"With the LEO Family, Meyer Sound has not forgotten about the fundamentals of speaker design. There is a lot of depth and emotion that I'm getting out of the LEO/LYON rig. This allows me to deliver to the audience the essence of what is being expressed on stage."
- Jose Rivera, FOH Engineer, Marc Anthony
Jose Rivera is the long-time FOH engineer for Marc Anthony, the Latin music superstar who has won two Grammys, five Latin Grammys, and holds two Guinness World Records for tropical/salsa album sales. For the past two years, Anthony has been touring North America with a Meyer Sound LEO Family sound reinforcement system supplied by VER Tour Sound.
Rivera shares the challenges and rewards of his work and his past experience as both a studio and live sound mixer. This interview was conducted soon after Marc Anthony's sold-out Valentine's concert before an ecstatic audience of 19,000 at New York's Madison Square Garden.
Q: How did it feel to be back at Madison Square Garden?
Rivera: It felt great. It was a big occasion for Marc, as his last concert in the Garden was September of 2010, and it had been even longer since he'd done his annual Valentine's concert there.
Q: It certainly turned into a big party. Was it hard to keep the mix above the crowd?
Rivera: It was a challenge. By the second song it seemed like all 19,000 fans were singing along and competing with Marc's vocal. I was concerned because when we've had negative reviews in the past they usually said that Marc's voice couldn't be heard clearly. That's one of the reasons why we continue to use a Meyer Sound LEO Family system. It's the best rig for translating Marc's vocal throughout the arena.
Meyer Sound LEO Family loudspeaker system. Photo credit: Carlos Escobar.Q: How was the system configured for the show?
Rivera: For 360-degree coverage, on this one we did eight hangs of eight LEOs and eight LYONs each. And we used MINA for front fills around the stage front.
Q: Was this your first 360-degree show in the Garden?
Rivera: Yes it was, and I thought the room behaved quite well acoustically. It really showed off the capabilities of the LEO system. It was probably the best-sounding 360-degree show we've done to date. I remember when we finished tuning, our system engineer, Jimmy Ibanez, came back from walking the room and said, "The coverage is smooth everywhere. I really enjoy using this rig."
Jimmy deserves a lot of credit for our success. Night after night he makes sure there's consistency in the rig, and Eric "Pyle" Ramey on monitors makes sure the performance from the band is top notch. We are a team, and we depend on each other to make it happen.
Q: Is Marc doing more 360-degree shows lately?
Rivera: Yes he is, and I don't think it's going to go away. Marc loves the fact that he feels closer to the audience, and the promoters love it because it increases the number of seats they can sell. The band is hesitant, because they are in a circle facing outward with their backs to each other. Part of the magic of the band is the way they interact, so in the 360-degree staging it can be a challenge.
Q: Is the quality of the PA particularly important for the 360-degree staging?
Rivera: Yes, the clarity and linearity of LEO and LYON is extremely helpful for the 360-degree arena shows. Knowing that high/high mids are delivered clearly and smoothly throughout the arena—despite the multiple reflective zones—gives me the ability to keep Marc's vocal as the focal point of the mix without sacrificing the energy of the band. I prefer to have the LEO Family for any of the 360-degree arena shows, hands down.
Q: I understand that your preference for a LEO Family PA also is based in part by what is heard on stage.
Rivera: Any sound returning to the stage from behind the arrays is a major factor for Marc and the band. With previous PA systems, I constantly received complaints from the band and Marc that they were just swimming in low mids. To make a long story short, when we started using the LEO Family rig early last year, that issue went away. From that point on I have not heard any complaints from Marc or the band.
Q: Speaking of the band, it's a good-sized ensemble.
Rivera: Not including Marc, we have 15 musicians on stage. There are four background vocalists (the fourth doubles as a keyboardist), and 12 musicians. We have a total of 45 microphones and 10 direct inputs on stage.