Katy Perry’s Vegas show is a visual feast
Katy Perry recently extended her Las Vegas residency through early August. Which means more fans will be able to experience CHEEKsensory overload in the best possible way that looks like a mashup of toy storya Dali painting, a giant color wheel and a mild drug trip.
Certainly, Perry’s gift for adorning performances with over-the-top visuals is top-notch. She is, after all, the one who shot Left Shark to stardom and donned a burger costume for the 2019 Met Gala. CHEEK takes his vision to a new level with a dizzying array of oversized animated props, including a sock, a fleet of rubber duckies, magic mushrooms and a pandemic-era mask that seamlessly blends between the screens and the stage.
But minutes into a recent performance at the 5,000-seat Resorts World Theater, there was no doubt that the visceral totality of the experience wouldn’t be the same without the audio.
A canopy of massive speakers draped over the stage hints at something special. But the causal attendee could never have expected the enveloping audio, delivered by an integrated L-Acoustics L-ISA Immersive Hyperreal Sound Technology system, which not only allows Perry’s voice to resonate crystal clear in the sound mix , but forms a high-resolution sound hemisphere around the entire audience, regardless of seat selection.
“L-ISA allowed us to put the sound above the show. You couldn’t find a seat in the audience that wasn’t affected by the immersive elements,” says Toby Francis, the front of house engineer of Perry.” Katy made it clear she was very impressed and management couldn’t have been happier. If we had to do it again, we couldn’t imagine doing it without L-ISA.
The live industry is back after almost two years of inactivity. And like so many businesses, it has the ability to come back differently. After more than a decade of laser focus on the visual, including lighting and video – LED displays have gone from extra to established – are we finally entering a new era of live audio?
Laurent Vaissié, CEO of L-Acoustics based in Paris and Los Angeles, thinks so.
“We are now seeing a shift in balance because artists and venues know that music is what drives fans to concerts, and there can be no compromise on the audio experience,” he says. “The immersive dynamic is part of this trend and is a powerful catalyst in both consumer and professional applications.”
It won’t be a quick turnaround, though, he says, pinning his bet on 10 years when immersive reaches mainstream status. “It will take time as it changes the workflows used in live concert venues for the past 20 years, from how musical content is created to how systems are deployed and the show is mixed. It’s a big boat to turn. There are a lot of stakeholders, and we’re still at the beginning of the adoption curve, but it’s happening and eventually we think it’s going to become the norm because audiences will want to hear it, and artists will want to create with it, ” he says.
The immersive audio adoption curve
Several factors are converging around the adoption of immersive audio, both by performers who use systems on the road to foster a more intimate connection with audiences, and by venues that integrate systems.
For one, the quality of the home audio experience has improved dramatically, with tech giants Apple
On the other hand, musical artists are more invested than ever in the concert experience they provide, and sound is naturally at the center. From trailblazers like Brian Eno and Thom Yorke, who performed at the Berlin Institute for Sound and Music’s immersive installation Hexadome in 2018, to more recent immersive performances by Bon Iver and Lorde, the assurance of a quality sound system is becoming more and more standard for touring cyclists. Choral soundscapes were a focus at Expo 2020 Dubai, and immersive audio has been incorporated into some of the recent waves of themed pop-ups like Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience.
“Artists have to make creative decisions about how they want their music to be heard. Do they want movement and effects? Do they want the guitar to be more forward or backward? Do they want the sound to follow the performer as she dances on stage? These questions have never been asked before because there was no way to accomplish any of these things,” says Vaissié.
“Now we’ve expanded the realm of possibilities and it’s fantastic to see a musical director’s or an artist’s ‘eureka’ moment when it clicks, and they realize the near-infinite potential.”
Additionally, sites see immersive sound as a competitive advantage.
“Consideration for sound and the quality of the concert experience is a key factor in their ability to attract talent and fans,” Vaissié. “L-ISA, by design, provides a wider soundscape and rich, detailed 3D sound for every seat in the room, dramatically increasing the sweet spot that only a few seats experience in a left/right stereo setup. As we see more and more artists producing spatial audio early on in their music, we expect them to also start looking for venues that can replicate their creative vision.
Today, nearly two dozen sites around the world are permanently equipped with L-ISA technology, including six in the United States. Aside from Resorts World, the system is in Cages in Los Angeles; Artechouse in DC; and Artechouse, Astor Place Theater and Kaufman Concert Hall, all in New York. That’s a small number compared to the hundreds of concert halls equipped with L-Acoustics stereo systems, Vaissié acknowledges, but he foresees big changes to come.
“Events and venues with high production value – artist residencies in Las Vegas and London, theme parks, musicals and places of worship, for example – will continue to drive the first wave before touring artists n adopt a similar configuration. Nightclubs and EDM shouldn’t be far behind once technology allows music producers to translate songs more seamlessly for immersive environments,” he notes.
Festival grounds and large concert halls will likely take longer to adopt, notes Vaissié. So while the L-Acoustics stereo sound system is integrated into the Empire Polo Grounds which is home to Coachella and Stage Coach, it may take some time before the grounds are fully immersive.
“Festivals and live concert halls…need to accommodate a large number of artists; therefore, most artists and engineers should feel comfortable with the setup and potential of the technology before it is implemented,” says Vaissié.