Photo: Monitor engineer Nikoma “Niko” Bell with Sound Image’s DiGiCo SD7 console on Culture Club’s North American Tribes tour

Following the abrupt cancellation of Culture Club’s 2014 US/UK tour due to front man Boy George’s throat polyp diagnosis, 2015 finally saw the popular ’80s group return to the road on its North American Tribes trek in support of the band’s first album of new material in 15 years.

Escondido, California-based Sound Image provided the audio equipment complement for the tour, which included a DiGiCo SD7 console at monitor position, much to the delight of the desk’s operator, Nikoma “Niko” Bell.

“Prior to this tour, I had only used the SD7 on a support tour with Tinie Tempah at front-of-house,” the engineer recalls. “We were supporting Usher and I fell in love with it. When we were selecting gear for this tour, I chose it because I had quite a lot going on onstage with a 14-piece band mostly on in-ears but with some wedges, sidefills and subs in use as well.”

In addition to the original four-man group of Boy George along with guitarist/keyboardist Roy Hay, bassist Mikey Craig and drummer Jon Moss, the Tribes tour featured an extra guitarist, keyboardist, three brass players, two percussionists and three backup vocalists, all of which occupied 36 outputs on the SD7.

“The SD7 was ideal because I needed the flexibility of being able to get to any of the 30-odd mixes in a heartbeat,” Bell adds. “I had duplicate channels for a lot of things, so I didn’t want to get mixed up with what channel I was sending where. For instance, I had four channels for George’s vocal, plus two for each of the background vocalists so that I could process them all differently for various things. I utilized the different banks so that I didn’t get mixed up. I also used the three talkback busses so I could isolate the band, techs and George, which was very helpful.

“Another reason why I chose the SD7 was that I had no stage tech on this tour, so I needed something robust enough that wasn’t going to die half-way through the run, and the SD7’s dual engines gave me that sense of security.”

Although Bell admits that there is a bit of a learning curve to get up and running on DiGiCo’s flagship desk, he adds that “it is a grown-up console, and if you want the best results, you need something that can give you that,” he says. “It is kind of like saying you can drive 80 miles an hour in a cheap Ford Fiesta in full fear of your life, or relax a bit more in a Mercedes knowing you have the support, reliability and quality should you need to depend on it. It may be a bit more complicated along with its flexibility, but you will achieve better results with the Mercedes. Very similarly, I chose the DiGiCo for its support, reliability and quality.”