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With Meyer Sound MICA, Robert Plant Tour Gives American Roots Music an Honest Tribute
On his recent tour, ex-Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant joined forces with guitarist and Nashville's iconic producer Buddy Miller, a walking compendium of American roots music. Teaming up in the Band of Joy, the two concocted a mélange of sounds—from classic rock to folk and gospel—that demand utmost clarity and versatility from a live reinforcement system. That task fell to a Meyer Sound MICA line array loudspeaker system provided by Livonia, Mich.-based Thunder Audio.
For Roy Williams, the veteran FOH engineer at the helm of Plant's live mix, the MICA arrays effortlessly transmitted the band's propulsive and dense, yet occasionally delicate, sound. "There are some softer numbers—particularly duets with Patty Griffin like "Monkey" and "Silver Rider"'—with a breathy quality that demands absolute transparency," he observes. "But on others, we push it up to send a message to the Zep fraternity that, when we want to, we can still do it. The MICA system handles the dynamics with no problems at all."
The tour's complete Meyer Sound complement comprised 12 MICA cabinets per side, buttressed by dual 700-HP subwoofers per side, and was further extended by side hangs of five-each M'elodie line array loudspeakers and five M1D line array loudspeakers for front fill. Available for on-stage foldback were side-fill stacks of two 600-HP subwoofers topped by dual MICA cabinets, plus eight MJF-212A high-power stage monitors. Riding herd on the technology was Thunder Audio systems technician Keith Jex, who used the MAPP Online Pro acoustical prediction program and SIM 3 audio analyzer to tailor the system to the room, then monitored showtime performance on the RMS remote monitoring system.
According to Jex, the powerful-yet-relatively-lightweight MICA loudspeakers were a good choice for Plant's latest tour "because we're playing a lot of theaters, and compared to the MILOs we had on the "Raising Sand" tour, we can put more cabinets on the same hang points, which allows more angle selections for better coverage."
As befits the rootsy music, the system front-end was hard-wired and analog, with Shure SM58 vocal mics (except a Neumann KMS 105 for Griffin), feeding a Midas Heritage 3000 console. According to Williams, "There's a warmth generated in this music that we want to come through, and the system seems to be accomplishing that quite well."
Beyond the audio performance, Williams appreciates the "security blanket" that comes with Meyer Sound-based audio production. "We always feel that we have an extended family at Meyer we can call on whenever necessary. I know that if I have to call, I'll get an immediate response, and not just 'Oh, hang on a bit and somebody will call you back.' That's important to me, to Keith, and ultimately to the band. Meyer Sound is the master of that kind of support."