A Big Touring Production Gets Bigger (and Immersive) for Six Residency Shows on the Strip
Craig Doubet isn’t someone who shies away from an adventure. Born and raised in the Midwest, Doubet first headed out to the recording studios of Southern California to mix heavy metal and grunge acts in the late 1980s and early 1990s before moving further south — to Argentina and Chile — to record Guadalajara, Mexico-based band Maná.
That path led to him joining the crew for a Luis Miguel tour in 1995 and, two months in, he stepped up to the role as FOH engineer. He’s been at FOH ever since, mixing for an eclectic array of acts ranging from Sérgio Mendes and k.d. lang (a world tour with a full orchestra “for a couple of years”) to Selena Gomez, the Jonas Brothers and (for a month) Prince.
For the last 15 years or so, however, Doubet, now based in Geneva, Switzerland, has served as FOH engineer for Michael Bublé. “That keeps me pretty busy,” Doubet says, noting that typically, there’s a two-year span spent with Bublé’s camp from the promo gigs for each of the artist’s new albums to when the world tour legs are complete.
“It’s a good gig — long term. And [Michael Bublé] likes that. Myself, our video director, our main backline guy, we all started the same day. One of the carps, we all started the exact same day. And we’re all still here. The lighting director [joined] a tour before me. The stage manager has been with Michael since his very first tour. So it’s that kind of group.”
FOH Engineer Craig Doubet
From Big to Bigger
In recent years, Bublé has been touring with a complex stage production that Doubet sums up in one word: “Big.” Along with Bublé himself, the shows involved 19 trucks, an elaborate catwalk-and-B-stage configuration, and a full orchestra including percussion, horns and strings with dozens of musicians on stage. (See “Mixing Michael Bublé’s 2019 World Tour” in FOH’s May 2019 issue).
If the touring production has been big, Bublé’s recent six-show residency production at the Resorts World Theatre, which ran from April 27-May 7, 2022, was even bigger. Along with the 37-piece orchestra performing with Bublé for these shows (which had also been featured for his touring production), the Resorts World shows added a 20-voice choir on stage. “So we’re 58,” Doubet says. “I’m at 115 inputs.”
With that many performers, it’s clear that Bublé’s production budget gives the music itself top priority. Elaborate and costly sets and gags? Not so much. “He is a music guy,” Doubet confirms, motioning toward the stage. “That’s our last tour set, actually; we just brought it in here. Michael’s emphasis is, ‘I want to do music, I want it to be big, I’ve got this big band.’ And so he asks me, ‘So it’s going to sound big, right?’” Doubet laughs. “No pressure.”
In terms of staging, in fact, the Resorts World production is more streamlined than the touring production. Gone are the long catwalk and “B” stage, but added are VIP seating and tables on both sides of the wide showroom stage.
Photo by Patrick Gray/Kabik Photo Group
Same Console, New P.A.
Although the residency shows would feature the added choir section and songs from Bublé’s 11th album, Higher, released in late March, Doubet was able to use his console of choice, a Solid State Logic Live 550 running V5 software, to handle the mixing demands of Bublé’s bigger show.
“I’ve been using the [SSL Live] 550 now since 2016, and 2018 for Bublé. So it has a couple hundred shows under its belt,” Doubet says. For the Resorts World shows to succeed, however, Doubet would need to use his trusty desk to drive the complex new L-ISA system.
The typical P.A. setup for the 2019-2021 An Evening with Michael Bublé shows might be straightforward L-R hangs of Solotech-supplied Meyer Sound LEO and LYON line array elements and 1100LFC subs for the main stage.
At Resorts World Theatre, by contrast, the speaker configuration starts with seven hangs of 14 L-Acoustic K2 line array enclosures as mains — 98 in all.
Add in a high-flying center hang of KS28 subs, hangs of Kara 2 speakers for outfills, 5XT’s for front fills, and a full complement of A10i units for delays and surrounds providing additional coverage for the main, mezzanine and balcony seating areas, and the speaker count jumps to 247, according to Brandon Andreasen, Resorts World Theatre’s house audio manager.
With L-ISA as the installed rig at Resorts World, every FOH engineer supporting shows at the venue will be getting an immersive education by the time their show’s done. “It’s in here, it’s fixed,” Doubet says. “We kind of have to use it.”
But Doubet didn’t have to tackle the learning curve completely on his own. He knew he could rely on the expertise of those at the venue, at Solotech and at L-Acoustics to get up to speed on L-ISA quickly, and have some fun doing it. “We dove in, in a big way.”
After downloading a Mac version of the L-ISA software to get acquainted with it, Doubet arrived in Las Vegas in mid-April, a full week-and-a-half prior to Bublé’s opening show at Resorts World on April 27, and set up shop at Solotech’s Las Vegas location.
