Within 15 minutes of Birmingham City’s football match ending on Easter Monday, the club’s St Andrews Stadium had been transformed for UB40 to kick off their world tour and announce their new UB45 album release. The production team behind the staging belonged to Martin Audio partner, 22live.

St Andrews Stadium Accompanying the announcement of the Midland club’s rebranding – now to be known as St Andrew’s @ Knighthead Park – the stadium became the setting for the post match entertainment when Paul Timmins and the 22live team deployed 15 groundstacks of Martin Audio WPC and WPS line arrays. ‘I always wanted to do this really unique event with the Martin Audio option,’ Timmins admits. ‘Over the years, I’ve put out many perimeter pitch-side systems, delivered half-time shows, and presented playback gigs at sports events. But there has been nothing quite like this.’

The story begins with UB40 Production Manager Sean Busby-Little approached by the football club about the proposed event. ‘We’ve worked a lot together in the past, including military work in Afghanistan, so I’ve known Sean a long time,’ Timmins says. ‘The fact we are based locally helped, as with the odd timings there was always likely to be a lot of running around.’

On top of which, the date was brought forward 12 days from the scheduled April date. Two days’ rehearsal in Digbeth helped new monitor engineer Harry Le Masurier settle in, while staging options were debated and the fact that 56 channels were required, choice of stage was paramount. He also knew this was no mere playback event as the band were to perform live. After dismissing other options, they decided to construct the staging in the ‘sterile’ area – or empty block of seating – segregating the home and away fans in the Gil Merrick stand.

‘The seats were removed, and the staging company built a two tiered stage because of the raking – set high up to avoid obscuring sightlines. Although big LED screens and lighting were able to be flown from the roof, in view of weight loading, audio was always going to be a pitch side perimeter speaker system.’

From past experience Timmins was aware of safety implications, cabling challenges and the fact the speakers would need to be located behind the LED wall or advertising hoardings without blocking the access. But because of distance variations each stand required its own unique treatment.

‘The Main Stand is quite shallow and didn’t need as much power as the Kop side, so I chose WPS, four stacks high,’ he says. ‘On the Kop stand, I used WPCs, four high because I needed more power. At the Tilton End I used WPC, three high, because I knew I could get away with less, with just two stacks WPS four high required on the Gil Merrick stage end – because coverage was only required on either side of the large centre section.’

St Andrews Stadium Each stack was supported by an SXH218 sub, with Torus T1230 loudspeakers used to fill dead spots in corners between the Gil Merrick and the Kop stands, and further T1230s and an SX118 subwoofer provided reference sound at FOH beneath the stands.

Critical to the success of the optimisation was the setting of tilt angles. 22live knew that, since they would be raking the system back into the stands, rather than have it tip forwards as would be customary, they could dispense with the standard WP grids in favour of straps. After verifying this custom approach with Martin Audio deployed this ingenuous solution, which would also ensure each stack could be deployed swiftly as a single self-contained unit.

Crew boss Glen Little worked with extra local crew, who were experienced in dealing with Martin Audio boxes. ‘The beauty with the weight of the Martin Audio system, was that with four people we could move each stack as a single block, keeping the bottom box strapped to the sub,’ he says.

Unlike a typical average home gate of around 19,000, this double header event drew 25,000 (there was no increase in ticket price)., with the best part of 20,000 returning from the bars within 15 minutes of the end of the match. ‘It was one of those days where everything worked,’ Timmins says. ‘To have the PA rig built and deployed in just 12 minutes from the final whistle was remarkable.’

Production also had to remain nimble, and responsive to last-minute requests. ‘In addition to the live sound we discovered we had to provide a broadcast mixdown from stems to Birmingham FC TV, and at the last minute they also wanted to record it – so we brought in Phil Wright, who is such a safe pair of hands, with his own kit to do the streaming. On top of it all, Birmingham City, after a wretched run of form, won the game, the sun came out for the concert and UB40 played a blinding set. Sean was over the moon and I’m happy for the club because they went out on a limb to do this.’

Other key personnel who contributed to the event’s success included experienced tour manager Yaron Levy, with Russ Tite mixing at front of house. Jason McAvoy was control tech, Rylan Machin and Ryan Bass were the two system techs on duty, while other techs were Chris Wilcock and Jack Davis.

More: https://martin-audio.co

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