Jack White

Heineken Music Hall
Amsterdam
The Netherlands

25th June 2012 (2012-06-25)


RECORDING:

Type: Audience master, recorded 7 metres back from the left-side,
ceiling-mounted PA stack.

Source: Factory-matched pair of Schoeps CCM 41V microphones ->
Marantz PMD661 recorder with Oade Concert Mod
(-18 dB gain/44.1 kHz/24 bit WAV)

Lineage: Audacity 2.0.0
* spliced first track with small patch of missing audio (see below)
* normalised audio to 0 dB
* added fades
* split tracks
* converted to 16 bit
-> FLAC (compression level 8) [libFLAC 1.2.1 20070917]

Taper: Ian Macdonald (ianmacd)


SET LIST:

01. [04:38] Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground┬╣
02. [02:51] Sixteen Saltines
03. [03:34] Missing Pieces
04. [03:42] Love Interruption
05. [06:15] Top Yourself
06. [02:30] Hotel Yorba
07. [04:19] Weep Themselves To Sleep
08. [04:20] Cannon
09. [03:28] Blue Blood Blues
10. [01:49] [band introduction]
11. [02:45] I Guess I Should Go To Sleep
12. [03:17] We're Going To Be Friends
13. [04:11] You Know That I Know
14. [03:11] Hypocritical Kiss
15. [05:33] Ball And Biscuit
16. [03:22] [encore break]
17. [05:05] Steady, As She Goes
18. [02:46] Freedom At 21
19. [07:59] Carolina Drama
20. [04:22] Seven Nation Army
21. [06:10] Goodnight, Irene

Total running time: 86:07

┬╣ Minor patch applied as follows:

00'00" DPA source begins
00'12" Music begins
00'33" 5 second fade-in of Schoeps source begins
00'38" 5 second fade-out of DPA source begins
00'43" Only Schoeps source remains

DPA Source: Matched pair of DPA 4060 mics ->
DPA MMA6000 amplifier (100 Hz low-cut filter) ->
Edirol R-09HR recorder (44.1 kHz/24 bit WAV)



NOTES:

An exciting night. Not only is Jack White playing, but the occasion is also
set to be the subject of my new recording rig's inaugural use in the field.

The chief component of the new rig is a pair of factory-matched Schoeps
CCM 41V microphones. These supercardioids should be able to outclass my trusty
DPA 4060s in many situations, as well as produce recordings with much less
ambient (read: crowd) noise.

In order to conduct a scientific test (and as an insurance policy against
technical or human failure with new and unfamiliar equipment), I went to the
Heineken Music Hall this evening equipped with both rigs.

The Heineken Music Hall is the only venue in Amsterdam with any door security
to speak of. Bags are always searched, so the recording equipment must be
distributed about one's person.

Secreting a single small rig isn't hard, but stashing two, one of which is
considerably larger than the other, presents more of a challenge. As a result,
the sigh of relief I breathe when I make it inside the venue this evening is
slightly deeper than usual.

Set-up takes much longer than usual and I emerge from the lavatories wired up
like a suicide bomber, sporting four microphones, one pre-amp and two
recording decks. If I should faint this evening and fall on the ground with my
jacket open, cables protruding from pockets and LEDs flashing all over the
place, someone will probably be killed in the resulting stampede.

My double- and triple-checking of all the connections and settings sees to it
that I miss all but the finishing strains of the support band, First Aid Kit.
My only objective this evening, however, is bringing home the best recording
that I can of the main act, so I concentrate solely on that goal. I might have
missed a great band in First Aid Kit; I really have no idea.

Standing in my preferred recording location, when the lights go down for the
start of the gig, I can't see the PMD661. I'd anticipated this and knew where
the right button was, or thought I did, but in the darkness I accidentally hit
'Play' instead of 'Record'. It takes me a few seconds to realise my mistake
and a further few to fumble my way around the deck until I've hit the right
sequence of buttons and got the tape rolling, as it were.

