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O2 Show Production Stuff

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Not sure whether this has been posted before or not. Anyway, I just came across it and here it is.

It's a piece from the website of Total Production International, a magazine aimed at the live event production business. Loads of techie and production stuff in here and some nice Zeppelin-specific details too.

Nice also because it's one of the few mentions of my mate Seth Baccus from Manson's Guitars in Exeter who, along with Hugh Manson himself, did JPJ's teching on the O2 show. Manson's Guitars is my local music shop, and is without question the best guitar shop in the UK. They've happily relieved me of lots of cash over the years and they also make a nice cup of coffee. No, I don't work there.

It was weird to be in there during the time prior to the O2 when the chaps were zooming back and forth across the country to the rehearsals, when we all knew what was going on but when they were being very professional and not letting the secrets out.

Anyway, some of the secrets are in here:




January 2008

The greatest gig ever? Mark Cunningham reports from rehearsals at Shepperton & Ritz Studios and the historic tribute show at London's O2 Arena that bought the mighty Led Zeppeling back to the live stage in honour of the Atlantic Records founder.

'When Led Zeppelin reformed to play a one-off show not even their most dedicated scholars could believe the impact'.

Since the days when Elvis shocked the world by wiggling his hips, rock music has seen its fair share of earth-shaking moments. One might think that by the early 21st century, we’d pretty much seen it all, but when Led Zeppelin reformed to play a one-off show in December as a tribute to their mentor, Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegün, who died in December 2006, not even their most dedicated scholars could believe the impact.

The December 10 show at London’s O2 Arena, had originally been scheduled for November 26 but was postponed after Jimmy Page allegedly broke a finger. Upon announcement, the ticketing website crashed several times under the strain of 20 million hits and a million actual applications from all over the world.

Such was the record demand for tickets to what was designed as a one night stand for Zeppelin, that secondary pricing went through the roof — during the BBC Children In Need telethon one fan pledged £83,000 for a pair of tickets, each of which had a face value of £125.

With Tutankhamun’s exhibition just along the corridor from the Arena, the O2 seemed like the perfect venue to host a cast sprinkled with rock legends “of a certain age”. Introduced by promoter Harvey Goldsmith C.B.E., the show kicked off in regal style with ‘Fanfare For The Common Man’ by Keith ‘ELP’ Emerson, Chris Squire and Alan White of Yes, Bad Company/Free drummer Simon Kirke and a seven-piece horn section.

The first hour was dominated by Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings — a stellar bunch of delightfully ego-free musicians who had greatly impressed Ertegün at the 2001 Montreux Jazz Festival. At the O2, they provided backing for a set of Atlantic’s greatest hits, fronted by Maggie Bell, Paul Rodgers, Albert Lee, Beverley Skeete and Ertegün’s last-ever signing, Paolo Nutini. The Rhythm Kings were also the house band at the glittering after-show party at the on-site indigO2 club, where they backed soul giants Sam Moore, Ben E. King, Percy Sledge and Solomon Burke.

Rounding off the show’s first half were Mick Jones and Foreigner, whose ’80s classic ‘I Want To Know What Love Is’ featured a chorus of schoolchildren. By this time, the incredible electricity I felt upon arrival outside the venue had reached overload. The tension during the interval was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced at a gig, and I’ve been to a few.

As the lights went down, the image of a small TV set appeared in the centre of the stage, showing a news report from Led Zeppelin’s 1973 American tour. Then, a huge eruption of applause welcomed the band’s first live appearance on a British stage since Knebworth in August 1979. Not even a few squeals of feedback could dampen the sheer ecstacy of seeing Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and the late John Bonham’s sub, his 41 year old son Jason, break into ‘Good Times, Bad Times’.

Admittedly, it took a couple of numbers before the tension subsided and those of us lucky enough to watch the show from the FOH mix position could relax and immerse ourselves in what amounted to nothing short of a rock masterclass — one that even loosened Zep wannabe Dave Grohl’s jaw as he sat in the audience, clearly mesmerised, not least by the stunning Stealth video screen backdrop.

The white-haired Page was no less than the definitive guitar god and Jones, floating between bass and keyboards, held it all together like he always did. The biggest surprises, however, came from the young Bonham whose sheer power behind the kit was a revelation, and Plant whose skilful handling of his narrower vocal range gave a warmer and more emotional hue to some of the classics.

