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Thomas Dolby Solo Tour: a must-see


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I just got back from seeing Thomas Dolby at the House of Blues in Anaheim. HIt's the opening night of his solo tour, and he's redoing his old songs with both vintage and soft synths, even using some vintage oscillators (i.e. looks like test equipment) for a few effects.

 

His loops are created on-the-spot (rather than prerecorded loops or patterns), and if you know the subtle complexities of his studio work, you will be amazed at how he works both the right- and left-side of his brain to tame the beast that is his keyboard rig. He could have just dumped it to an mp3, but the live looping gives the performance a real humanity.

 

It's a technological high-wire act - the piano patch changes had accidentally detuned a half-step on Budapest By Blimp, and he had to restart - - but it was great fun. Check out his blog on

http://version.thomasdolby.com/index_frameset.html to find out more.

 

Anybody else see the show?

Nord Stage 88, Roland XP80, Barbetta Amps, and a bunch of stuff gathering dust in the corner.
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Seeing him this weekend in San Francisco....very much looking forward to it. Last time I saw him was with the Lost Toy People at a tiny place in Santa Barbara, in what I believe was a rehearsal for the main tour.

Dan Phillips

Manager of Product Development, Korg R&D

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Just to mention, I think that most of the shows are going to open with an artist called Carey Ott ...He seems to be a singer/songwriter/guitarist with a full band behind him (I'm not sure if they're coming with him). I listened to some of his stuff and can understand why Dolby likes him...his stuff had a "Flat Earth" or "Screen Kiss" vibe.
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Here's a link to his gear list (with photos), including some pretty unusual stuff:

 

http://blog.thomasdolby.com/?cat=5

 

Here's a few excerpted comments, just to whet your appetite:

 

I also have various pieces of vintage field equipment, including 3 oscilloscopes and 3 signal generators (one below, a Simpson) that have been gutted and retrofitted for MIDI so that I can assign any knob or switch to any parameter in any softsynth.

 

"...Most of the songs have some number of parts pre-sequenced, while I play a lot of the parts live over the top, still sending MIDI through Logic. Some of them I start off in cycle record mode, so that I can play in each part until I have the groove built up, creating a kind of extended intro; then I pop it out of cycle mode using a button on one of my keyboards, and continue into the song. This method has two things going for it: (a) the audience knows theyre seeing something get built in real-time, Im not just hitting play on a tape machine (b) they hear each part in isolation, so they recognize it when it comes back in later in the song.

 

But its risky because it can all go horribly wrong. The first few times I attempted this I was terrified Id trip up and it would all come to a grinding halt. A couple of nights at the beginning of Hyperactive, thats exactly what happened, much to my embarassment. And you know what? Afterwards several people said they thought I made it stop on purpose, because it was funny. Well, that loosened me up a lot, and since then I just adopt an attitude of que sera, sera. Were all grownups. If I screw up and have to restart, you can wait a few seconds, then youll get to hear the intro again!

 

On Airhead I go a stage further. I recently bought a plug-in called Stylus RMX. Its basically a drum machine that plays REX loops. But it plays them in time with the host sequencer, like Ableton or Acid, except that when you trigger multiple loops with multiple keys on your keyboard or pads, it will wait until the next beat or 16th to trigger them. This means that you can load up a bunch of loops, and hold down any combination of keys to get different combinations. You dont have to be very accurate, just hit the key a fraction ahead of the beat. So in Airhead I just lay down a funky bass and guitar riff in cycle/record mode, then start jamming with loops over the top. The song can end up any length, I can sing the vocal or not, and add in, say, a piano solo over any groove texture that takes my fancy.

 

This technique would not be appropriate for many of my songs that have complicated chord sequences, peculiar structures and phrases with unusual numbers of measures in. Most of my songs are not chunk-based, unlike a lot of modern dance/electronica music where everything is in neat 4s and 8s. Thats the main reason I work in Logic, which is a linear sequencer (left to right!) versus something like Ableton Live which is great for DJs, remixers and freestylers."

 

"...I have never calculated the cost of all this gear. If someone is feeling industrious, please add it up and post it here. Ill tell you what though, its a lot of kit for the money when you consider my first Fairlight cost $120,000 in 1982 and did a hell of a lot less."

Nord Stage 88, Roland XP80, Barbetta Amps, and a bunch of stuff gathering dust in the corner.
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I love his blog and is straightforwardness.

 

 

As someone who is starting to incorporate computer use into a live rig, i really liked reading about how he does it..give me ideas.

 

 

I really liked this:

 

If I screw up and have to restart, you can wait a few seconds, then youll get to hear the intro again!

David

Gig Rig:Depends on the day :thu:

 

 

 

 

 

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While he doesn't have any vintage gear, I have to say that he picked some of the very best new gear (e.g, Receptor, Stylus RMX, etc.) It sounds like his setup will allow him to recreate his old songs very well--this could be the ultimate one-man show.

 

I just picked up tickets for the Saturday, 5/6 concert in Annapolis, MD. It's hard for me to get out often because of family obligations but I decided I just couldn't pass up this one.

 

If anyone here will be at that show, let me know. I'd love to meet any fellow KC'ers there!

 

Ben

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Great show last night. The people yelling out "Airwaves!" "Budapest!" are truly ignorant. It's not he's Frank Sinatra and can just turn back to the band and say, "Fly with me." Obviously a bit of pre-planning goes into the production. He has someone in the back to load his next tune (you can see the menus moving in-between songs), but essentially does most of it himself. He even built up a few arrangements on-stage. At one point he said, "At this point I'd like to play some new material for you... but I'm too chicken shit. Come to Annapolis, maybe I'll have it together by then." Also, "I have a whole box of T-shirts up here for when the whole system comes crashing down, but fortunately I haven't needed it yet."

 

I was excited to hear "Budapest by Blimp," but it didn't really fit into the way he's doing this tour. I think that song lacked the energy of having a band up there. The new arrangements were fun  they're all new arrangements if you know everything note for note the way some of us do. That solid-toned Nord bass sound doesn't really do it for me on some of his stuff, but I guess it doesn't drift out of tune either.

 

The video support was also cool. He has some cinematic songs like "One of our Submarines" that lend themselves to the video, and they blend that with live feeds coming from cameras onstage and his "monkey cam."

 

The show is a lot of fun, I recommend it.

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