To say that we’ve been fortunate with the weather on this trip is an understatement. The chaos and terrible devastation on the East Coast caused by ‘Sandy’ and the cold weather systems closing in from the North now leaves us here in the windy city with probably the last few days of decent weather this weekend. Weather junkies worldwide make themselves aware of such things and my WeatherUnderground app tells me that I have two more days left in which to play golf. With a big show at the United Center ahead of us this evening, planning was the key so I leapt out of bed with eyes semi-crusted closed this morning and phoned down for a recommended car rental. A game on Chicago’s North Shore with a brilliant young professional Expat golfer from Scotland named David Inglis was on the cards. Well aware of how bad Friday morning traffic can be in the US I headed out early with clubs over my shoulder, the hotel concierge advising me to “have a great day and keep your head down”. With those words echoing in my head I set off Northbound on I94. 35 minutes later I pulled into the prestigious North Shore Country Club car park. David met me and we set off on our round on one of Chicago’s most prestigious golf courses, home to recent world no.1, Luke Donald. With the warming sun occasionally poking through the light clouds, it was a beautiful Autumn (or Fall) morning and a great day to step briefly outside of the touring ‘bubble’ as it’s often referred to.
Heading back into town with plenty of time before the bus departure time I glanced across the freeway to see bumper to bumper (fender to fender) traffic heading out. My route in was clear and easy. When there’s no traffic you can get around this place really quickly as the road networks are extensive to say the least. On board the bus with the rest of the guys, we headed off to the United Center for one of the largest arena shows of the tour.
After the now traditional pit-stop in catering I went for a wander with the camera and found Simon Tutchenor, our lighting designer (and operator) onstage focusing his lights. Now since we are a two-crew operation whilst out with Bob, lights and PA are shared. This means there is very little time for the guys to do what needs to be done for the show. One of the most time-consuming tasks is focusing. Each light has to be individually set it terms of position and intensity, even colour. Traditionally, this was a job done by two people, one on stage standing in position and the LD at the desk, the two being in permanent radio contact. Simon now deploys what appears to be an iPad app to help out. He remotely controls the desk from positions on the stage and can complete this task in half the time. I’m not sure he’s convinced it’s as precise as the two-man method but in this instance, it’s necessary.
These lamps always appear to have a mind of their own. I suppose in some respects, they do since each one has its own in-built computer…
Another device seen in the hall is a spectrum analyzer deployed by Front of House Sound engineer Dave Dixon. It’s an Earthworks M30 mic, used it to help analyze the pa system. This involves time alignment, phasing, level & eq’ing of the different zones (i.e. main flown, side flown, ground & subs). The mic is fed into a computer via a mic pre amp (sound devices usb pre) running analyzer software (in this case Smaart).
Ice Cream station? This is something I’ve never seen backstage at one of our venues. Must be something to do with a Sweet-Toothed Union here.
The United Center is vast. A cavernous, unforgiving (sonically) arena which can hold up to 22,000 people, I’m sure our sound boys did their utmost to make the best of it. It looked to me as though the upper balcony had been closed off so I would guess there were around 12-15,000 in. It certainly seemed pretty full and the atmosphere was great. We took to the stage at 7:30 prompt to a magnificent Chicago welcome and steamed into our set with gusto. As ever, it all seemed to be over too soon as 75 minutes later we were waving our farewells to what is now a very familiar standing ovation. From the band standpoint, it feels like we’re taking this show to new heights and judging by the feedback we’re getting, the audience agrees. Fun.
Back at our home from home, the magnificent Peninsula hotel a few of the boys headed out across the street to the well worn Pippins tavern for pints, pints and some more pints. For me, it was a quiet night in, a cup of tea and a welcome bed after a long day.