“I had already built a file,” Doubet adds. He then turned to others, including Resorts World’s Andreasen, Carlos Mosquera, L-Acoustics applications engineer, L-ISA for the Americas, and Solotech systems engineer Fred Cantin for an assist with the “nuts and bolts” of the system.
“Luckily we already had this computer — Celine Dion let us use their front end. So at the shop at Solotech, I managed to put the console together and make it talk to it, somewhat, and figure out a few things,” Doubet says.
“The cool thing about L-ISA is that you basically take post-fader outputs into it, and then place in the field. So first you have to decide, which outputs? Which inputs? What are you doing? And then rebuild the console several times until you get your head around how it works,” he adds.
From left, L-Acoustics L-ISA applications engineer Carlos Mosquera; Solotech systems engineer Fred Cantin; FOH engineer Craig Doubet; and Resorts World Theatre house audio manager Brandon Andreasen
The House Guy
Brandon Andreasen had spent 15 years working on the audio team at Cirque du Soleil before moving to Solotech in 2019, and he had been serving as the infrastructure and audio system designer for Solotech Integration as it was installing the L-Acoustics L-ISA system at Resorts World Theatre.
“I saw this project through the install, and AEG, who manages the venue, offered me the position in September. So I stayed on here,” Andreasen says.
The original plan was for Celine Dion to kick off her residency shows in the venue in early November, but she had to bow out due to health concerns. Instead, the venue’s first show was Carrie Underwood’s Reflection, which launched Dec. 1, 2021.
Since then, Andreasen has been helping audio crews support the sound for high-profile productions including Katy Perry’s Play, Luke Bryan’s first Las Vegas headlining residency, and now Michael Bublé’s show. (Andreasen’s wife, a classically-trained cellist, performed in Bublé’s orchestra.)
Along with Andreasen — “he knows all these shows” — Doubet credits Solotech’s Fred Cantin, who has served as systems engineer for Bublé’s touring shows since 2019. “He’s a big part of this team,” Doubet says, “and he has done many L-ISA gigs in Vegas already. So he’s been a big help. ‘Fred, what do I do now?’” Doubet says, also crediting Cantin’s “ear.”
Doubet also gives kudos to L-Acoustics’ Mosquera, touring outreach manager David Brooks and “Vegas guy” André Pichette for their L-ISA support.
Photo by Patrick Gray/Kabik Photo Group
Choosing Acoustical Spaces
Along with full-volume, immersive sound that seems at once powerful yet easy on the ears, L-ISA gives audio engineers the ability to change the apparent acoustics of the room itself, an ability that Doubet used to offer the audiences a different musical vibe for different parts of the show.
The room “essentially doesn’t exist, as a space, right by itself,” Doubet says. “No acoustics, really, of its own. But the L-ISA creates that space. And I can change it, which is very cool. We’ve got two spaces that we’re working with, right now. [Bublé’s] big pieces — we want those to be orchestral, and concert-hall-ish, and big. And then there are [the other songs] that he really likes, he call them the Vegas vibe, the club vibe. ‘Hey let’s just get down and have fun.’ So we made a room for that, too — it sounds closer, and smaller.”
In a brief demonstration of the system’s capabilities, Doubet showed off the flexibility of the surround speakers, issuing a sonic call and response from front to back. But his primary goal for the Bublé shows was to let the artist and his music connect with the fans in the simplest way possible.
Doubet also notes that intelligibility is important since the artist uses his spoken word interludes between songs to further connect with his fans, and L-ISA can be used for that, too. “Audiences love these parts of the shows,” he says.
Asked if there are any special adjustments needed for the low-end portion in the immersive mix, Doubet says “the low end is done entirely in the L-ISA. I give full signal to them, and it works, so I haven’t even thought about it, it just works.”
“The beauty of this is, all the subs are coming from the center, instead of left and right configuration, so it’s more even in the room,” says L-Acoustics’ Mosquera. “You don’t have to worry too much about it.”
“It’s not an arena; that’s for sure,” Doubet says, about the L-ISA-equipped space. “It’s really quite fun.”
A Big Show at Monitors, Too
As with the touring shows, the residency shows were complex enough to require two monitor engineers, not just one. Marc Depratto and Martin Pare each use their own DiGiCo SD7 with Quantum engines and the latest software version to meet the needs of everyone out there on stage, starting, of course, with Bublé himself.
“The way we’re set up is, I do the band’s first row, the rhythm section, background vocals and Michael. And Martin takes care of the orchestra,” Depratto says. Although there are some Meyer Sound MJF-210’s on stage for a bit of ambience, all the musicians — including Bublé — are on UE in-ears.
