With a gruelling schedule and strict technical requirements, including surround-sound elements, Steven Wilson’s recent Hand. Cannot. Erase. world tour was nothing if not ambitious.
Prolific musician, producer, and respected surround-sound mix engineer (to mention but a few of his current activities) Steven Wilson recently wrapped up his 2016 Hand. Cannot. Erase. tour. Throughout the year the tour featured legs in Europe, Canada, the USA, Central and South America, a return to Europe, Asia, New Zealand and Australia, a return to the USA, and a final couple of dates in India — a busy year promoting his latest full-length album for sure! Sound On Sound spent a day with Wilson’s sound engineer Ian Bond, at the tour’s recent Kansas City show, to see what goes into the audio production for this type of tour, and how he makes the show sound the best it can for every audience.
Categorising Wilson’s musical style is difficult, simply because he traverses so many different styles. Hand. Cannot. Erase. and the subsequent mini-album 4 1/2 include elements of rock, crossover and progressive rock, ambient, metal, and even a hint of jazz. The band are amazingly talented musicians using musical and production technology to deliver virtuosic, great-sounding and great-looking shows to loyal fans. On this leg the tour was filling venues with capacities of around two to three thousand. Given the sold-out dates, and some two-night engagements in certain venues, there’s no doubt Wilson’s popularity is continuing to grow.
The presentation of the live show is of paramount importance to Wilson, the band, and the crew. To aid this, throughout Europe they carry all sound, lights and video equipment with them — equipment they are familiar with, know works properly, and meets their specifications to guarantee the best production possible. In the USA (and fly-in shows elsewhere) logistics have meant more ‘house’ and locally supplied equipment, but the goal for future touring cycles is to also carry all production equipment throughout the USA.
Using locally provided main speaker systems in each city has downsides in the form of ‘unknowns’ — new venues the band haven’t performed in before and PA systems of varying quality make it more of a challenge to...
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