No more was this felt than on the band’s performances of the majestic ‘Kashmir’ and the greatest No.1 single that never was, ‘Stairway To Heaven’. The relief on Plant’s face after he sang the final, wistful line was palpable. “Hey Ahmet, we did it,” he said, in quiet disbelief.

Inspired by the original Stateside memorial concert, Ertegün’s wife Mica and Phil Carson, who formerly managed Atlantic’s worldwide operation, decided it would be a good idea to stage a similar tribute in London, and asked Harvey Goldsmith to assemble a bill of artists to represent Atlantic’s rich catalogue.

On Goldsmith’s radar was Led Zeppelin, and he wrote a letter to each member, asking them to consider reforming for the event. “We were all taken by surprise when they agreed,” said Goldsmith, who promoted their final European tour. “We originally planned two nights at the O2, with each act [including Cream] performing for 40 minutes. But after a week in rehearsal, Led Zeppelin decided to perform a full set — that’s when it turned into a Led Zep-centric one-nighter and we sat down with their individual managers to work out the approach.”

Both Goldsmith and Robert Plant’s manager Bill Curbishley realised that such a concert would be the perfect medium for raising cash for the Ahmet Ertegün Educational Fund, which was set up to pay for annual music scholarships in the UK, America and Turkey, Ertegün’s homeland. Production values soon escalated and over a three-month period, this milestone live event began to take shape.


With the help of his in-house studio at Ignition, Goldsmith set about designing the graphical identity of the show and also assembled a production team. The production management for the event was split three ways between Jim Baggott (working for Goldsmith), Steve Iredale (for Led Zeppelin) and Tony Panico, who PM’d the first half of the Ahmet Tribute and the indigO2 after-show party on behalf of Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings and guests.

It was at Shepperton Studios, a week before the show, that I caught my first sight of the Zeppelin set, and spoke to Jim Baggott about the road to the O2. He told me: “They started rehearsing in late June at Black Island Studios in Acton, and it was then that they realised this gig was possible. A lot of the programming was done at Elstree and then we moved to Shepperton on November 26.

“The design of the show has been very much a team effort. Peter Bingemann has been set design consultant all the way through but it’s been a joint effort between myself, Steve Iredale, Mike Walker, Dave Hill, Dick Carruthers and Mark Norton from Think Farm.

“We were inundated with requests from rental companies and manufacturers who wanted to be involved in this show, which isn’t surprising because it really is historic in terms of rock’n’roll. We’ve ended up with Major Tom and Britannia Row on sound, PRG Europe for lighting, Creative Technology supplying video with Mike Walker as consultant, Blackout providing drapes on a tab track for the first half of the show, Fly By Nite for trucking and Showstars who have provided crew and spotlight operators.

“Summit Steel is the rigging supplier at the O2 and Jon Bray has been very helpful to us throughout the rehearsals as the overall rigging consultant. The riggers have gained more trim height for us in Shepperton that we anticipated so we’ve managed to fit everything in! Also, Eat Your Hearts Out are looking after a massive number of performers, crew and special guest VIPs on the night.”

Ever the amicable Irishman, Steve Iredale was brought in at the request of Jimmy Page’s management company, QPrime. He told me: “They asked if I’d like to production manage a bunch of Brummies [N.B. half the band are from the Home Counties — pedantic ed.]. I wasn’t quite sure who it was at first, but I quickly worked out that it wasn’t ELO or Wizzard! I think I was the only person in the business who didn’t know the great Led Zeppelin reunion was happening, but it evolved from there and in early September I came on board full-time.

“I’ve been interfacing with Jim Baggott but my sole role is to look after Led Zeppelin’s production requirements and dovetail them into the rest of the show. The direction of the show was to some extent driven by the initial meeting with the Zeppelin camp, and by the time I came along it was simply a case of progressing everything to this point. Thankfully, a lot of the key crew members are people I’ve worked with many times before.”

