Singer-songwriter and producer Pharrell Williams made extensive use of Shure wireless microphone and IEM systems during his recent headline concert tour.
The six-week 'Dear G I R L' tour took in major venues in Western and Central Europe, including London's O2 Arena. The Shure Axient wireless microphones and PSM1000 in-ear monitoring systems were sold by Shure Distribution UK and supplied via Wigwam Acoustics.
Williams' regular monitor engineer Jeremy Peters informally approached US-based RF engineer and stage and microphone tech Matthew Bock, of Nashville audio technology vendor Sound Image, for advice about which wireless systems to use for the gigs. Bock had no hesitation in recommending Shure's Axient.
Pharrell had played the two-week-long Coachella festival in the States in April and had endured continual RF interference during the first week, which resulted in the crew resorting to using wired microphones for much of the band. After that, there was a determined effort among the tour crew to improve the wireless systems.
"I've worked for and with Sound Image many times before, and have worked with Matt on some really big gigs where he was handling the RF side," said Peters. "So I asked him about Axient, because he was the only person I knew that had really toured with it and built a rig from scratch, who knew what we would need. He basically put the whole rig together for me then, before he even came on board properly. Then we took on Sound Image officially, and I was asked, 'should we get Matt?' and I said, 'yes, you bet!'"
Bock specified six channels of Axient – two for Pharrell's vocals (one main and one backup, both running in Frequency Diversity mode), two for main support vocalists, and two guest vocal channels. Ten channels of PSM1000 in-ear monitoring were also used for the members of Pharrell's band, with Shure's UHF-R wireless microphone systems supplying four more channels for supporting instruments.
Following successful one-off dates in the US, Sound Image was asked to provide the systems for Pharrell's main European tour in the Autumn. The firm approached Wigwam Acoustics' parent company SSE to supply an exact copy of the wireless equipment used on the US dates.
"Some of the venues were very noisy in RF terms," Bock added. "In one country, I decided to use the PSM1000s in 100mW high-power mode, and I had to get special licences for that. That limited me to certain carefully defined frequencies for those, but I was able to ring-fence those by using the inclusion groups feature in Wireless Workbench, and then tuning all of the other wireless equipment to different frequencies around the in-ears.
"And in Italy, where I've had RF noise problems in the past, I was able to put the Axient transmitters in high-power mode, and pad the inputs down on the Axient AXT630 Antenna Distribution system to lower the RF noise floor. Axient was really useful there, in terms of making the most of the available RF spectrum."
Sound Image is now on board for Pharrell's forthcoming US live dates.
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