The Todd Rundgren ten week tour, “Clearly Human,” was scheduled and rescheduled three times since March 2020 before landing on what was the first-of-its-kind adaptation of a “road” tour, localized in Chicago but virtualized across 25 different “stops” in major US cities. Each stop was curated to the look and feel of each city and included all the elements of a “normal” tour—an enormous video wall, lighting system, pyrotechnics and special effects—all of which required the same coordination as any major live music event. To ensure smooth communication between production team members as well as to maintain appropriate social distancing requirements, the tour employed Clear-Com®’s Encore® Analog Partyline Intercom System.
After vetting several venues in the Chicago area, the band and crew were able to set up shop in Radius, a new live performance venue that had opened with two shows before closing again due to COVID. Ticket sales were available to fans with zip codes in that event’s greater metropolitan area, and the night of the show, they could see themselves on monitors throughout the venue, local landmarks took over the video wall, city-specific food was catered, venue names were front-and-center, clocks were reset, and the crew’s day sheets read, “Welcome to Seattle,” or whichever stop was on the schedule that day—the tour model even permitted a select few socially distant in-person tickets per gig.
Although the shows were perhaps the closest thing to the real deal since early 2020, the restrictions brought about by COVID necessitated some key differences, including the need for an onset COVID Compliance Officer (CCO), a role picked up by Rundgren’s longtime Tour Manager, Production Manager and Monitor Engineer, Paul Froula.
“As the CCO, I had to abide by the area’s safety protocols, which required my team to be really spread out, screaming at each other with 2-way radios,” said Froula. “We realized right away that we needed to have comms.”
Front of House, lighting, video, and stage right were located as far from each other as the venue would allow, with the Broadcast Engineer in a separate room off the main venue. The Encore system provided full-duplex, hands-free communication with optimal audio quality for users separated by greater-than-normal physical distances and challenged by the blaring nature of being at a live show. All production team members were also equipped with RS-501 beltpacks and CC-95 single-muff headsets to ensure they did not miss a beat.
“Clear-Com is always on our rider when the venue doesn’t provide the comms system, but the role of intercom became much more crucial and made my role as the Compliance Officer much easier to enforce,” explained Froula. “Things changed from aggravation to smooth as silk, and we were able to focus on the task at-hand.”
Todd Rundgren’s hybrid tour employed many live events industry personnel whose livelihoods were severely impacted by COVID restrictions and who had been away from the work they love for over a year. Rundgren has since been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Class of 2021.
“We were seeing people that were like family, and because of muscle memory everything fell into place,” said Froula. Everything was tight, the band was great, everyone was ready to go, and everyone loved it—fans, press, cast, crew, total success!”
Froula envisions a bright future for the live sound industry, with a lot of activity on the horizon. While there are still questions about what concerts may look like in the future, it’s apparent that comms will be considered from the outset of any new production. “What I’m really interested in now are the IP solutions from Clear-Com. With remote production becoming much more popular, the ability to have a key member of the team be part of the conversation from across town – or across the country, for that matter – becomes so much more important.”
The comms system and all other rental equipment was supplied by locally-based partner, TC Furlong, who Paul Froula says with admiration, “They’re always quick to help and respond. In a day everything was pulled and scheduled for delivery. TC Furlong is the number one provider in Chicago.”
The “Clearly Human” tour operated in accordance with the COVID regulations of the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago. The band and crew will be tested regularly throughout the tour and attendees were required to show proof of a negative COVID test result within 72 hours of the event.