Tony Panico’s relationship with Bill Wyman dates back 25 years. I met up with Panico at Ritz Studios in Putney where the original Rolling Stones bassist was rehearsing with the Rhythm Kings for the O2 show. “It was Pete Townshend’s suggestion that Bill and the Rhythm Kings should be involved to back the various guest artists they had in mind to do the concert,” said Panico. “Bill phoned me and we began planning how we’d tackle the rehearsals. It’s just unfortunate that Pete can’t make it now.

“All our rehearsals have been here at Ritz and every one of the artists have each had their allotted rehearsal times over the preceding week. It’s been a challenge to schedule all this because people have been coming in from America and other far-flung places, and the band have had to learn something like 25 numbers in the right keys. When that date was shifted to December 10, we lost a few musicians like Rick Wakeman and Georgie Fame due to their other commitments.”

[The Rhythm Kings’ after-show party lighting was designed by Vince Foster, using the in-house rig. The indigO2’s resident JBL PA system was also used along with MC2-powered and XTA-processed Turbosound monitors provided by W.E. Audio, the band’s regular touring supplier.]


LD and show director Dave Hill was invited on to the design team by Harvey Goldsmith in September. Hill has worked with a number of the world’s biggest artists, but he admitted to being more than a little excited at the prospect of lighting Zeppelin. His long-time colleague Patrick Woodroffe was also at FOH on a rare night off to enjoy his partner’s creativity.

“It’s very nice to have been asked to do this gig,” said Hill. “The first thing I did was re-listen to everything, which I already owned on vinyl, and it was a joy to rediscover so many classic songs.”

The only significant design brief was that the stage would be free of any items of set to allow for clear sightlines of the band, and also that they would perform in front of a large screen. There were initial plans for a super-wide projection screen, possibly as a reference to Knebworth ’79, however, the physical limitations posed by conventional projection encouraged the creative team to look at the Element Labs LED Stealth solution.

“This Stealth screen is an amazing invention,” said Hill. “It’s completely see-through,it fits together like Lego and weighs just 1kg per m2, so the total weight is far less than the PAR cans I’m sticking up there.

“Hopefully, the spaciousness of this show will make it fairly unique in an age where we’re constantly seeing huge staging and all the other paraphenalia that goes with it. In my first designs I did have lighting sculptures around the stage, but the band weren’t keen on having anything around them at all.”

Many of the lighting fixtures chosen by Hill resided on a rig that gently descended and floated over the band on a Kinesys Elevation 1 motorised system. “I also have Kinesys motorised trusses behind the Stealth wall with five 10kW Syncrolite SX10K-Ds [dichroics] and 10 5kW SXB52s on them to beam through the screen on a couple of occasions at different heights up to 65ft.”

Hill opted for fixtures known for their power output: “The lighting rig is 35ft in the air for 90% of the show, so I’ve used Vari*Lite VL3500 washes for their punch, 38 VL3000 spots for my main overhead system, and around the outside I have 85 Martin MAC 2000 washes [including audience lights] and VL3000s to help fill in. So I’ve really gone for punchiness up above especially as the screen gets quite bright.

“I also have Atomic strobes with colour changers, nine Molefays on the front truss, 24 2-lite Molefays on the floor behind, 11 bars of PARs along the top of the screen which I use in the first number [‘Good Times, Bad Times’], a 40kW Lightning Strikes unit underneath Jason’s perspex drum riser [custom-made by Steel Monkey], six Robert Juliat 3.5kW spotlights out front and Starklites on the stage.”

The equipment spec flew in the face of the original plan for a low-key production. “As it’s become more accepted that it’s become a Led Zeppelin show, I’ve slowly been given more and more budget!” laughed Hill.

It was quite a showcase for Syncrolite fixtures. In addition to those punching through the Stealth, Hill had six of the new 5kW SXB53s on the rear truss as additional back wash and another at the centre of the circular truss to top-light the drums. Four MX3000s (Syncrolite’s new 2kW fixture) were also spread around the perimeter of the circle as additional top wash lighting and big beam effects.

Syncrolite’s vice president of marketing also watched the show from the mix riser, trying his best to refrain from telling old stories of his days on the road with Zeppelin in the ’70s as part of the Showco crew, and how sharing the same name as the lead guitarist led to much confusion with groupies.

The ‘other’ Jimmy Page said: “We describe our new SX10K-D as the ‘Hammer Of The Gods’, so it’s perfect for Zeppelin — it’s an incredibly bright f**ker!”

