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Meyer Delivers Carman's Message to a Sight and Sound Generation
Carman is a master entertainer who's been recording his gospel-triumphant pop, and filling arenas across the country for over 20 years. As his hundreds of thousands of fans well know, an evening with Carman delivers a fun-filled event that is part pop concert, dance show and revival meeting all rolled into one. For his "Heart of a Champion" tour (part of a tour/CD/film trilogy), Carman has an 8-member band including: guitars, keyboards, bass, drums, and horns; Sparrow recording artists, ZOEgirl for back-up vocals; and 8 dancers. Nashville-based, Blackhawk Audio was chosen to supply the Meyer Self-Powered sound system. This is Blackhawk's second national Carman tour, and Blackhawk-owner, Rick Shimer's first round as both Carman's FOH and Meyer SIM engineer.
Speech-intelligibility and dynamic sound
Drawing close-to-capacity crowds at almost every stop in this arena tour, Shimer's biggest challenge is speech intelligibility.
Shimer explains, "This is a show about him speaking, and making sure he's understood everywhere in the room. He does a lot of talking, and even the lyrics in his songs are important. If you can't understand what he's saying, he's not reaching anyone. Making the music loud, but making it understood is extremely important." Crowd participation is encouraged, and their exhuberance frequently hits SPLs as high as 108db. "Carman looks to me to help elicit responses from the crowd," says Shimer. "Sometimes the sound is really soft, but builds into a really big crescendo to get people to their feet. With a variety of levels and effects, he expects me to hit people pretty hard. I will hit this P.A. as hard as it can be hit tonight, at least 3 times. It's extremely important that the sound be intelligible, musical and dynamic at the same time. The Meyer system accomplishes this for me."
Self-Powered systems and rigging for efficiency
For this tour, Shimer designed a system using 36 Meyer Self-Powered loudspeakers rigged above a thrust stage setting. The main system utilizes two MSL-6s per side for long throw, with two rows of alternating MSL-4s and DS-4Ps (eight total) hung underneath. The down fills are two conventionally powered, Blackhawk-designed speakers. To cover the sides of the thrust, Shimer incorporated two rows of four MSL-4s each; augmented by two more of his own downfill cabinets. Shimer uses the same speaker arrangement for every venue. To rig it, he has pre-configured MTG-4 top grids on a custom cart that allows attachment directly to the chains, cutting the flying and trimming time down to about 1 hour. Twenty-four 650-Ps are also configured on custom carts (2 per cart), and can roll directly from the truck to their performance positions. "Certainly on any large scale tour, logistics are a huge consideration. The time and labor I can save due to the fact that the system is self-powered coupled with the efficiency of the rigging system is a big factor for me when preparing a bid."
SIMming for good video sound
Videos are an important part of this show and used throughout, but can lend variations to the evening's sound quality. The night begins with a video from Carman, followed with another from one of the tour sponsors, "Feed The Children." Carman also performs a couple of numbers interactively with the video screens; one, a word and song exchange with a gnarly, roaring Devil. A preview of the upcoming "Heart of a Champion" movie, which Carman co-wrote and stars in, is also included in the night's screenings. Shimer notes the differences in audio quality of the various videos, and his reliance on the SIM machine to compensate. "The beauty of the SIM machine is that it doesn't really care (about the source). It compares what's coming out of the consoles versus the speakers," says Shimer. "Even with the audience in the room, I can measure and adjust to get the response I'm looking for."
Carman is deeply involved in the sound of his show and relies on Shimer to keep him aware of how it's playing to the audience. For this, Meyer MSL-4s are used as onstage side fills, and supplied with a matrix off the main mix. Carman also wears a Shure in-ear system into which monitor engineer Josh White delivers a mix of pre-recorded voice and musical tracks, as well as certain elements from the band. Between numbers, Carman tells his audience that his mission is delivering the gospel to this "sight and sound generation." The dancing and light show, rousing sing-alongs and big sound make the evening seem like a massive party; while the hopeful proclamations and prayers give everyone something to think about. There's no question that the audience "gets it." Shimer says of the performer, "More than any entertainer I know, Carman's a master of the crowd and he absolutely knows how to treat his audience."