Depratto and Pare peg their input counts at 195 and 207, respectively, each handling about 24 mixes per side. “We’re running 48 stereo mixes plus wedges plus all the comms between the departments — all the talk back systems run through our consoles,” Depratto adds. “It runs in groups, all controlled by macros, so everybody can talk. There are at least a dozen stage mics for talk back, just so the orchestra can talk together.”
Doubet mentions that Bublé sings into a Neumann KK 204 capsule on a Sennheiser 6000 transmitter. Jonathan Aube, who was busy prepping gear for the choir the day before opening night, noted that the rest of the musicians on stage use Shure transmitters. “It’s all digital, so that’s helped a lot,” Aube says. “The RF is pretty busy in here,” he adds, remarking on the contrast with Bublé’s tour stop at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena last September. There, “it’s like a big dome, and the RF won’t come in. But if you’re in a place like a theater, like here, it’s pretty crazy. But we usually make it work everywhere.”
The 2019-2021 tour, An Evening with Michael Bublé, included a packed schedule with multiple runs of shows on both sides of the Atlantic throughout 2019 followed by more shows in Australia and New Zealand in February 2020. Another string of dates was set for the U.S. in the spring of 2020, but that, of course, did not happen.
“We did Australia in February 2020. We went home for a week. And we came back [to the U.S.] and did a private, and we put stuff on trucks to go to Florida, to finish the tour, and then it ended,” Doubet says. “We finally finished that leg September-October of last year.”
As the world of live music was shutting down in March 2020, Doubet was scrambling to get a flight back to Switzerland. “I was very lucky; I flew there the day before they closed the airport. We hunkered down. Waited. And waited, and waited. As we all did. It was a tough time.”
When the tour was finally able to resume and those Spring 2020 gigs were performed in Autumn 2021 despite Covid’s Delta surge, the Bublé bubble was strictly adhered to — no visits to outside restaurants or bars for a two-month span.
Even in late April 2022, everyone in the camp was vaxxed, masked and tested daily. “The reality is, if anyone in the band or the boss gets sick, we don’t have shows. So it’s not an option in our world,” Doubet says.
As Covid restrictions continue to relax in parts of the world, live entertainment is making a comeback. Doubet will be mixing with a variety of P.A. systems for a series of outdoor shows at landmark locations in England this summer, driving systems ranging from L-Acoustics, Meyer Sound, d&b audiotechnik, CODA Audio and JBL, and Michael Bublé will be launching a new tour in support of his Higher album with Meyer Sound’s latest system when he once again travels through the U.S. for show dates in August through October.
Inside the Resorts World Theatre
Photo by Patrick Gray/Kabik Photo Group
When Resorts World first opened its doors in mid-2021 on the spot once occupied by the Stardust Resort and Casino, which was imploded in 2007, it was the first major Las Vegas Strip casino resort property to open since the Cosmopolitan made its debut in December 2010. And when the 4,703-seat Resorts World Theatre opened Dec. 1, 2021, it was equipped with an L-Acoustics L-ISA immersive sound system as the house audio rig, one of the first L-ISA installs in Las Vegas.
Montreal-based Scéno Plus served as the theater designer, further overseeing the venue’s technology, while L-Acoustics Certified Provider Solotech integrated the 14.1 audio system with design support from the L-Acoustics Application team. The system consists of an L-ISA Scene setup of seven arrays of 14 K2 enclosures flown across the stage width, left-right outfill arrays of 12 Kara, plus two center-flown arrays of eight KS28 subs each. Some 24 KS21 subs are located under the stage, and 16 5XT 5” coaxials across the stage lip function as spatial front-fills. A10i Wide enclosures provide delay and seven channels of surround for the balcony seating areas, with additional A10i found in the lighting booth. A combination of LA12X, LA4X, and LA2Xi amplified controllers drive the system, which also uses the new L-ISA Processor II. Additionally, 11 P1 processors enable bridging of AVB, AES/EBU, and analog audio with time-aligned redundant signal distribution.
“Our live production division had some experience using L-ISA, but this was our first time using the technology on a permanent installation,” says Aaron Beck, the business development manager / senior engineer at Solotech, the systems integrator on the project. “What was different this time was that the new installation versions of the A Series speakers were available, replacing the X8 and X12 enclosures for rear surrounds and delays in our previous design. As a result, we were able to reduce the overall count of speakers with the slightly larger A Series, which saved the client some costs. The new L-ISA Processor II is also more powerful and includes the ability to bring an immersive experience even down to the front-fill speakers. It is a fantastic system that provides an exceptionally engaging experience to all listeners in the venue.” —Thomas S. Friedman
Thanks to our friends at FOH. If you’d like to read more great live and installed sound articles, head over to their homepage here.