Metallica, a creative powerhouse lauded as one of rock’s preeminent bands, continues to break new ground with the dynamic, in-the-round production for the global, two-year M72 World Tour that recently kicked off in Europe.
Throughout the tour, the band’s sound is immersing the entire audience — at full bandwidth across a broad stereo landscape — through a Meyer Sound system comprising a record 288 PANTHER™ large-format linear line array loudspeakers.
For decades Metallica concerts have been known for technical and artistic innovation, and once again the band and long-time creative director Dan Braun have moved beyond the old paradigms. Two concerts will be presented at every tour stop, with completely separate music sets for each show. The celebrated “snake pit” has been relocated inside a ring- shaped stage, requiring four drum kits for Lars Ulrich to rise up as needed. Also, the sonic field has been expanded to ensure a wide stereo spread of guitars and drums at every seat and standing point in the stadium.
I’m always concerned about making all these new ideas work at scale, but we have great partners to rely on, not the least of which is Meyer Sound. So, I never let things like practicality and logistics inhibit the creative process, admits Braun
Braun took his idea for the tour sound directly to company founders John and Helen Meyer, who captured his vision and assigned Director of System Optimization Bob McCarthy to design audio for the tour.
“I told Bob that my goal was to have full stereo sound at every point with no overlap, from the center pit to the nosebleed seats”, Braun continues. “We wanted everybody to hear the band as if with nearfield monitors, and I think we’ve come closer to that than ever before in a concert setting”.
Braun also credits the new PANTHER line array loudspeakers as a key component in realizing the ambitious concept. “The clarity of the system is breathtaking, and that combined with Bob McCarthy’s brilliant design is giving us a show that sounds spectacular”.
Crafting the Metallica sound from FOH is Greg Price, a veteran known for his long stints not only with hard rock legends Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne but also for pop acts including Miley Cyrus.
We’re only a few shows into the tour and so far I’m very impressed. And I would have to say that I don’t think there is any other PA manufacturer in the world that could take on what we are trying to do on this tour, says Price.
As for the massive PANTHER arrays, Price describes them as “a PA system that acts like a reference monitor, like an Amie or a Bluehorn in the studio. I’m hearing things in my mixing that I always knew were there but lacked definition. Now they are right in my face, and I can work with them”.
The gargantuan M72 World Tour system is deployed in three concentric rings. The outer ring arrays are suspended from eight towers, with two PANTHER arrays on each tower: 16 cabinets per array on the four long- side towers and 13 cabinets on the four short-side towers. Each tower also carries dual hangs of six-each 1100-LFC™ low-frequency control elements and one set of six VLFC™ very low-frequency control elements.
The inner system, suspended from a web over the stage, has eight hangs of seven-each PANTHER line array loudspeakers, providing stereo coverage out to 42 meters from center. The “doughnut hole” in the stage center is covered by eight inward-firing UPQ-D2™ narrow coverage loudspeakers, while the outer side of the ring employs 20 ULTRA-X40™ compact loudspeakers as front fill. Ground sub-bass is powered by eight sets of 2x 1100-LFC elements around the stage.
The entire system is connected, controlled, and monitored over three MILAN AVB networks. One network connects Milan directly to all 288 PANTHER loudspeakers via 10 Galileo® GALAXY 408 and two Galileo® GALAXY 816 Network Platforms using a fiber network incorporating 26 Luminex Gigacore switches. The other two networks are primary and secondary networks for signal distribution and monitoring of the remaining analog Meyer Sound loudspeakers as well as providing redundant analog inputs to the PANTHER loudspeakers. The three networks comprise 52 Luminex switches and 35 GALAXY Network Platforms. Meyer Sound’s new Nebra™ software platform manages all network configuration, connection, and real-time system monitoring.
As yet another innovation, the M72 World Tour employs Meyer Sound’s Spacemap® Go spatial sound design and mixing tool to a limited extent, but with stunning effect. As an intro to “One,” the rumble and roar of a four-engine vintage bomber circles the stadium with convincing reality.
We had some people outside wondering if there was a real plane flying around in the stadium. But Metallica is a straight-ahead band and not into trickery. The focus with spatial audio for Metallica is to enhance show content, remaining true to the band’s performance, says Greg Price.
The M72 World Tour is supported by Clair Global, and Price gives a tip of the hat to the company’s extraordinary logistical resources and depth of expertise. “We salute Clair Global for their tremendous effort in building the M72 audio systems”, he says.