Then, a few seconds are lost as I notice that the recording level is set too
high. I'd anticipated this beforehand and configured the PMD661 to run on its
lowest gain setting (-18 dB), but obviously still estimated too high on the
correct position for the level knob. The signal from these microphones is
clearly very hot, but I know that now and will be better prepared at my next
gig.

All of this took place before Jack White had played even his first chord, but
I did miss some of the drum intro to opening song, 'Dead Leaves And The Dirty
Ground'. My insurance policy of running a second rig saved my skin here,
allowing me to patch in the small section of missing audio using a subtle
crossfade that makes the transition, starting 21 seconds into the music,
smooth and not distracting.

Jack White and his all-female backing band played a blistering set, but I
already find my visual memory of the event to be lacking. Not only was I
distracted by thoughts related to the unfamiliar equipment I was using, but
recording with supercardioids vs. omnis demands a bigger compromise between
enjoying the moment and capturing it for posterity. The strong directionality
of the microphones requires one to keep as still as possible and not turn away
from the PA stack. A pity, because all of the action is over there to my
right, on that thing they call a stage.

The set was made up of new songs from Jack's solo debut, 'Blunderbuss', as
well as selected songs from the repertoires of The White Stripes, The
Raconteurs and The Dead Weather. The bluesman even threw in a couple of Hank
Williams and Leadbelly covers for good measure.

I felt the set could have been a couple of songs longer, but what we got was
impassioned and earnest. I certainly have no complaint.

When the lights come up, a woman comes up to me and asks if I need assistance.
As amusing as it is, it's also a real eye-opener.

There you are, doing your best to appear as natural as possible while making a
stealthy recording, unaware of continuously transmitting these (not so) subtle
signals through body language, signals that indicate that you're not entirely
focussed on the same thing as your fellow revellers. I daresay my apparent
fascination with the PA in front of me, rather than the stage on which some
fellow by the name of Jack White was performing, had something to do with it.
In all seriousness, the woman probably thought that I was partially blind.

Back home, I couldn't wait to discover whether I'd managed to capture anything
usable with the new rig. The sound in the venue this evening had been
exceptionally good, with Jack's entire band mixed to perfection. How
representative of that would the recording be?

I hooked up the PMD661 over USB and hastened to copy the recording across to
the PC. This took much longer than expected and I would have to say that USB
performance of the new deck is disappointing. Others have reported similar
results. Still, better to be found lacking in this area than in something
essential to recording. This is a relatively minor issue, which can be
remedied by instead plugging the card into the PC's own reader.

Anyway, when the transfer finally completed and I loaded the file into
Audacity, it turned out to have been well worth waiting for. Either I did
something very right last night or the new microphones are very forgiving of
their inexperienced owner.

In short, this is probably the best recording I have ever produced in this
particular venue. The clarity and separation of the instruments is wonderful
and I really wish I had been ready to use the new equipment in time for the
Stone Roses gig in the same venue a couple of weeks ago.

Where I really notice the difference is in the reduction of the crowd noise
around me, naturally attenuated by the supercardioid's polar pattern, which
has almost no rear pick-up. This has left me with literally no post-production
work to do to reduce the noise of the audience.

Anyway, I could continue to effuse about these microphones, but it's better to
produce a few samples and let you, the listener, be the judge.

If there's enough interest, I will also share the recording I made with the
omnidirectional microphones. It's very much up to my usual standard and some
ears may even prefer the tonal properties of that recording. If nothing else,
it provides good material for a comparison of the two rigs in the area of
stack recording, the important factor of relative microphone placement having
been rendered virtually insignificant here.

The recording has been normalised to bring up the volume, but no equalisation
has taken place, because none was needed. It is crisp and clear from start to
finish and there's really nothing I could do to improve on it. I'm genuinely
over the moon with the results obtained with the new equipment last night.