Andrea Bocelli: live in Miami!

Some weeks ago, we anticipated that ZioGiorgio.com would have given you a great surprise soon. So here we are, now it’s showdown time.
The Italian company Outline invited us in the USA to attend an exclusive concert by Andrea Bocelli at the BB&T Arena in Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Florida. Just us, just ZioGiorgio.com, ready to tell you every details of the trip, hoping to give our readers even a small part of the emotions that this event gave us. And as the “icing on cake”, the Maestro Andrea Bocelli wanted to answer some of our questions, in spite of the pressing appointmenets with TV troupes from all over the world!
But let’s put aside self-congratulations, which do not belong to our DNA, to give voice to the real stars of this important event, the first of the long 2013 Tour.

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Risking a small sin of rethoric, we must say that the protagonists were all ture Italians, “healthy carriers” of the so much decanted – and overused – “Made in Italy” trademark. Every now and then a tangible proof of this fact can be good…
First of all, a great Artist, very appreciated in America, Andrea Bocelli, an Italian audio team led by Andrea Taglia (with Aldo Visentin at the lighting desk; we will listen to them in the next articles) and, last but not the least, the third leading actor, without which the public wouldn’t have been able to appreciate and listen to the show. We are talking about a PA system that comes from a “small” company of Flero, in the province of Brescia, Italy, named Outline, that with its jewel GTO, made its voice, and Bocelli’s one, heard loud and clear in the country of Uncle Sam.
Let’s get into tech details, the ones that most interest us.

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Let’s keep in mind one thing: an international mega star like Bocelli and his production team cannot afford any mistakes, be a single wrong note or even a breath. With this in mind, it becomes clear that the voice of Andrea Bocelli cannot be amplified by a system which is not fit for the task.
Impossible, it would be like being at the Oscar Ceremony and sending on the red carpet Monica Bellucci with a crumpled dress, or showing the latest Ferrari at the Geneve Car Tradeshow with a scratch on its bumper… Can you imagine that? No, you can’t; it’s not allowed.
So, in order for the show to reach such levels of quality, every “ring of the chain” must be at its top, artistically, technically and technologically. As regards the PA system, among the many possibile choices offered by an extremely crowdeed market, Bocelli and his staff chose Outline GTO, rented for the occasion by the rent giant PRG (Production Resource Group).
What about the result? I understand that what I’m going to say may sound strange, but the PA system “was there, damn it, but it seemed that it wasn’t there!”.
The idea that I want to convey is that amplifying a 50 element orchestra and being able to create a clear and natural sound, just as in acoustic context, in such an immense location as the BB&T Arena is the best possible result. What amazed me was the veracity of sound propagation, that respected in every detail the position of the instruments on stage and matched the sounds being heard with what our sight was suggesting to our brains.
A solid technical knowledge is not sufficient – and Andrea Taglia, Francesco La Camera and Davide Lombardi have real solid ones – but a certain musical culture is also needed, to obtain such a balance and pleasantess.
In such a situation, a state-of-the-art sound system does what it is asked to do and if the “driver” is experienced the results are at the top.
GTO is able to express an incredible audio quality in terms of loudness, clarity and headroom. It is always full, powerful, rich in armonics, never sounding blurred in the distance. I remember my astonishment in listening to the starting piano riff of “New York New York”, clear and focused up to the last lateral chair in the last ring of the wonderful but “huge” (for us Italians) BB&T Arena.

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[Left to Right: Aldo Visentin, Francesco La Camera, Andrea Taglia, Paolo Marchetti, Davide Lombardi.]

However, we should give every actor his due, as besides GTO the system included other Outline products the Mantas as side-fills, and some Butterfly units as delays. Also the two small clusters of DVS12 were branded Outline; they were placed at mid-height between the front-fills and the GTO clusters, but with the incredible idea of lowering the sound front of the orchestra, whose sound seemed to come more from the stage than from the two main arrays. This fact is obvious in an acoustic concert, but not so easy to obtain with a PA.
It was only when Andrea Taglia, at the FOH desk, during the soundcheck muted for some seconds the main PA that I understood clearly the incredible level of the audio project and the quality of the sound system.
As the Americans would say: “No questions”. And to be honest even the American themselves had to recognize the superior quality of the sound. Congratulations, their culture is very different from ours in this topic…
From the interviews, we learn that the small weight and the user-friendliness of the rigging system were extremely important and proved to be an advantage in terms or time and money.
But let’s start with the interviews, starting from the star of the concert, Andrea Bocelli who, very kindly, answered all our questions, sometimes a bit technical, proving an rather deep knowledge of the topics…

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ZioGiorgio.com: such an Artist as Andrea Bocelli, and consequently his production staff, cannot afford any mistakes. When Andrea Bocelli comes into technical aspects, or delegates his decisions to trusted people, what does he ask for?

Andrea Bocelli: I have always been interested in what relates to the capture, elaboration and diffusion of sound during live performances and in all that pertains to technology applied to music since my early youth.
Nevertheless, I have learnt to delegate: on stage, I concentrate on managing my vocal instrument, on keeping emotions at bay and on communicating joy and serenity, because I respect the people who decided to spend some of their precious time to listen to me, often paying for it.
I believe in the saying : “Never change a winning team”. Almost all my collaborators has been working with me on recordings and live shows for years. They are technicians with whom I have shared my professional growth, during an almost twenty-year career and so many musical adventures. They know perfectly well my needs, they feel their responsibilities and are very “involved” as human beings. I strongly believe in family and its values, and I think that even at work (especially in artistic environments) we can create a team which is governed by the same ideals of mutual respect, trust, sharing.

ZioGiorgio.com: we are in Miami, USA, in a Country whose inhabitants probably invented show business… Risking to be rethoric, we must stress that we have an Italian artisti of the highest level, an experienced staff of Italian technicians and, with Outline GTO, a completely Italian PA system. Was there a specific research and pathway to get to this situation?

