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Kenny Chesney's Big Revival -- "Biggest" US Line Array Tour of the Year

Each of Country star Kenny Chesney's his tours -- 13 since he began headlining in 2002 -- has sold in excess of a million tickets; the current 2015 Big Revival Tour passed the million-ticket mark before the first note of music was even played.

Chesney is committed to delivering an effective and state-of-the-art production. Under the leadership of tour manager Ed Wannebo, he has built a production team and crew that understand the demands of maximizing the stadium-sized experience without losing the intimacy of the musical performance.

Nashville-based Morris Light and Sound (ML&S) of Nashville is providing production audio and lighting. Working with Chesney's front-of-house engineer Chris Rabold, they have pioneered the use of NEXO's STM Series modular line array to deliver in stadium-size venues. The 2015 Big Revival Tour marks ML&S and Rabold's second outing with NEXO.

The most visible changes this year is the inclusion of a new downfill cabinet to the system. The M28 module was added to the STM Series at the end of last year, and Rabold describes it as "the missing piece of the puzzle. One of its primary uses for us is as a downfill, but I don't think of it as a traditional downfill box at all. That usually means a cabinet smaller in size that often times doesn't share the same voicing as the array above it, and that's definitely not the case with M28. It's an extension, which is voiced very similarly to the M46 main cabinet, so it's just giving us that extra bit at the bottom of the array. And it is very, very controllable; I can manipulate it if I choose to, but a lot of the time I really don't need to because it's so seamless and smooth. M28 also works great for the delays and the 270 box hangs, so it's been a pleasure to work with."

ML&S systems engineer John Mills echoes Rabold's point about the voicing. "We work together on the tuning, and then Chris works his magic on the console. The M28s are a problem-solver. Because the M46s are so powerful, we found ourselves wanting to turn them down, but of course if you do that, you break the line array. M28 has acoustically less output, so it's the right box to have on the bottom of the line. When you walk between the seam, and it changes boxes, you would expect something fairly significant to happen, but M46 to M28 is a very, very smooth transition."

Mills says the throw of the NEXO system is unbelievable. "We have done a few shows where we've had to throw 500' with no delays, and STM does it. Incredibly, it still sounds fairly hi-fi in the back, too. Sure, you have your physics of air loss, but it still sounds better than anything at distance, and the vocal still sounds like it's right in front of you. It's pretty unreal."

System configuration does differ quite a bit, but only in numbers of boxes, never audio, Mills says. "A few shows ago, for example, I was 18 and 2 on the mains, and now we're 24 and 2, so that's going to change the array length and low-mid section of it. Then a few shows later, we were 18 and 3; and we've done smaller still, such as a 12 and 3. So it's scaling almost in half in some of our venues, but the beauty of STM is, it really does translate. Array length will change some low frequency, and how much there is of it, but tonally, this system is really exceptional, and consistent."

Complete system configuration consists of Main hangs: 24x M46 + 24x B112 + 2x M28 x2, Sub bass: 24x S118 flown x2, 24 ground-stacked across center, Aux hangs: 15x M46 + 15xB112 + 3x M28 x2, 270 hangs (90° offstage for the side and back, at the top): 12x M28 x2, Delays: 12x M28 x2, NEXO NUARs featuring NXAMPs. Everything is run on fibre via Dante.

"It's astronomically faster than most systems out there," Mills says. "I wouldn't do a stadium by myself, but with any 12-box gig with one motor and myself, I have comfortably flown the whole thing. It's super-fast."

In 2013, Morris Light & Sound was the first major rental company to put STM onto a premium tour, the company says. They increased their already substantial investment the following year, adding the M28 modules to its inventory. ML&S CEO and president David Haskell remain in close contact with the North American commercial audio team at Yamaha Professional Audio, and with NEXO in France.

"NEXO has been unbelievable," says Haskell. "Being the first company to take it out on this big of a tour, support was always going to be of paramount importance. We were doing a little R&D on it, of course, like we would any brand new system, but the dialogue as we have toured has been great, and it's very real-time data. This transcontinental thing hasn't been an issue whatsoever; NEXO has been so very supportive, and extremely quick to act. Impeccable service, basically, no matter how small the issue."

Chesney loves the system, too. If there were anything wrong, Haskell says, he'd know about it. "Kenny is so hands-on with everything he does in his life. He looks at every lighting cue, every video element, every bit of design; and as long as everything sounds good, and is working, he is happy."

"Every year we go out, I try to make the sound as crisp and as loud as possible, which is seemingly impossible, says Chesney. I'm very lucky that my team combs the globe looking for the best possible options to make that happen -- and they're as relentless as I am about what they do. When they said they found a PA system in France that could be twice as loud and was smaller, I wasn't sure I believed them, but I respect them enough to listen. Sure enough, they were right! The amount of sound these speakers put out is amazing, but it's also super-clear which is always the challenge. You want people to make out the lyrics, for them to be able to pick out the instruments. No matter how loud we are, those things can happen."


(19 August 2015)

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