Earth, Wind & Fire (EWF) has been around for four decades, so there’s not a lot the band “needs” in terms of tools to tweak their sound. But the band members say life has been easier, and their performances better, since they started using BEHRINGER POWERPLAY P16 personal monitors.
“They [P16s] have changed the way they play,” says the band’s Front of House Engineer, Terry Jackson. “They play together more because they can hear better.”
Jackson and the band members spoke with BEHRINGER after a concert at the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado, the 17th stop on their 26-date tour supporting their new studio release, Now, Then and Forever. The band is being praised in many circles for sounding fresh and up-to-date on this new offering. And their willingness to try new things is evident with their application of state-of-the-art technologies, such as the P16.
Jackson says using the P16 was a revelation – the band, which features multiple percussionists and horns, creates a lot of stage volume that often made it hard for sound engineers to provide each artist with the personal monitoring they were happy with. It also had been difficult for lighting and special effects techs to recognize cueing events. The deployment of a few P16-Ms instantly, and noticeably improved the quality of EWF’s live performances.
“The stage volume is way down – and that’s very important,” Jackson said. “Everybody needs to hear what’s going on. That was one thing that we didn’t realize until we started using them.”
Drummer John Paris commented that he was initially a little intimidated by yet another piece of gear to learn, but once he saw how simple it was to incorporate the P16, he called it a “brilliant idea” and immediately began using them.
“We started using it in rehearsal and I was ‘yeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaah, here we go!’” he said. “If I need a little bit more rhythm guitar or whatever’s a lead feature that I like to play with… Bam, it’s just one little click away. It’s so cool, it’s the coolest thing. So yeah, I’m in love with it.”
Guitar player Greg Moore says he likes how easy the P16 is to use. “I would say they hit it on the spot… because it’s a common sense mixer, as far as musicians tuning in exactly what they want to.”
For G-Mo (as he is known to his fans), that means not having to ask repeatedly for the monitor to tech tweak his mix. Now he can focus on job #1 – playing his guitar! “It’s just a common-sense piece of gear. It helps you get exactly what you want, as far as your mix.”
Saxophonist, Gary Bias also appreciates how easy the P16 is to use stating, “When you can hear everything clearly, it’s just much easier to perform.”
EWF puts on a powerfully-dynamic show and the band’s songs are often driven by a bouncing backbeat, punctuated by bursts from horns – all of which the artists have to account for. Bias says the P16 helps provide balance, “You’re not overblowing… sometimes you may underplay, if your monitor mix is too loud; you think you’re too loud, it’s just the monitor mix. So, you get the sensitivity on every channel closer to where you need it.”
And he says it has improved band members’ relationship with the sound engineer because “He’s not trying to pull his hair out trying to do fixes at the same time – and we’re able to get what we need quicker, so everybody’s happy.”
That appreciation didn’t come without some reservations. Sound Tech Terrence Chism says he was skeptical when he heard the players were going to try them. “At first I wasn’t for them. But once we implemented them [P16] and the band got used to it, it actually became pretty cool.”
That’s no small feat as, Chism says, with 14 people in a band, it’s nearly impossible to please everyone. But that just what seems to have happened. The P16-M units allow each artist to group and store various inputs and recall channels. So, once the performers have their individual P16s set us the way they like them, they virtually never have to touch them again. And neither does Chism. “I don’t have to worry about those guys – I just gotta focus on my front line. It lightens up the load a little.”
Chism also said the P16s are much more durable and better sounding than he expected. “I like the fact that you can like mute certain channels and not have to mute the whole unit itself… Yeah, it’s a great unit.”
Earth, Wind & Fire will be touring into November – and thanks to the BEHRINGER POWERPLAY P16 Personal Monitoring System at their side, the funky, soul-driven EWF juggernaut has never sounded better!