When the latest in a series of remodels stretching back two decades was completed in 2013 at the newly named AXIS at the Planet Hollywood resort in Las Vegas and it was announced that pop star Britney Spears had been signed to a two-year residency deal, no one – including gurus of the entertainment world, and even most of the crew – really expected it to last more than six months.
Today, with that residency wrapping up an overwhelmingly successful four-year run and other pop residencies having taken hold, the venue boasts the highest number of ticket sales in Las Vegas and, most weeks, the highest in the country. In a world of dizzying changes, one of the few constants has been the presence of DiGiCo consoles at both ends of the snake.
The other constant has been the presence of AXIS production supervision and head of audio Eric Fish. “When I first came in, this place was raw concrete,” he recalls. “It was not a facelift, it was a full remodel. Everything was redone from the speaker rig to the consoles to everything in the walls and a ton of acoustic treatment.”
The room has a storied history. It opened on the bicentennial weekend, 2 July, 1976 as the Aladdin Theatre for the Performing Arts with a run of shows by Neil Diamond. In 2004, it was the scene of Linda Ronstadt’s legendary rant in support of filmmaker Michael Moore in front of a largely conservative audience, which effectively ended her viability as a performer in Vegas. When the old Aladdin hotel was imploded in the late ’90s, the theatre remained, going through a series of facelifts, reboots and name changes before the 2013 remodel and announcement of Britney: Piece of Me.
In the past four years, the AXIS has become Pop Central and a model for the idea of residencies by artists best known for international tours. Today, the calendar has rounded out to include residencies by J-Lo, Backstreet Boys, Lionel Richie and Pitbull.
“We have the highest number of paid ticket sales in the country and we’re number three in the world, so we stay busy,” Fish reports. “In addition to four rotating residencies, we do everything from live events for TV broadcast to a comedian in front of a curtain with Britney or J-Lo’s set right behind it.”
Working alongside Fish on the Britney show is system engineer Julio Valdez, from Vegas-based provider 3G, who reports that the reliability of the DiGiCo platform makes his job easier. “The beauty of the whole platform is that you can move from one DiGiCo surface to another one with very little adjustment.”
The room is regularly driven by some of the best engineers in live audio. Britney is mixed by Rob ‘Cubby’ Colby, Backstreet Boys by Sound Image’s James McCullaugh, J-Lo by John Clark and Lionel Richie by Gordon Mack. All shows use the house SD5 at monitors and an SD10 at FOH except Britney. “Cubby is more comfortable on the SD5 so we bring one in from 3G for those shows.”