Skan Designs Powerful Arena System For James Blunt’s ‘Who We Used To Be’ Tour

Tour and Production Manager Robert Hayden has worked with James Blunt since the ‘Monsters’ singer first ventured into full time musicianship. He begins: “James and I started off doing little club shows around England before we went to mainland Europe where we played to even less people! When we returned, everything just took off for him, first with the single, and then the album.”

Following 2005’s ‘You’re Beautiful’ from debut full length record ‘Back to Bedlam’ there’s only ever been one audio supplier to help James’s sound reach audiences on tour. Robert continues: “I’ve used Skan since the beginning of needing production,” he explains. “They always send us people who like to come back and work on this tour, so we always have a good fit of crew. I’d say we’re very loyal to Skan - James has a great deal of input into the show, he's very hands on like that.”

Promoting a brand new show for current album ‘Who we used to Be’, Robert says of the production, “James is a very entertaining performer, and the live band sounds great… people who have never seen him before are usually shocked at how good his shows are!”

Skan designed and supplied a d&b audiotechnik PA system comprising KSL main and side hangs, SL SUBS and Y10P for fills, using D40 amps to power everything in the air while D80s took care of the SL SUBs on the floor. Furthermore, due to exceptional demand in Manchester, the show also required additional V Series reinforcement for the AO Arena’s show.

On the road, System Engineer and Crew Chief Adam Dickson looks after the PA.

He says: “The minute we found out that we were opening to full capacity, I informed Skan Director, Chris Fitch. We were coming up with solutions to make it work for our FOH Engineer Mike Hornby and concluded that we needed to bring in additional resources for the show to ensure everyone had the best experience in the audience.

“James really knows how to pull in and engage a crowd, especially in Manchester, it seems! He is a fantastic performer.”

With a new show comes a new dynamic, but to hear James’s back catalogue and new songs, d&b is the obvious choice.

Adam elaborates: “I love working with d&b products, and I think the reasons behind why most engineers like using and mixing on d&b is that you can get it to sound the same everywhere, consistently, especially with the help of Array Processing. I don’t think other PAs can achieve quite the same results. Straight out of the box, the voicing of these speakers sound great to me.”

At FOH Mike Hornby has a Midas PRO2 control surface with Klark Teknik DN9680 fibre / AES50 Multiplexer, a Yamaha SPX 990 Pro Multi Effects Processor, and a Midas DL351 modular stage box.

He says: “It's a bit old fashioned at FOH really, partly because I met James at the start or his touring career, but partly he's not a fussy person, he doesn't feel the need for all the paraphernalia that we could have nowadays.

“He was going to get in-ear monitors very early on but once we chatted through it, he decided it wasn’t for him. And I think that's been the right decision for him as he's never had anything more than just a little bit of vocal and a bit of guitar.

“The mix is nothing like his records…. The band doesn’t play the songs like the recorded versions, so I couldn't really make it sound similar. They're produced in a different way to the live thing they do. What really matters to James is that we make a good show.

“We use Skan for that reason. They are high quality and in all this time, nothing’s ever gone wrong. With them, this has been a consistently good sounding gig!”

“I was a relative latecomer to this crew; I joined in 2006,” says Monitor Engineer Gerry Wilkes, who took over the monitor set-up that James and the band were already using.

For his intuitive surface, Gerry mixes on a stripped back rider of a Yamaha CL5 with Rio I/O Racks, using no plug-ins. “When I started in the analogue days, the desk choice was a Midas H3000 or XL4. When we went digital, I had a Yamaha PM5D and upgraded to the CL5.”

Gerry, who uses d&b audiotechnik M4 wedges for his personal monitors, concludes: “It’s all straightforward, we have six pairs of wedges plus a drum sub, thumper, and an IEM mix for each of the backline techs, who are using the Sennheiser 2000 Series.

“I began my career working as freelancer with Skan in 1984, so as they were the sound company in place for James when I started, it suited me! I get very well looked after by Skan; they’re really accommodating and provide an exceptional service.”