In keeping with Zeppelin tradition, Laser Creations International provided three laser systems, manned by Mark Webber. Two 8W green and one 10W white lasers were used at a couple of points and spectacularly showcased in ‘Dazed And Confused’. Hill commented: “Jimmy wanted to make sure we had dry ice and lasers to recreate some of the old classic concert sequences, especially for this song where he plays his guitar with a violin bow.”

Following on from his last major tour with Genesis, Hill stayed with the grandMA console to control the entire lighting rig. “There’s nothing new to report here,” he said. “The grandMA’s as solid and reliable as ever. I’ve never been one to try out new desks for different tours and shows, and when I switched to the grandMA I knew it would be for the long haul. I’m a creature of habit when it comes to lighting desks, and I really like this one. Every time I use it, the job gets easier.”


In 2007, Mike Walker made the bold move of leaving Creative Technology to go it alone as a video consultant under the auspices of his newly-established company, Live & Direct. The Ahmet Tribute was his first major rock’n’roll consulting project since he began his new enterprise. He said: “It’s been a huge honour to work with Led Zeppelin’s production team, and a delight to see so much cutting-edge creativity come to life. It’s an event I’ll never forget.”

Walker turned to his former employer to provide Led Zep’s 28m wide by 10m high Element Labs Stealth LED screen and two 6x6 Barco OLite LED I-Mag screens for the Rhythm Kings/Foreigner section and tribute footage.

CT’s business development manager, Adrian Offord commented: “Load-in started at 8am on the eve of the show and there was very little time available for set-up before the band arrived for a walk-through. There were over 3,000 cable connections to the Stealth, which comes in a collapsed fan shape and cantilevers out of the flight cases, so it is a really quick to rig. This was one of the reasons the Stealth screen was used, as its set-up time is considerably less than with other systems.

“The image quality is superb; it’s the most transparent screen of its kind and this means that part of the lighting rig could be set up behind it to shine through, allowing for different effects to create dynamics and textures.”

The video production was essentially delivered by a three-way partnership between director Dick Carruthers (famed for his award-winning work on the 2003 Led Zeppelin DVD), video ‘scientist’ Richard Turner and graphics guru Mark Norton, the creative director at London-based agency, Think Farm.

The combination of their acutely intuitive skills resulted in what can only be described as a watershed moment in the relatively short history of large format live concert video production. The creativity applied to the merging of stunning graphic art and animation with Carruthers’ mind-blowing treatment of live camera feeds was incomparable. In fact, I’m confident that December 10 2007 will be remembered as the date when, for the concert video industry, everything changed.

Although Peter Bingemann (the designer of Live 8) was commissioned to design the set for the Ahmet Tribute as a whole, Led Zeppelin wanted a completely different look for their performance, but insisted that they didn’t want to hire a separate designer. Before the Stealth screen was considered, Zep had been thinking in terms of using older-styled Pani projections, which is precisely the area of expertise that gave Mark Norton his career background.

Norton, whose company’s previous clients have included Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, Oasis, Bon Jovi, Sony, the Roundhouse and the O2, told me of the build-up towards creating the rich palette of video graphics: “We went through a series of staged drawings, rather like a storyboard, working to the premise that it would be on a flat screen as opposed to a physical set.

“When you start animating you have to prepare material way before anything else because it takes so much time to build it. But that’s been one of the ways in which it’s developed for this because it was all those drawings and animations on which the band were feeding back to us.

“On one hand we have looks that suggest scenic design in a complementary way to Dave’s lighting, and as opposed to being regular video. It varies in tone from being very small, almost lighting tones to some very big graphical interruptions. I do think that without Dave’s influence, we’d have probably arrived at a more conventional carve-up between projection and live camera.”

The Stealth screen was often used to create virtual scenery in the same way that one would with projection design in a physical set. Said Norton: “It never quite gets to being narrative but there are some very big scene-setting pieces. It only really gets to being very literal in a closing piece [for ‘Kashmir’] which uses the monolith from their Presence album cover.

“That object symbolises ‘the awesome power of Led Zeppelin’ and it appears towards the end as a monument to the band. That’s been a lot of fun to do because we’ve turned this thing from something quite tiny on a kitchen table, as per the album cover, into something massive.”

I couldn’t help but suggest that this sounded very much like a case of reverse Spinal Tap. “Oh God, no... we’re trying to preserve some dignity here!” said Norton, who clearly did that job impeccably.


With the exception of the screens and graphics production, the bulk of the video project came under the wing of director Dick Carruthers’s company, Cheese Film & Video, which brought in a camera package and massive production unit, as well as organising CTV’s flagship OB truck, OB9.

Working with video production manager Mary Jefferson, Richard Turner, assistant director Tom Woodcraft and OB engineer Jim Parsons, Cheese not only looked after the shooting of the main and ‘after’ shows, but also edited the tribute documentary material and arranged its legal clearances — “all part of a massive arc of unseen organisation,” said Carruthers.

Amongst the veritable cityscape of gadgetry at FOH (I’d never seen a collection quite so large) was a piece of kit whose mysterious fascia echoed that of Lt. Uhura’s control panel aboard the Starship Enterprise. This, I was reliably informed by Carrurthers, its operator, was a Snell & Wilcox Kahuna console, designed for broadcast applications but carrying enormous potential for live use.

On this console, Carruthers was mixing eight cameras for the live screen, although there were 17 in total, including two HD cameras, two HD minicams around the drums and three film cameras. “A lovely mix of Super 8 film and HDSR,” he said.

Why the Kahuna? “I was looking for a desk that would work in HD and SD, that also had DVE effects and would work live. The Kahuna had it all,” said Carruthers. “It’s an exceedingly clever beast and its four mix effect busses allow all sorts of different routing and panels, so I could do things like the three-way mix in ‘Dazed And Confused’. In the past I’ve had to use multiple DVEs to do this kind of thing, but here it all was in one big desk with native HD resolution as well.

“Once I found the Kahuna and the shoot expanded for archive purposes, I knew we’d need to get an OB truck in and shoot on Hi-Def, so we hired CTV’s OB9 with Jim Parsons at the controls.”

The desk was not originally available from Snell & Wilcox’s hire stock, but once Carruthers revealed the client’s name, a deal was magically struck which also included support from two technicians. “They were incredibly helpful. I think it was interesting for them to see me do things with the desk that it wasn’t really built to do — but then, this is rock’n’roll and not live TV or post-production. It’s probably the nearest a vision mixer gets to something like a Vari*Lite console. You can programme as much as you like and map it all to one button, so I had most of the songs on a one button recall, running through cue-by-cue.”

Close to Carruthers at FOH was Richard Turner who manned the Vista Systems’ Spyder processor, and Grant Coulson who operated the two six-channel EVS machines and the Codec that was responsible for the effective real-time slo-mo effects. “The Spyder took the HD feeds from me and turned it into 1024 x 768 DVI parallel data and then sent it to the Stealth processors. The Spyder also performed much of the masking — Richard would take images, scale them up or down, and move them around. Nearly all of the camera images were soft-edged and many contained effects layers.”

Carruthers commented that the stunning results were achieved via a “long and rocky road” of brainstorming with the band. “You don’t really know what these images will look like until they’re up there on a massive screen with a ton of lighting and smoke in front of it, so there’s a huge element of trust involved. In fact, it was great to see that some of the pieces that didn’t really shine that well in rehearsals took on a new persona when the band were having it large in front of the audience. The genie really did come out of the bottle on the night!”


The audio system responsibilities were divided evenly between Lars Brogaard’s Major Tom and Britannia Row Productions. Major Tom supplied a self-powered Meyer Sound Milo PA rig consisting of two flown front hangs with 18 Milo 90° and one Milo 120° in each, two side hangs of eight Milo 90°, two rear hangs of eight Milo 90° and one Milo 120°, a centre hang of six Mica boxes and two hangs of 10 700-HP subwoofers.

Stacked on the ground were nine 700-HPs per side, and four Micas per side for outfill. In addition, one Mica per side along with eight UPA-1Ps were positioned across the stage lip for front fills.

Supported by a Major Tom crew that included Ali Viles, David Vinnicombe, John Chadwick, Jack Dunnett and Brogaard himself, Meyer’s director of European technical support, Luke Jenks was on hand through rehearsals and at the O2 to tune the PA using a drive rack containing four Galileo 616 loudspeaker management systems and a SIM3 analyzer.