Andrea Bocelli: the interaction with a tech squad whose leaders are Italian makes life easier, not only as regards language, but also taking into account culture, considering the operistic spcificity of my show.
Actually, I think that my collaborators work to have the best technical tools and give me the best service: if an Italian PA system was bought by an American company who suggested it, and then my technicians decided to work with it, then it must be definitely a good product!
Don’t forget that Italy is an important exporter of high quality products, from sports car to the fashion sector. We are probably getting to the same levels in audio too.

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ZioGiorgio.com: I have been told that Andrea has a private recording studio where he works hard. What is Andrea Bocelli’s relationship with technology, in particular music related technology?

Andrea Bocelli: technology in general in essential in my daily life. I am thinking, for example, of the Braille bar: thanks to the latest models, I am always connected, I can read the mail, surf and search the Net for information and I can read (or, through vocal synthesis, listen to) the books I love. Every Braille bar can store about sixthousand books.
Besides, I always have my “Mac” with me, it contains a bit of my life. I use it as a database and for fun, as a musical archive to enjoy the wonderful interpretations of my great colleagues of the past, and to listen to my performances, to improve myself learning from mistakes.
To be honest, I think that if I had had the opportunity to use such supports in my youth, my school career and me education “tout court” would have been easier and possibly wider.

bocelli_2As regards technology applied to music, as I said, it has been accompanying me for my whole life: when I was twenty, I had already set up a home studio. I followed the evolution of the sector, from the birth of the MIDI protocol and the first sequencers, to the fascinating universe of instrument miking.
I would like to spend a word on my latest album, “Passione”: here we used technology to create a real “coup de théâtre”, bringing back to life one of the mythical voices of the past, Edith Piaf: making a duet with her in La Vie en Rose was a dream coming true…

It is just as the great little French singer was again with us for a moment, fifty years after his departure. This was David Foster’s idea, he is a magician in making whatever he does become beautiful, in finding the right arrangements for every song in the album. To this regard, I would like to stress how music technology based on computers, digital boards, reverb types and so on, has reached a high qualitative standard all over the world, which I think is positive, because it does justice to creativity: the best result is not reached by those who have the most sophisticated technology, but by those who know how to use it at its best and who have better ideas.

ZioGiorgio.com: I have been observing a strange phenomenon during concerts for some years now. I have been seeing more and more young people who spend most of the time capturing the show with their mobile phones, filtering an event that they could really live while it is taking place. I would like to know your opinion on a phenomenon that seems caused by the inability to “live the moment”…

Andrea Bocelli: well, your questions already includes its answer, which is the most reasonable inference. That’s true, one of the characteristics of contemporary times , one of its limits, is not being able to live the moment, forgetting a teaching that during centuries and millenias has characterised both Western and Eastern philosophies.
Nevertheless, I see in this gesture, that is filming with a mobile phone a particularly emotional event, the will – maybe naive but genuine and not negative per se – to “stop the moment”, making it immortal and repeatable.

ZioGiorgio.com: a technical question now. What does Andrea wants to hear on stage, as regards monitoring levels of his voice, the orchestra…?

Andrea Bocelli: I need a mix of about 40% of voice in the central monitor and 60% of reverb in the lateral monitors. This is what I usually need, because I can hear the orchestra acoustically, as they are just behind me. If we meet particular acoustic conditions, such as the orchestra being too far from me, or when we have to used pre-recorded materials, I also get some of these signals in my monitors.

ZioGiorgio.com: without being controversial, I would like to highlight the fact that in Italy such a professional as Andrea Taglia – I take him as a representative of the “entertainment technicians” category  – is not represented by any trade unions. Is this the usual cultural problem of Italy or what else?

Andrea Bocelli: I think it may be a problem of “youth” of such a profession because, on the contrary, in other Countries this kind of job has been recognised and coded for some time now. To tell the truth, in the theatre and opera sectors, there are trade union categories and specific contract references, but this does not happen in live music shows… Realistically, this is still a not so well organised sector. Let’s not forget that Italy is the Country of localism and divisions more than of unions, so a particular sector such as this one clearly has difficulties in creating an organization aimed at protecting its own rights and duties.

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ZioGiorgio.com: speaking of “culture”, it comes to my mind that it is likely that an 8 years old child may ask his or her mother to play footbal, to go swimming or maybe to play the guitar. ButIf nobody lets him or her know classical music, opera or jazz, passion for these forms of music will never grow in him or her. According to Andrea Bocelli, what is lacking in our Country in order to promote a worthy musical culture, starting from young children?

Andrea Bocelli: this is an unfortunately true commonplace: in Italy, opera and classical music in general are not sufficiently valueda. We are xenophilous people, we do not study and appreciated our cultural roots, what we have inherited from our compatriots – often works of an exorbitant level – during the ceturies. If America had given birth to Verdi, Puccini, Rossini, the Americans would have made an extraordinary business out of such events. Our peninsula owns invaluable treasures, but often it doesn’t deserves them.
Nevertheless I am an incurable optimist, even to this regard… The situation of the musical theatre is not good, that is true, but opera always succeeds in shining on its own, and in spite of the situation the theatres are always full.
How can we help the new generations appreciate classica and lirical music? We need to teach music and its language at school (and teach beauty in general), we need to take the kids back to the theatre. Opera was born from a ingenious idea in my own land, in Tuscany: the idea to create a show where many forms of art are brought together. An opera is the paradies of music, as I like saying, it is impossible to be untouched by it. But operas live in theatres, just like symphonic and classical concerts… They don’t work on TV… You must go the theatre!

Aldo “Hucchio” Chiappini
ZioGiorgio Network

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