Friday, January 18, 2008

Exclusive Backstage EJ Video Out Now

Clive Franks is Elton John's longtime sound engineer, and to say that he's a dedicated member of the team is quite an understatement. Consider the conditions he was forced to work in the day of Elton's solo concert in New Plymouth, New Zealand, on Dec. 6, 2007.

After rain pelted the outdoor amphitheater all day, a chilly night took over as Elton pulled out all the hits. But Franks soldiered all day long, making sure the Captain sounded Fantastic.

The entire day has been documented in stirring fashion in this 15-minute film made by Clive's son, Aaron Franks, who gave Elton fans a behind-the-scenes look at the makings of a very special day and night.

We join Clive and the sound crew early in the day during soundcheck. The rain is pounding and Clive has blue tarps covering the soundboard and equipment as he works out the kinks. We see what it's like to work and work to get something right.

Helping him along the way is systems engineer Matt Herr. The two talk shop while zeroing in on any problems they might have. On this particular day, Clive tells us that he's "having problems with our 480 reverb, which is the reverb I use on Elton's voice."

Clive adds that they're using a "B system" on the road and that he "noticed at the last gig that the reverb didn't sound as full as it should be." The hope is that he can "reload the program (and) hopefully the bottom end will come back into it to give it the warmth and the depth."

"Being a solo show, everything has to be so accurate," Clive explains, "because there's nothing to mask anything else. You want everything to be audible in its full dynamic range."

It's safe to say Clive, Matt and the rest of the team are full and dynamic themselves, and this is proven by Clive's anecdote about Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page's recent commentary about the sound problems in the 02 Arena outside London, where Zeppelin recently reunited for a show.

As Clive explains, Page was at Elton's recent Red Piano show at that very same arena and learned a few things.

"Apparently Jimmy was in the audience and thought the sound was pretty good, so he said, 'I think I'm going to have to speak to Elton's sound engineer to find out how to get a good sound in the 02 arena,'" Clive says, before adding, "When I heard that, obviously I was quite chuffed."

Our technical tour ends on the stage, where Clive shows us Elton's four monitors and informs us of a fact that Elton fans might not know.

"For any technical people out there, the actual volume that is hitting his head -- we measured it once and we all freaked out -- is 118 decibels, which is louder than a jet engine," Clive says. "So we have a lot of fun trying to keep the separation and the sound clean, but we do."

The bundled-up, rain-gear-wearing fans on this soggy sellout of a night in New Zealand wouldn't argue with that.

Aaron takes us right to showtime, where Elton's prompt arrival is greeted by a huge rainbow, and after greeting the Kiwis with the quip, "Yup, I always bring the summer with me. It's great," the Rocket Man launches right into a spectacular solo set that includes hits such as "Daniel," "Honky Cat," "Blue Eyes" and "Tiny Dancer."

Elton also was honored by the local Ngati Te Whiti Maori tribe with the gift of a Maori feather cloak normally reserved for royalty or heads of state. Elton wore it during his encores and later summed up a special evening -- and film presentation -- with a nod to the crowd.


No comments: