For some of the largest arenas, the promoters decided to open up more seats, and that sometimes meant pushing back FOH mix further than I like. I prefer to stay close if only to maintain better visual contact with the stage. It was a challenge, but the faders kept going up and the LEO Family system kept delivering with the same consistent sound as when further forward.”
Martin WalkerProduction Manager and FOH Mixer
Astonishingly, nearly 49 years after Judas Priest’s original incarnation first rocked the Midlands, the British heavy-metal masters are touring behind their highest-charting new release ever. Debuting in March, their scorching Firepower album quickly surged into the top 5 in both the US and UK charts (number one in Sweden), while rising fan enthusiasm has upped the buzz surrounding the band’s current US tour. As with all recent outings, touring production is anchored by a Meyer Sound LEO Family system, and once again industry veteran Martin Walker is at the helm as both production manager and FOH mixer.
“The band has been constantly evolving over the years, consciously trying to move in new directions,” says Walker. “Sometimes the results were not well received, but this time around they certainly have an album that everybody wants to hear live. And the band is feeling great about it.”
Judas Priest is known as a loud band, though Walker has found techniques for using the LEO Family loudspeakers to make the show feel loud while still maintaining judicious levels. “I find the LEO system handles volume better than any other PA I’ve mixed on,” he relates. “Other systems out there might get loud but not sound nice, or get loud up front but not throw as far. But LEO wins out on every count. It’s loud, sounds nice and gives even coverage at a distance. It has to be a very large venue before you need delays.”
Walker also appreciates the scalability of the LEO Family, as the tour is playing venues ranging from 2,200 seat theatres to large sports arenas. In larger arena configurations, the system deploys main front hangs of 16 per side LEO line array loudspeakers, each with three underhung LYON line array loudspeakers for near fill. Side hangs are 12-each MILO line arrays.
A new wrinkle on this tour is the sub-bass system, with four cardioid arrays of three-each 1100-LFC low frequency control elements – two flown and two ground-stacked. “I experimented with this on the Iron Maiden tour as well, and I found it gives much smoother coverage and reaches further back into the higher arena seats,” says Walker.
Rounding out the system is a center cluster of 700-HP subwoofers, which are dialed in as needed, and an assortment of UPA-1P and JM-1P loudspeakers for front- and out-fills. The system is tied together and optimized by a Galileo GALAXY network platform, and band members eschewing IEMs for open stage ambience are served by a cohort of MJF-212A stage monitors. As has been Walker’s preference for more than a decade, the system was supplied by UK-based rental firm Major Tom, Ltd.
Overall, says Walker, the tour has proceeded smoothly, albeit with some minor adjustments required because of the band’s surprising resurgence.
“For some of the largest arenas, the promoters decided to open up more seats, and that sometimes meant pushing back FOH mix further than I like,” Walker admits. “I prefer to stay close if only to maintain better visual contact with the stage. It was a challenge, but the faders kept going up and the LEO Family system kept delivering with the same consistent sound as when further forward.”
Otherwise, he says, the ageless band, the Meyer Sound system, and his hand-picked Anglo-American crew of veteran freelancers are rocking down the highway as a familiar and well-oiled machine.
“Other than the flown cardioid subs, it’s really much the same as the last time out,” Walker confesses. “It’s the LEO Family system, the DiGiCo SD-7 console starting with the same show files, and the best guys in the business. It’s a tried and tested formula for success, and until somebody comes up with something better I’m more than happy to continue with the same thing.”