Nicki Minaj canceled her fall 2018 North American tour to “re-evaluate elements of production” and devote more time to rehearsals before hitting the road and her overseas fans reaped the benefits during the 22-arena European leg of Nicki WRLD tour in support of Queen, her fourth album.
Cleveland-based Eighth Day Sound supplied the tour’s PA and control package during its stops in Europe and the U.K. from Feb. 21 to March 28, which featured DiGiCo SD5 consoles for both front-of-house and monitors, paired with five SD-racks and an SD-mini rack, all on an Optocore loop.
“We used a traditional splitter for some inputs, but also shared inputs via the loop,” said FOH engineer Kevin Brown.
“Looping the consoles also enabled us to use the con send and receive ports, which was particularly useful when I needed to send audio down to monitors.”
That looping came in handy for talkbacks, FX or playback audio from FOH, says Brown. He also used the new DiGiGrid MGR at his console for recording and virtual playback.
The Nicki WRLD tour marked the first time that Brown had had the opportunity to use DiGiCo’s new 32-bit Stadius mic pre-amp modules.
“Using them on vocals gave me a big, clean sound,” he says, noting Eighth Day Sound also used . them for keyboards. “The guys on keys had a lot of analog synths to replicate the sounds used on the records, and I wanted to make sure we captured what makes us all love analog synths.”
Crew members also shared another 16 channels of 32-bit cards that were located in the SD-Mini Rack mounted with the playback rig.
The Nicki WRLD Experience
Marlon John, who has been Nicki Minaj’s monitor engineer on all of her tours dating back to 2010, was equally thrilled with the new mic pre-amps.
“We originally used them only on the vocal mics, and they sounded phenomenal—especially on Nicki’s mic,” he says.
“I noticed that her vocal was actually much easier to mix with the 32-bit mic pre-amps. Her voice sounded bigger and fuller, and I required less gain to get her vocal to where I needed it to optimally sit in her mix.”
For the Nicki WRLD tour, her backup band was comprised of a drummer, two keyboard players, a DJ, a backing vocalist and playback, which put the input count at around 80 channels for Minaj’s set. Adding Juice WRLD’s inputs, plus other local openers, raised that to over 100 channels.
“Even with that many channels, the DiGiCo SD5 made it easy to navigate the show via snapshots and spill sets,” says Brown. “I could organize my banks and layers based on the inputs needed for a given song and store the location in the snapshot.
“Juice WRLD initially played after the first half on Nicki’s set; she would descend on one lift, Juice would come up another, and it had to be a seamless transition, so I built a snapshot for his engineer within my session. We were both able to have all of the settings we needed at the click of a button,” he says.
With all vocalists and musicians on IEMs, and no wedges for stage monitoring—aside from two d&b J-Sub and four J8 flown as sidefills—John was manning 20 stereo and six mono mixes on his sub-stage SD5.
“With the spill set, I was able to configure and lay out the bank where everything was easy to access. Like FOH, we shared the monitor console with Juice WRLD on this tour, and with the SD5’s great snapshot feature, I was able to use one snapshot for him within my Nicki Minaj show,” he says.