Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening As Bonham garnered rave reviews as it toured through the country in May. The concert celebrates the life and music of his father, the legendary Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, and it was clear that this was a gig FOH engineer Tim Millikan was enjoying immensely.
“I’m like a dog with ten dicks at the moment!” he enthused. “It’s astounding, if you close your eyes you’d swear it was Led Zeppelin. The set goes for up to 2 ¾ hours and covers a broad range of Led Zeppelin material. Having grown up listening to Led Zeppelin, I felt that I had been mixing it forever. There were times during the first show when I had to look up to check it wasn’t Robert Plant singing.”
JPJ Audio provided a FOH control package with inhouse PA systems used around the country. Out front, Tim decided upon an Avid Profile simply due to its ease of use and availability around the country and in New Zealand.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect prior to the tour so I thought I’d best make it easy on myself,” he explained. “I also have a couple of Avalon VT-737 out front for vocals and that’s about it. It’s a pretty stock standard package without much extra in the outboard world.”
However Tim remarked that there was quite a lot going on with onboard effects including pitch shifters going into a SansAmp for some crunch and distortion on the vocal.
“I run the pitch shift return pretty hard into that at times for the vocal effects such as in No Quarter and Since I’ve Been Loving You,” added Tim. “I have a super heavy duty flanger that I run the drum kit through for the big drum fill sections in Kashmir. There’s a long delay with a single repeat at about 600 milliseconds for all the extended vocal Robert Plant stuff and the rest is all short verbs just to sweeten things up. I don’t try to effect it too much preferring to let the band do its own thing. The keyboard sounds are fantastic and he’s clearly done a lot of work to replicate the Led Zeppelin sound. So a lot of it comes to me already sitting pretty well, the balances between patches is great and there are no issues there.”
He spent more time concentrating on the overhead sound of the kit in general so when Jason hits the cymbals, they’re big and rich.
“I aim for a very natural sound using very light gating on the drums. It’s so super dynamic, you can’t squash it down too much and hold it in a position. I’ve got a C6 Multiband Compressor running over my master buss and I’m using that into an L3 Multimaximizer for a little bit of mastering on the output just to keep it in check.”
As it is such a long show, Tim explained that he tries to keep the sound level at around 95dB despite having had some people say it should be louder.
“For 2 ¾ hours that would be uncomfortable,” he said. “I can tighten up or loosen up the low end of my master stage to give a little more power when it needs it and pull it back when I want to keep it under control.”
Monitors were taken care of by Conor Dunne on a DiGiCo SD10 running Sennhieser IEMs and Shure radio mics. Jason also has a robust Stereo drum fill in the form of an L-Acoustics SB118 sub with an ARC II on top.
“It’s pretty loud onstage which in smaller venues makes it pretty tough,” said Tim. “The guitar player has a pair of 100 watt Marshalls running pretty hot plus there are two Ampeg SVT 8 X 10 rigs for the bass. The keyboard rig had a couple of Nord Stage 2s then there are a couple of acoustic guitars and a mandolin.”
Jason has a Crown CM311 head-worn condenser microphone as he sings in a couple of songs but mainly talks in between songs, although sometimes he also uses a Shure KSM9 radio mic.
For the drums there is a Shure Beta 52 on the kick drum (no hole in the kick drum so it’s placed directly in front), Shure 57s on top and bottom of snare, Shure 181 on hats and ride, Sennheiser 421s on toms and 414s on overheads. Guitars are Sennheiser e906 and Audio Technica ATM450 whilst vocals are Sennheiser e945 and e935. DIs were a combination of Radial J48s and JDIs as well as Countrymans.
Tim was clearly in his element with this tour adding that the band’s crew were great and that Jason himself is a lovely bloke, in fact it’s one of the most chilled and casual tours he’s done in a while. And Tim must have done something right as he has been asked to join the American run ….. work Visa pending.
Rule number one of touring – don’t leave home without your passport!
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