Major Tom’s head honcho, Lars Brogaard explained that his company’s role had been sealed at an early stage. He said: “I knew about this show for a long time because of my association with Thunder Audio who have been servicing Robert Plant on many tours, and also Metallica who, like Jimmy Page, are managed by QPrime. I also knew that if the price was right, we’d get the job, especially as Jimmy had seen the Prince show at the O2 and liked what he heard.

“Based on what I’d learned through doing Prince, I suggested a design for all the PA hangs and discussed it with production. We then brought in Luke from Meyer to have a look at the room with my colleague Chris Marsh before settling on the final plot.”

While the FOH engineering for the Rhythm Kings portion of the show was handled by Joffrey Lorre, using a DiGiCo D5 console, the high pressure Zeppelin mix duties were shared on a Midas XL8 by Robert Plant’s regular engineer Roy Williams and the man famed for his touring work with Metallica, ‘Big’ Mick Hughes.

Williams explained: “I’ve known Mick for 30 years and we’re both from the Black Country. After the first few days of rehearsals at Black Island, I realised the pressure was going to be so great on everyone that I didn’t want to do the whole mix myself, so I suggested to the band that Mick share the engineering with me.

“Robert has a lot of effects, like specific delays and reverbs, that are cued up on his voice but can’t be rehearsed or automated. That’s quite demanding in itself and in a rare situation like this, it’s important that nothing is missed. After Mick came in, it was all smiles. It makes it so much easier to work closely on something this huge with someone I know so well.”

With Williams taking care of the vocals, it was down to Hughes to deliver the rest of the Zeppelin sound to an audience who could barely believe their luck.

Hughes was more than aware of the massive responsibility. At Shepperton, he told me: “From the very kick off of this caper, I’ve listened to more Led Zeppelin music than I have in my whole life, and I’ve learned such a lot from talking to the band. I hadn’t a clue that some of John Bonham’s drum sounds in the studio were done on chairs!”

The main dilemma for Hughes was in how to pitch the character of the mix in terms of the past or the present. “Is this 1970-something or is it 2007? Audio-wise, there’s a considerable difference, because subs didn’t really exist back then — it was just bass bins and highs, and sometimes they didn’t even bother with the mids. It’s been very difficult to get a reference from any of the old Led Zep live recordings and there’s a lot of bootlegs out there, none of which seem to have any low end!

“I’ve had to be very careful about how to pitch the shape and personality of the mix. I’ve talked to the band and they had various angles on how it should be approached, but they couldn’t give me the definitive plot as to what year this is, so I’ve had to emboss my own plot on it and I’m kind of straddling eras.

“Shit’s changed over the years and here we are with copious amounts of sub-bass cabinets. The general consensus is that they do want to get a bit of low end going — hinged around the kick drum — otherwise I wouldn’t fucking be here, would I?!”

The enhanced low end certainly came into play during ‘Kashmir’, when John Paul Jones’ bass pedals appeared to shake the very core of North Greenwich. “They’ve nearly turned us inside out at times during rehearsal,” said the big man. “I don’t think JPJ’s had too much low end of this nature before, and he seems to be enjoying it.”

Also at FOH was Midas’ brand development manager, Richard ‘Fez’ Ferriday, who was present throughout the Zeppelin project to support Hughes in his continued use of the Midas XL8 digital console, supplied by Britannia Row as part of a comprehensive package of control gear, racks and monitors.

Together, we discussed the differences in an audience’s appreciation of live sound compared to the band’s original heyday. Said Fez: “I think that when you went to shows back in the ’70s, sound quality wasn’t part and parcel of the agenda, and it wasn’t really an issue. It was more about, was it loud enough and was it a great gig?

“Nowadays, domestic sound systems have become so good that people have much higher expectations of live sound, and so what Mick and Roy are giving this audience will effectively be Led Zeppelin as they’ve never been heard before.”

The Brit Row XL8 was a slightly different animal to the one Hughes took out with Metallica last summer. This version was fitted with the brand new 1.06 firmware whose extended functionality not only enabled unlimited patching on the digital network, but also provided the ability to connect to the new Klark Teknik DN9696 high resolution hard disk recorder.

