The Who Go Long

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The Who Rock Super Bowl XLIV at the Most High-Profile Staging Event of the Year

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The Who played Super Bowl XLIV with support from PRG and Shure.

A big part of the Super Bowl telecast is the halftime show, where the biggest names in music perform their hits live on a gigantic yet very temporary stage. “It’s really an incredible production,” says Simon Higgs, monitor engineer for this year’s talent, The Who. “I mean, what’s really amazing is the stage set up, which has to be put in place and assembled in minutes. And, everything working on the first go — sound, lights, and pyro. That’s quite a show in itself.”

Lighting and Crew
“The Who is an iconic rock band known partly for a very distinctive and recognizable visual style,” comments lighting designer Al Gurdon. “There is a pre-existing visual ‘vocabulary’ that can inform and support the design approach.” Production Resource Group (PRG) provided the lighting package and crew for the Halftime show, one of the most intense 12 minutes in live entertainment.

Gurdon, production designer Bruce Rodgers, and screens/graphics producer Lee Lodge collaborated on the NFL Network Production with executive producer Ricky Kirshner and director Hamish Hamilton, translating that vocabulary into an integrated, cutting-edge design. “I wanted to develop the visual impact of the stage floor itself, and extend that out into the audience in a threedimensional way,” Gurdon explains. “I wanted to create a background for camera close-ups and have the audience and the stadium itself be part of the spectacle and the set.”

Gurdon’s lighting programmer for the event was industry veteran Michael “Oz” Owen. Due to the severely limited rehearsal time on-site, Gurdon and Owen spent five days at PRG Essential Lighting’s pre-visualization studio in London, programming the show. Owen also worked with video content programmer Jason Rudolph to ensure that the lighting and the LEDs in the stage floor were completely synchronized. Owen and Rudolph both used PRG’s Virtuoso control consoles.

Night of a Thousand Frequencies
Among the iconic images in rock history are The Who’s lead singer Roger Daltrey swinging his Shure SM58 like a lariat, and guitarist Pete Townshend’s dramatic windmill guitar riffs. “The Who have worked with Shure microphones for over 40 years,” notes Bob Pridden, the band’s audio consultant/producer. “Getting ready for the Super Bowl, one thing I knew I could count on was that Shure wouldn’t let me down on Sunday night.”

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Lighting designer Al Gurdon and lighting programmer Michael “Oz” Owen spent five days programming the show at PRG’s pre-visualization studio in London.

In addition to a full stage of Shure microphones, The Who used four channels of the new PSM 900 personal monitor system in their performance. Lead singer Roger Daltrey, guitarist Simon Townshend, and drummer Zak Starkey, along with monitor engineer Simon Higgs, used the PSM 900. “We had the chance to try PSM 900 prototypes on the Daltrey tour,” notes Higgs. “Roger and I both think they sound incredible, and they have been absolutely f lawless for us. So we were keen to use them for the Super Bowl.”

Longtime Super Bowl audio vendor ATK Audiotek was again present to support the audio mission, with wireless guru James Stoffo as Entertainment RF Engineer and Thomas Pesa to handle monitor system design. “Normally, I would be quite hesitant to use any new product at an event like the Super Bowl,” says Pesa. “But the band really wanted to use them, so we gave it a try in rehearsals and found it to be rock solid. And since we had on-site technical support from Shure and James Stoffo, we went with the band’s request. And I’m happy to say everything went off without a hitch.”

Out of more than 1000 total wireless frequencies being coordinated by the NFL, Stoffo was responsible for around 100 intercom, microphone, and in-ear channels being used by the musical acts and their support. “This was my first time using the PSM 900 at a major event, and it performed f lawlessly,” he notes. “I’d be happy to see this system on any of my shows as the go-to in-ear system.”

Was it Live or…
One burning question often asked after events like the Super Bowl is, “How live was that performance?” The Who’s audio consultant, Bob Pridden, explains. “There is an amazing amount of planning that goes into this. In fact, we were asked to record the medley live in the studio by January 1, so they could plan the timing on the pyro and other production elements. I can assure you that every instrument and microphone on stage was live. But the producers have backing tracks in place from our rehearsals last week, because you can’t risk losing a vocal. So the answer is, The Who played their Super Bowl show 100 percent live.”

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