So I’ve seen a fair number of concerts over the last few years. It helps to do the occasional stage hand work to see some of the shows I’ve seen. One thing I’ve noticed is that some of the audio mixers that travel with some bands just don’t know what they are doing.
The last few major concerts I’ve seen or worked at are:
Tim McGraw and Faith Hill
Dave Mathews Band
Billy Joel and Elton John
Pearl Jam (three times) at Alpine Valley
All of these concerts took place at either the Kohl Center or Dane County Coliseum, both places that are acoustically horrible.
For Green Day, DMB, Beastie Boys and Billy and Elton, I couldn’t believe how good they sounded. Lyrics as clear as day and music that was just as good as the album. Green Day and Beastie Boys especially. All of the Pearl Jam concerts I’ve seen, they’ve been mixed damn near perfectly.
For Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, Kenny and Tim McGraw by himself, I honestly couldn’t believe how bad the mixes were. The music comes through clear as day and sounds great. The vocals, however, just really couldn’t be heard over the music consistently, and when you go to see a band, at least from my perspective, you want to hear the lead vocals clearly. The Tim and Faith show from just two days ago wasn’t as bad as the KC concert, but it was by no means good. There were parts where I couldn’t hear the singing.
The KC concert from last year was the worst case I’ve seen of this ever. I was about 20 feet from the stage and for many of his songs, especially the more up-tempo songs, I couldn’t hear him at all. When he would do a ballad you could hear him, but that was it. And this is very disappointing. Hopefully, when he is back in August this manage to fix this problem. Last time he came through, I wasn’t the only one complaining. A lot of people complained.
What I think happens is this groups do their rehearsals somewhere and the setup the mixing and get everything sounding perfectly. But then they go to other buildings/venues, and every building is acoustically different, and they use the same settings. Simply put, this doesn’t work and it shows. At every venue they need to adjust the mix so it comes through clearly and I don’t think they do this, probably because they don’t have someone traveling with them capable of doing this.