Said Hughes: “The 9696 has been invaluable. We’ve been able to multitrack record all the rehearsals, then play everything back to the band for them to come over to our mix position and listen, pass comment.

“It can record 96 channels at 96kHz [24-bit] for nine hours, and it’s caused endless hours of entertainment because when we play it back we can mix the recorded show in real-time. It means the band can sit right in front of the console and give us some very useful creative input — which is the best way I can explain that!”

The majority of the effects were generated internally within the XL8, however, Roy Williams was keen to use a couple of “old favourites” on Plant‘s vocal, including an Eventide H3000SE harmonizer for occasional tonal thickening and the now-vintage Roland SDE-3000 digital delay on ‘No Quarter’, in which Williams used a footpedal to manually tap out the tempo for delay repeat accuracy.

Big Mick chose the majority of the microphones. For vocals, Plant used a straight wired Shure SM58 and Jason Bonham, who sang BVs on several numbers, wore a Shure WH20 headset mic.

Page’s guitar cabs were miked with three Audio-Technica AT2500s and an AT4050, and Jones’ bass rig has a pair of Shure SM52s. The kick drum in Bonham Jr.’s custom Ludwig kit was miked with an SM52 and an Earthworks SR25 (complete with Earthworks kick pads), further SR25s were used in pairs for overheads and kit ambience, another SR25 was used along with an SM57 on each surface of the snare, AT350s were on rack and floor toms, an AKG took care of the obligatory gong, and there were Earthworks SR30s for the hi-hat and timpani, and an Earthworks PC30 for ride cymbal.


After Gilles Million completed his stage mix duties for the first half of the show on a Yamaha PM1D, it was Dee Miller’s turn to engineer Led Zeppelin’s monitors behind the 48-channel Midas Heritage 3000 desk, on which he generated 19 mixes including effects.

Miller, who is Plant’s regular monitor mixer, commented: “It’s a very old school, very rock’n’roll set up. The band aren’t using in-ear monitoring, although it would be helpful if they did because it gets quite loud on stage. Instead, each member has his own wedge system plus flown stereo sidefills, stereo ground fills [four Turbosound Flashlight TFS-780 narrow highs and eight lows], plus a rear fill out of a wedge which is basically for solos or when anyone’s closer to the drums.

“Jason’s also got a stereo mix and a sub mix into two Turbosound 1 x 15" TFM-450s and two 2 x 15" TQ425SPs.”

Page, whose personal mix was surprisingly not as loud as that of the other members, used Turbosound TFM-450s, while 2 x 15" TFM-350s were the preferred choice elsewhere on stage, powered by Crown LX1200 amps. (Plant has been touring with the 350s for the last four years.)

Like Williams, Miller cued a number of special effects for Plant’s voice — his rack included a Yamaha SPX 990, Lexicon PCM 70, TC D2 DDL and TC 2290. “Robert has a delay and a reverb set up all of the time, and timings change depending on the song. In rehearsal, we’ve been trying to send some of the more specific effects back from FOH but it makes it hard to control at the monitor position.”

Miller’s insert rack accommodated 16 channels of BSS FCS 960 graphic EQs, plus noise gates, compressors and limiters from Drawmer, Avalon and Summit.

Brit Row’s Bryan Grant (a Led Zep backline tech in the early ’70s), Mike Lowe and Roly Oliver were present at the O2, and their support crew included Jono Dunlop, Liam Halpin, Tom Howat, Luke Chadwick, Stefan Krista, Kieran Walsh, David Poynter. Zep’s backline techs were John Lionall Ward, Hugh Manson, Seth Baccus and Paul Davies.

As a result of the vastly improved sonic arsenal at their disposal, the sound of the 21st century Led Zeppelin carried considerably more weight than the band I saw at Knebworth. The O2 show was a fairly loud affair — reportedly peaking at 117dB© at FOH. Although Big Mick and Brogaard would probably disagree (after all, they’re the experts), there were a few times early in the set when I felt that a delay cluster, three-quarters of the way down the arena, might have helped with musical definition.

Other than that, the pure rock’n’roll power of Zeppelin was precisely how it should have been — crisp, punchy and solid — together with possibly the best drum sound ever heard in an arena. Ten out of 10 to the big man (or should that be 11?).

