The 2021 BRIT Awards made history on May 11 as 4,000 audience members – made up by primarily of NHS key workers – gathered at London’s O2 Arena for the UK’s first indoor live music concert in 14 months – and Britannia Row was on hand to specify an L-Acoustics rig, Sennheiser in-ear monitors and d&b audiotechnik M4 wedges.
Safety was paramount, as crew chief Steve Donovan explained: “The BRITs were very different this year in terms of crew logistics and, in particular, the Covid-19 testing of every individual onsite. Crew were tested every 72 hours minimum throughout the course of the build and show. It was critical to ensure we didn’t have positive tests prior to show day.”
Social distancing, masks and a strict hygiene system was implemented. “The BRITs team handled testing with such efficiency that results were coming back in just 15 minutes!” said Britannia Row’s Josh Lloyd.
Lloyd was charged with PA design and FOH artist mixes, while Chris Coxhead was handling presenter audio. Lloyd opted for DiGiCo Quantum 7 consoles whilst Coxhead used a pair of mirrored SD12s with multiple layers of redundancy. A DiGiCo SD11 was utilised for the comms talk back system.
A different approach was mapped out for 2021. With no second stage required due to the limited capacity, Lloyd formulated an in the round system to suit the horseshoe stage design. “We wanted to reduce the amount of spill and deliver a more direct sound for the people watching in the room,” he explained. “The fact that the floor space was relatively freed up meant that the performers were always placed behind the PA, and this made mixing somewhat easier.”
The L-Acoustics rig, which was tuned by system engineer Sergiy Zhytnikov, comprised seven main arrays of K2 with KS28s behind the curve, augmented by three arrays of KARA and KS21s. Flown LA Amp racks were incorporated into the design and the floor deployment saw boxes of K2, KARA and X8 speakers in situ.
Lloyd continued: “Because we were positioned at the back of the venue, we mixed off the L-Acoustics X8 speakers rather than the main PA. Size really doesn’t matter when it comes to L-Acoustics products, as the quality and tonality has the same sonic signature, regardless of the size of the box.”
Each of the monitor consoles was connected to two SD Racks, one for band inputs and one for RF mics and playback. In addition, two Waves systems (one per engine) were required. Each console generated 14 mixes for Sennheiser SR2050 in-ear monitors and 10 mixes for 28 d&b audiotechnik M4 wedges, used primarily by the dancers.
As well as its deployment of bespoke capsules, Sennheiser provided technical support, despite the company having no on-site presence. “Manufacturer reps were only a phone call away and provided that layer of support from over the phone,” explains Lloyd, “as they weren’t classed as key workers for the test event.”
Performing live and mixed by Lloyd were Olivia Rodrigo, Dua Lipa, Griff, Headie One, Arlo Parks, The Weeknd and Sir Elton John with Years & Years, while Rag’n’Bone Man’s duet with P!nk was mixed by Rob Sadler.
Sadler commented on the experience: “There was an excitement in the room that you just don’t get from an empty venue or a studio. Hearing a live band through a PA system for the first time in months was such a great feeling. With most of the audience being situated high up in the seats, a lot of effort had been put into making sure that the audio coverage was maximised. Brit Row and the entire audio team definitely delivered.”