The Beatles LOVE at the Mirage

Like several notable theme parks across California, you may be surprised to find a surprising amount of high-end productions in Las Vegas. No doubt, when you factor in the city’s lavish – and at times, opulent – nature, it’s not completely unprecedented to see the city host some of the most complex and sophisticated shows in the world.

Let’s take a look at a Las Vegas show that’s been playing for over ten years: Love at the Mirage by Cirque du Soleil. A nonlinear and whimsical show based on the extensive Beatles catalog, Love employs complex acrobatics and choreography against a backdrop of moving sets, lights and hundreds of channels of audio.

First off, before you begin, I encourage you to read this profile of Love from Lighting & Sound. It’s an exhaustive account of the production, including a look at the show’s audio and lighting systems. I won’t bother trying to rehash that story here. Instead, I’ll try to be brief and share some general impressions from the show in its most current form.

Audio

By far, the defining characteristic of the show is its sound. Since the Beatles haven’t been a unit for decades, the show relies on a special compilation of tracks by Sir George Martin and Giles Martin using master tapes from the Beatles catalog. The theater employs the use of hundreds – yes, hundreds – of boxes from Meyer Sound.

Hundreds of Meyer Sound M1Ds, M2Ds, CQs, PSW-2s, USWs and 900-LFCs hang from the ceiling

The show is in the round, anchored by several rings of M1Ds with each array deploying five or six boxes. To augment the main M1D arrays, PSW-2s and 900-LFCs (a relatively new addition) provide low frequency support, along with several Danley Sound Labs TH-1151s. For balcony delays, Meyer Sound CQ-1s and CQ-2s are used.

Rounding out the main Meyer arrays are M1Ds, M2Ds and USW-1Ps providing additional effects. If you look closely, you’ll also spot some older JBL Concert Series speakers which are used with Variable Room Acoustics System, now known as Constellation from Meyer. Finally, each seat carries two embedded speakers behind your ears, with another located in the seat in front of you.

Playback for this monstrous system is handled by Matrix3. Per a technician I spoke to at the show’s technical tour, a move to D-Mitri would require Giles Martin to remaster the show – a daunting task considering the sheer scope of Love. Thus, Matrix3 remains.

Now, how does it sound?

At first glance, the system is simply massive, complex, and perhaps even a little unwieldy. However, actually listening to the system produces an uncanny effect – one that I would describe as a layered soundscape. It’s not a simple left, right or center configuration, nor can it be likened to a movie-theater experience. Instead, the show throws layers of music, tracks and effects coming at you concurrently to interesting effect.

Lighting

As for lighting, Love deploys over a hundred Vari-Lite fixtures, ranging from VL3500Qs, VL3000Qs and VL2500s. If you look closely, you’ll also see several Martin Atomic strobes embedded as well. Like audio, lighting plays an overabundant role throughout the show, with over a hundred of lighting positions utilized across the 90-minute production.

All in all, Love is a mighty impressive show, and easily one of my favorite Vegas productions. However, what’s particularly interesting to me is what may lie ahead. After I inquired about the relatively new 900-LFCs, one of the show’s technicians noted that they had a demo utilizing boxes from Meyer Sound’s LEO family a few months back. According to him, the new LEO family almost seemed like a breath of fresh air compared to their existing M series arrays. This isn’t surprising, considering the M family was Meyer’s first attempt at a touring line array system. While they do still sound good, the LEO family is already two generations ahead with considerable performance improvements. Per his words, the PSW-2s don’t even compete in the same ballgame as the 900-LFCs.

The problem? Sight lines. With projectors, lights and show pieces taking valuable real estate above, it’s essential that the sound doesn’t intrude. Of course, I’m not going to overlook the monumental task of remixing the show for new or revised speaker positions. I don’t envy that individual at all.

But I do think there is value in exploring what the show could sound like with a newer, more modern system. Is there value in having a complex array of speakers, or would the show be better served by fewer, but perhaps more powerful and linear arrays? While I don’t think the UPQ is a considerable upgrade over the CQ, the newer generation of line arrays from almost every manufacturer marks a significant improvement over what was on the market in the early 2000s.

Anyway, just food for thought for an already excellent show.

If you’d like to get a behind-the-scenes look at Love, be sure to check out the show’s Magical Technical Tour. Tour times vary depending on the season, so be sure to check ahead.

Fun fact: the show’s had zero box failures. That’s pretty amazing considering how many amplifiers are hanging up there.