Behind the big production and choreography of Madonna’s 2015-16 Rebel Heart tour are some state-of-the-art synth rigs. Musical director Kevin Antunes, whom we’ve also talked to about his work with Justin Timberlake and on Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson: One tribute, invited us onstage for a rare look at the hardware-meets-software stage rigs assembled for himself and co-keyboardist Ric’key Pageot.
On Antunes’ stage riser, a huge amount of the sounds come from a mirrored dual-laptop Native Instruments Komplete setup that includes Maschine pad controllers and Komplete Kontrol MIDI keyboards. The MacBook Pros also runMOTU Digital Performer. His audio interface of choice is the RME MADIface XT because he needs to send lots of channels to and from both the front-of-house and monitor mixers. A venerable Mackie Big Knob serves as Antunes’ personal monitor controller, along with customized Master & Dynamic headphones. To his right, a Roland Fantom-G workstation and V-Synth GT comprise the hardware synth portion. A custom-made rack of Gibraltar components utilizes a convex, ribcage-like shape to allow freedom of movement and easy access to foot pedals–and also looks so stealthy that from the audience perspective, it’s as though the keyboards and synths are floating in mid-air.
Ric’key Pageot’s main axes are an Access Virus TI 2 above a Nord Stage 2. For loops and samples, he runs Ableton Live and a Push controller on a MacBook Pro, via an Apogee Ensemble interface, connected via Thunderbolt. (Read about the latest features in Ableton Live 9.5 here.) Like Kevin, he also has the Roland Fantom-G and V-Synth GT.
Kevin, Ric’key, and keyboard techs Joe Wolfe and “Bongo” Longo explain all this and more in this trio of exclusive videos, shot just before sound check at Madonna’s October 2015 performance in San Jose, California.