Photo: Hugh Jackman’s The Man. The Music. The Show. at Madison Square Garden in New York City (photo courtesy of OMS Productions)
Australian-born entertainer Hugh Jackman is easily one of today’s most versatile actors, deftly switching between such disparate characters as Wolverine in X-Men to Jean Valjean in Les Misérables to P.T. Barnum in The Greatest Showman. But perhaps even more impressive is his singing voice, which led him to head out on a 90-show global concert tour known as The Man. The Music. The Show. Solotech served as the touring sound reinforcement provider and deployed an L-Acoustics K2-based system for Jackman’s show, which showcased him performing material from both classic Hollywood and Broadway musical numbers, backed by a five-piece band and 14-member orchestra.
Sound Designer Colin Pink was involved in the project from an early stage. “From initial talks, it became evident that Hugh’s show would be very dynamic and cross over from small intimate scenes with orchestral underscore to massive rock moments, the transitions of which could easily fall apart,” he shares. “This drove my decision to specify an L-Acoustics system, as I knew it would remain sounding effortless across these different styles. The K2 system is incredibly transparent for vocals and retains exceptional intelligibility across the varying volume levels.”
With SSE Audio, now a Solotech company, kicking off the worldwide trek in the UK and Europe, Solotech System Engineer Alexandre Bibeau notes that the second and fourth legs of the tour visited A-market arenas across the US, Canada and Mexico. Performances were richly presented via main arrays of 16 K2 per side, each backed by six flown KS28 subs, and flanked by 14 more K2 as side hangs. Additional arrays of 12 Kara enclosures each addressed the extreme left and right seating areas, ranging from 180 to 220° depending on the venue, while three smaller arrays of eight Kara—on axis with the main PA—were used for upper level delay. “Those gave Simon Sayer, the FOH engineer, the opportunity to keep Hugh’s vocal extremely clean and powerful, as this was a very dynamic show,” Bibeau says.
Solotech also carried a quantity of short throw enclosures—including eight X8 and a dozen tiny 5XT—for extra fill applications, two additional ground-based KS28 subs for extra low-end impact, and 49 LA12X amplified controllers housed in LA-RAK II mobile rack units. Furthermore, Bibeau notably points out that he utilized two new L-Acoustics P1 processors and four Avnu-certified Extreme Networks AVB switches. “Our full system used AVB protocol with an analog backup,” he says. “We were using fiber to interconnect the switches, and the whole process was simple, reliable, and a great experience.”
Simon Sayer was the man in the FOH driver’s seat at a DiGiCo Quantum 7 console for the duration of Jackman’s worldwide trek, and his background as a sound designer, music producer, composer, remixer, and live sound engineer well prepared him for this role. “My prior experience as the front-of-house engineer and associate sound designer for the Queen and Ben Elton musical, We Will Rock You, around the globe helped me know how to best bridge the gap between theatre and rock and roll sound for Hugh’s show,” shares Sayer, who has also worked with Hans Zimmer and A.R. Rahman. “But for either end of that sonic spectrum, I’ve always preferred L-Acoustics loudspeakers for their very natural reproduction of a wide range of dynamics and frequencies. Certainly the orchestral/band crossover element we had on Hugh’s tour benefitted beautifully from the use of the K2 system.”
To provide Sayer with the most consistent system performance each night, Bibeau utilized L-Acoustics’ Soundvision system design and optimization software for every show setup. “Soundvision is an extremely accurate and powerful tool,” he says. “For this tour, I focused mainly on coverage and level optimization. To me, it’s very important that we give people sitting in the back rows essentially the same audio experience that we’re giving to those in the first row. With Soundvision, we were able to deliver an incredibly clean sound and tonal balance that varied no more than 3-5dB from front to back. The new Autosplay tool was a big part of that success—it’s very efficient and intuitive—and I also started to use Autofilter on the tour’s Australian run and think it’s amazing!
“Running 85 inputs with a full orchestra and live band in these big venues made this tour a challenge, especially with such a dynamic show, but I definitely think that L-Acoustics was the best option for us. And the worldwide support we got was just as great as the sound. Between L-Acoustics and Solotech, no matter what time zone we were in, I knew that we could always very quickly get an answer for any questions or concerns we might have had.”
Sayer was all smiles with the results as well: “One of the high points for me was when Greg Wells, the record producer for The Greatest Showman, P!nk, Twenty-One Pilots, Adele and others, told me, ‘The Hollywood Bowl show on the Hugh Jackman concert tour was one of the best sounding live shows I’ve ever heard. Nice work!’ That’s a huge compliment, and certainly some of that credit goes to this wonderful system.”