Whilst CTV captured the action on camera, Fleetwood Mobiles multitracked the audio of both halves of the show. Led Zeppelin may have refused to have their lacklustre 1985 set at Live Aid included in the commemorative DVD package, but there was nothing remotely shoddy about this performance, nor indeed those of any of the opening artists. So how about it?

I’m no gambling man, but I’d feel safe enough to bet my house on a DVD of this special night becoming the biggest seller of all-time, and Ahmet Ertegün’s Educational Fund would no doubt benefit massively. Save for post-production, it’s all in the can, according to Dick Carruthers. One can only hope that such a release, and indeed the prospect of further concerts, gets the approval of the band... and soon!

In closing, Harvey Goldsmith told me a week after the show: “This was at least as important, historically, as anything I’ve ever been involved with and it’s generated more media coverage than any event I know of. It’s really lifted the values of rock music and it was gratifying to see so many major artists come to watch history in the making.”

I’ve been careful to let the dust settle before writing this artistic and technical appraisal.

And still, I have no hesitation in declaring that in 35 years of gig-going, this was the greatest live spectacle I’ve ever had the good fortune to attend. Believe the hype: it really was the ultimate “I was there” rock’n’roll moment.

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On this console, Carruthers was mixing eight cameras for the live screen, although there were 17 in total, including two HD cameras, two HD minicams around the drums and three film cameras. “A lovely mix of Super 8 film and HDSR,” he said.

This proves that the show has been shot with a view to a DVD or other release at a later date.

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This proves that the show has been shot with a view to a DVD or other release at a later date.

Yes it proves it was shot - I think we knew that - but it doesn't prove it will be released. There could be all kinds of reasons for them looking at it and saying "No".

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Yes it proves it was shot - I think we knew that - but it doesn't prove it will be released. There could be all kinds of reasons for them looking at it and saying "No".

Yes it does prove 'that it was shot', as to shoot it on 8mm indicates there was some other purpose intended. But it wasn't just shot for the big screen - obviously 8mm film needs to be developed and printed. So this is new evidence that the show was shot and recorded for more than the purpose of putting it on the big screen on the day.

Shooting film indicates that it was shot with at least the possibility of some sort of release. If they were only recording it for purely archival purposes, never to be seen by the public, they wouldn't have bothered with film.

I am talking about possibilities here, I am not saying this proved there will be anything released, just that it was clearly shot with the intention of making something releasable at a later date, rather than just for the big screen.

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Thanks for that, great article. Fascinating to think of the difference in sound quality and production between different eras. This made me appreciate Zep's accomplishments all the more, both in the past and at the O2, especially JPJ, Bonzo, and Jason.

These quotes together are intriguing: "Carruthers was mixing eight cameras for the live screen, although there were 17 in total, including two HD cameras, two HD minicams around the drums and three film cameras. “A lovely mix of Super 8 film and HDSR,” he said."

So, 9 cameras were not recording for the live screen. That's a lot of cameras to make a home video...

Then this:

Harvey Goldsmith told me a week after the show: “This was at least as important, historically, as anything I’ve ever been involved with and it’s generated more media coverage than any event I know of. It’s really lifted the values of rock music and it was gratifying to see so many major artists come to watch history in the making.”

(Goldsmith having put on Live Aid & Live 8, that's a pretty amazing statement, even for a promoter.)


"Save for post-production, it’s all in the can, according to Dick Carruthers."

I think odds are they didn't go to that much effort and expense capturing this remarkable event just to produce a personal keepsake for the band. The performance was hardly the shamoblic kind, and despite flubs here and there, has already attained legendary status. It would be remarkably egotistical to hold it back for personal reasons.

In my mind the only questions are when it will come out, and where all or some of the money will go. I hope, during my lifetime, and to excellent and worthy causes.

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Also check out the latest issue of Performing Musician + Live Sound World.

Fascinating article with the crew who mixed O2 and Phil Dudderidge who ran sound in March-May 1970.

Cool article with some pics of the sound set-up.

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Great details on all the tech aspects of the show. Well done! I'm sure it will be released eventually. When it does it will be a Christmastime release. Whether this year or next...who knows? If this year, I'd say we'll hear about it by the end of August. Usually announced a couple months ahead or so.

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