tweak the system. All the cabling was individual runs (no snakes) and an assortment of boxes for the mains. Now I know why Rob is so cool in a venue like "The Garage".

The system roster for the tour consists of 16 Electro-Voice X-Array Xf long –throw flying cabinets, each having two 12" N/DYM drivers & two 2" N/DYM drivers on 40 x 20 horns. The mids are 12 X-Array XN medium –throw flying cabinets, with one 18" driver, one 12" N/DYM driver, and a 2" N/DYM Driver on a 60 x 40 horn. The LF is presented to the audience by 16 X-Array XB subwoofer flying cabinets loaded with two 1,000 watt 18" drivers in manifold-loaded cabinets, and 12 EV MTL-2B sub-woofer cabinets, with two 1,000 watt 18" drivers in manifold loaded cabinets. The downfills are four EV x-Array XCN flying cabinets, with a 12" N/DYM driver and a 2" BN/DYM driver on a 60 x 40 horn. But that’s not all! On top of all that , we have four x-Array XCB subwoofer flying cabinets with 1,000 watt 18" drivers in maniforld loaded cabinets and eight EV X-Array Xi-1152/64 bi-amped fill cabinets consisting of an 800 watt 15" driver and 2" N/DYM driver on a 60 x 40 horn.

Four EV XTA DP226 digital system managers control all these boxes. 48 QSC PowerLight 1.8 800 watt power amplifiers at 4 ohms supply the amplification. These 1.8s are complemented with an additional 12 QSC PowerLight 4.0s.

To hoist the flying rig, Sound Art uses the EV X-Array flying hardware and six CM Lodestar two-ton electric chain hoists and two CM Lodestar one-ton electric chain hoists.

Just when you thought it was safe to crawl out from under the loudspeaker tonnage, we have more! Just for the front row folks – including the radio promo winners of the candle-lit sound-check - we have none other than the front-fill. This is comprised of four EV DTS99 two-way front fill cabinets loaded with two 6.5" drivers and a 1" compression driver backing a 90 x 90 horn. A solo QSC PowerLight 1.8 powers this system.
The FOH consists of a Midas Heritage 30000 48 x 18 x 2 channel console complete with three Midas XL390 console power supplies. One of the main reasons Rob chose this mixer was due to its inserts. "The inserts are 30 db quieter than the XL4." He also mentioned that "the XL4 has some of the automation features that I would like," but added that he can get around not having them. The equalization is handled by two Klark Teknik DN3600 dual 1/3 octave programmable equalizers, two KT DN300 1/3 octave equalizers and a KT DN3698 wireless equalizer remote with a KT DN3603 docking station and WSO1 RF link. Other on-board gear includes a Drawmer DL251 stereo comp and a BSS TCS-804 speaker alignment delay.

Effects and inserts include and Eventide H3000 DSE digital multi effects, a TC Electronic M2000 digital reverb, Lexicon PCM-90 and 480L digital reverbs and a Roland SDE3000 digital delay. There are the ever-so-present essential Aphhex 622 noise gates, BSS DPR404 quad limiter/dessers and their DPR901-II dual-channel dynamic equalizer. Rob uses the Summit DCL-200 dual-channel valve compressor on Jewel’s voice..

For you T&M (test & measurement) types there is the Klark Teknik DN60000 1/6 octave time and frequency analyzer and the JBL Smaart computer analyzer loaded onto a laptop. The JBL Smaart analyzer is now the SIA-Smaart – SIA was recently bought by EAW. this software was developed to provide sound-system contractors, acoustical consultants and audio professionals with a sound system optimization and acoustical analysis tool. The current version, Smaart Pro 2.0, which takes advantage of 32-bit processing power, is available for both the Windows 95/98 and NT 4.0 platforms.

Source transducers in the show are Shure SM 57. 58, 81 and 91s; EV N/DYM 468Bs; Sennheiser 421s; AKG 414s; AT4050s and KT LBB active Dis. Canare star-quad cable is used throughout the system. AC distribution is achieved via one 400 amp 30 main panel that is patchable to single phase.

The Stage monitoring system consists of a Midas XL250 52 52 x 20 console, six KT DN3600 dual channel programmable equalizers, two Yamaha SPX990 FXs, six Behringer Composer Pro stereo compressor/limiters, and two Behringer Intelligate dual channel noise gates. Once it has passed through all this gear, the signal is then fed to a Shure in-ear wireless system. Colm mentioned that Jewel is just getting into the in-ears but still likes to "hear" the room so they have provided her with stereo side-fills and good-old wedges. The wedge system is EV X-Array XW low profile biamped wedges, which have one 600 watt 12" N/DYM driver and 2" N/DYM driver on a 60 x 40 horn. They are processed by five EV Dx34A four channel digital crossovers and powered by 10 QSC PowerLight CX902 3,000 watt power amplifiers.

Just when you thought that all this gear filled the trucks…Jewel likes to record her shows. Sound Art has provided a 48-track recording rack, which includes one Tascam DA-88, and five Tascam DA-38s. "Catfish" mentioned that they couldn’t always use this system because some venues will charge an artist up to $5,000 to roll tape in their venues – no wonder you don’t see venue credits in the liner notes anymore!
The Setting…

Gems require an appropriate setting in which to radiate their true beauty. it’s 7:30 PM, the lights dim and the show begins! I must be totally honest up-front and say that I have not been a follower of Jewel. In fact, I had to borrow a copy of her CD from my friend Deb – thanks I’ll get it back to you soon! After listening to the CD, I was still not a convert, but when the show started that quickly changed. Jewel’s show is quite entertaining. She has great passion in her voice and lyrics that comes out much more in a live setting. I found that the leather pants and silver top were quite "rocker", and as a listener I felt something less flashy would have been fine. Still, it probably would not have stopped the wolf calls from the crowd, which interrupted the show a few times. The show lasted about two hours, and included a solo set in the middle. Jewel did what I like best at a live show by changing some of the arrangements from the album mixes. Ah yes, a work in progress music is. The other important aspect of the mix was best explained by Rob. "we wanted to get everything out of her voice – all the subtleties."

As usual, during the show I walked around the venue and listened to the sound from the top to bottom. I found the sound to be in front of me at all positions. Given that the program is predominantly acoustic, I could not evaluate the "boom-tick" attributes of the system, but hey, we don’t always get what we want. Yeah, I had put up with the beauty of transparent sound! Rob is a mixer’s mixer – calm, focused and keen on teamwork. Good work guys!

For myself, the fascinating part of any show lies behind the scenes. Here you’ll find the selfless people who make the show run smoothly night after night. I had a chat with Kelly McCaulay, who is known as the "Production Ludite". Kelly assists Rob in the production and helped so much with getting me passes and arranging for a venue pass for our photographer. (Thanks Kelly! Dave M., thanks for the AC. George, thanks for lowering the stack for the photos when you had much better things to do.) Jewel’s extended family are a great bunch – forty of them in all! Even during the strike everyone was still friendly. I said good night to Rob and let him think about The Gorge (WA), the next date on the tour and the thing currently on his mind. As I was leaving, I gestured good night to a young woman sitting on the concrete floor by the exit. She was talking on a cell phone and wearing a pink and purple jacket, leggings and runners. She looked up and smiled. As I passed I realized that it was Jewel. I found that image to be quite precious.
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