Peter Gabriel has long been hailed as one of the world’s most innovative musical artists, both from a creative and technological perspective. As one of Britannia Row Productions’ oldest accounts going back as far as the early-’80s, Gabriel also knows when not to change things up, evidenced by the fact that he has carried L-Acoustics loudspeakers on his tours since the mid-’90s.
Now, seven years after his co-headlined Rock, Paper, Scissors tour with Sting, Gabriel is treating fans to a long-awaited first solo outing since 2014’s Back to Front tour. Billed as i/o – The Tour, supporting a new album steadily releasing its singles on full moons throughout 2023, the Live Nation-produced tour kicked off with 22 European and UK dates in May and June. Beginning September 8, i/o – The Tour travels across North America, performing 25 shows through late October. All of these, like the inaugural leg, will be heard through an L-Acoustics K Series system supplied by Britannia Row Productions, a Clair Global brand, under the support of longtime Account Executive Dave Compton.
Richard Sharratt has been in Gabriel’s FOH mixing seat since 2010’s New Blood tour, and he’s an ardent fan of L-Acoustics’ flagship enclosure. “I’m loving mixing on K1 for this tour as it gives the mix a wonderful warmth, depth, and clarity that really draws the audience in,” he says. “Peter’s show is very dynamic, from softly spoken song introductions and solo pieces at the piano all the way through to the likes of ‘Sledgehammer’ and ‘Red Rain,’ and this system brilliantly presents the full spectrum. More than any other system I’ve mixed on, K1 makes me feel like I’m listening to everything on a set of audiophile nearfield monitors, even at the back of the room, which really helps, especially in venues where delays are not an option.”
System Engineer Ben Webb describes the typical setup of 14 K1 over four K2 down per side for mains, paired with a center hang of two A15—one Wide, one Focus—plus left and right arrays of eight KS28 subs flown in a cardioid configuration. Twelve K1 over four K2 per side serve as the out-fill hangs, while a dozen more K2 per side cover the 270° seating sections. Twenty-two ground-stacked KS28 subs are deployed in a cardioid array with four A15 per side for out-fill and four A10 as lip-fills. In larger venues, four hangs of six K1 are flown for delay. The full system is powered by 72 LA12X amplified controllers and processed via two P1 Milan-AVB processors using M1 for tuning. Sharratt also has two X8 and one SB15 sub as a reference system at FOH.
“On the recent European run, we were playing quite a range of venues, from amphitheaters to outdoor fields to arenas,” Webb recalls. “Peter’s music is incredibly dynamic, so getting a consistent sound from the very front row to the top back seat is critically important.”
Webb attributes this success to the manufacturer’s Soundvision 3D acoustic modeling software. “Most of my designs are done in advance from a mixture of CAD drawings and touring through the venues before,” he says. “Every morning, I verify my design with the stage and rigging positions and then make any final tweaks. In my initial designs, I rely a fair amount on the Autosplay and Autofilter functions since they give me a very good starting point to work from. And with the mixture of venues we are playing, especially the outdoor shows, P1’s Autoclimate tool for temperature and humidity compensation is particularly helpful.”
P1 has also been an unsung hero on tour; he adds: “At FOH, we are running two P1 with AES from Richard’s SSL L550 Plus console, then sending AVB to the amps with analog backup throughout the system. P1 with AVB straight to the LA12X has been fantastic. Not needing any other processing not only helps reduce the latency, but it also eliminates introducing additional processing in the chain.”
For Sharratt, the experience of carrying L-Acoustics once again has been a joy. “I get to walk the room in virtual soundcheck and during soundcheck, and, thanks to Ben, the coverage is always great,” he notes. “As I mentioned, the sense of everything being right there in front of you is amazing—it’s a big, full sound all the way to the back and sides. And although Peter, the band, and management have all affirmed that everything feels and sounds great, the real barometer of our success has come from the audiences who are familiar with their local venues and generally know the audio challenges of each room. On the whole, fans and venues have all appreciated how our show sounds, and we’ve been told many times that it’s the best they’ve ever heard in that space, which is quite a compliment.”