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iLIVE ON TOUR WITH BLUES VIRTUOSO

US blues icon, Joe Bonamassa, is currently on the European leg of a world tour with a touring PA rig based around Allen & Heath’s iLive digital mixing system and a WZ312M compact dedicated monitor mixer.

Bonamassa’s FOH engineer, Jay Phebus, recently started using an iLive system, comprising an iDR10 mix rack and iLive-112 control surface, completing an intensive 4 month tour of America, as well as exclusive dates in Holland and Russia, last autumn with the system. Impressed with the flexibility, easy load in and set up, and fantastic sound quality, Phebus is using the same system for the current European tour.

In addition to the standard RAB, DSP, and CPU modules, the iDR10 rack is loaded with 9 individually selected module cards – 4 input modules providing 32 inputs, 3 output modules providing 24 outputs, and 2 multi-digital output modules providing 32 channels of ADAT, enabling live recording every night in preparation for Bonamassa’s forthcoming album, ‘Joe Bonamassa – Live from nowhere in particular’, which is due for release on J&R Adventures in June. The iLive-112 surface is also loaded with two input modules for local sources such as a CD/MP3/iPod player for BGM, and one output module, which allows the iLive to feed ‘racks and stacks’ from the stage and/or FOH position for added flexibility and convenience.

“Any competent analogue engineer can walk up to an iLive and operate it with no prior experience, as the surface has the feel of an analogue console. Once you press ‘Select’ on a channel you can see all of the processing like on an analogue mixer. If you’re still intimidated – you’re not really a legitimate analogue engineer!” commented Phebus.

Joe Bonamassa is a renowned blues guitar virtuoso, who at the age of 12 opened for B.B. King during his school holidays, and continued to play regularly on the New York scene. He formerly played with the band Bloodline, which featured other famed musicians’ sons Waylon Krieger (Robby Krieger’s son), Erin Davis (Miles Davis’ drummer son), and Berry Oakley Jr. (the son of the Allman Brothers’ bassist), launching his solo career in 2000.

Dates for the European leg comprise 15 “sold out? venues across the UK, with a month in various venues in Scandinavia, Holland, France, Italy, Germany, and Switzerland. The tour also included a command performance for the Prince of Bahrain, a special live recording at the BBC Maida Vale studios in London for the Radio 2 Paul Jones show, and a detour to India’s top rock, blues and jazz festival, the ‘Johnnie Walker One Tree Festival’ in Mumbai, where iLive systems were provided by local PA companies.

“The biggest advantage of digital is the ability to recall settings – this makes sound check a breeze, as all I need to do is load in, power up, and start where I left off at last night’s show. If we get put into a ‘throw & go’ festival situation, there’s no problem as we’re already way ahead of everyone else. A little fine tuning and we come off sounding like a million bucks! This happened at a blues festival in Dallas and everyone asked, ‘why did Joe Bonamassa sound some much better than all the other bands, including the headliner?’ ? continues Phebus.

“I love the fact I can colour code and name channels to customise the surface layout how I want. All the processing becomes immediately digitally accessible on the surface and is extremely accurate and easy to work with. The coolest thing about this interface is that your gate, compressor and limiter all have extremely accurate LED’s and a floating point of engagement that’s easy to see. As soon as you dial it in and connect, you start getting gain reduction; it’s the most accurate gate, compression and limiter I have ever seen. I also love the fact that I can use compression, limiting and de-essing, ALL at the same time! No choosing whether to use the compressor for soft compression or as a limiter – with iLive, I have it all!?

Bonamassa’s touring rig also comprises powered EV wedges for the band’s monitor sound, controlled by an Allen & Heath WZ312M compact dedicated monitor mixer, split from and fed to the iLive FOH system.

“Without a doubt, the best thing about this system is the sound. It sounds way better than other digital desks I’ve tried – it’s amazing. The tonal quality is distinctly warm and ‘analogue’. Allen & Heath has succeeded in producing a pre-amp that rivals a Midas. That’s why, night in and night out, I get the same compliment, ‘it doesn’t sound like a digital console’,? concludes Phebus.

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