Gig Review – Mushroomhead, Electric Ballroom, 30 March 2016

Mushroomhead, Electric Ballroom, 30 March 2016Until a week ago I had never heard of Mushroomhead. Then I saw an epic shot posted online by a fellow photographer and watched a YouTube video of a recent show. I had to go! Rather like Slipknot, they all wear face masks and it’s a very heavy show.

What’s unique is they have two drummers at the front of the stage pounding the life out of a pair of drums each that have water pumped through them and have dramatic lights set up inside. So every time they hit the drum, water flew everywhere, including all over me and my camera, but it was absolutely worth it.

They gave us the full show and it made a huge difference. The drummers posed, scowled, pointed and flicked their middle fingers at us for great shots. A female guest vocalist who’s name I missed went crowd surfing as did another singer. The bassist spent half the set kneeling up on one of the drums. Then for good measure towards the end, the guitarist (pictured) soaked me and the front row with water from the top of the drums. All in all, it was like nothing I’ve ever photographed before, nor do I expect to again. It was an absolute pleasure, even if I did get soaked and my ears hurt after despite having very good earplugs in. Great fun!

James Bay, Hammersmith Apollo, 29 March 2016

James Bay, Hammersmith Apollo, 29 March 2016You wonder if James Bay is a global star in the making. He certainly could be. I like his music and when I watched him on TV performing at the Brit Awards last month I was determined to shoot this show. It was worth it.

I enjoyed everything about this gig. I hadn’t been to the Hammersmith Apollo for ages, and despite it now lothesomely being renamed the Eventim Apollo, it’s had a fabulous refurb. The pit is massive and the front of the stage is curved which means that if the performer comes right to the front, you can shoot from one side and give the illusion of shooting from on stage behind them.

Bizarrely there weren’t many photographers tonight, and I only knew two of them. I was expecting the pit to be packed out with the regulars even though he’s doing four shows here. That was fine by me because it made life far easier – plenty of space to shoot from different angles. The lighting was sublime too which made for a nice variety of shots and an easy edit. Now if only all artists sounded great, looked great, lit their shows beautifully and gave us three songs from the pit to play with…!

Mariah Carey, O2 Arena, 23 March 2016

Mariah Carey, O2 Arena, 23 March 2016Mariah Carey hasn’t played in the UK in 13 years apparently, so photo passes for tonight were a prized commodity. The list of demands issued after we had signed stringent contracts were, well, interesting.

For a start we were shooting from the mixing desk which is to be expected for an artist like Mariah. That meant hiring a 500mm lens and even then I could probably have done with a 600mm lens.

Amusingly we were told that we had to shoot at her eyeline level. How they were going to judge that from a distance of about 60 yards is anyone’s guess, but we were also told we could only take full head to toe length shots and ‘no close ups’! What obviously escaped their knowledge was that unless we used 800mm lenses, it would be physically impossible to do anything other than take full length shots because of how far back we were. No-one said we couldn’t crop our shots, or that publications using them couldn’t.

It was an incredibly low budget performance for a mega star who is about to marry one of the richest men in the southern hemisphere. No screens and only about 6 dancers to fill the space alongside her. Regardless though, you don’t get many opportunities to photograph her, so that’ll do for me.

Leona Lewis, London Palladium, 4 March 2016

Leona Lewis, London Palladium, 4 March 2016I’ve only once previously had the pleasure of shooting at the Palladium. It’s a stunning venue, and the last time I was there I had the run of the place on a AAA pass for Brian May and Kerry Ellis.

Tonight though was a standard pass which meant no access directly in front of the stage as it’s a fully seated venue and not the type of place that wants photographers blocking everyone’s view. We were told we had to be at the back which isn’t a great angle to shoot from, so I got management permission to shoot from down one side. It meant I was close enough on the 300mm for it to not matter that I wasn’t in the pit. I think the other photographers were grateful because security were very obliging and they mostly all followed my lead and came to join me about 6 rows back off to one side, apart from one poor sod who got told it was ‘full’ downstairs so they made him shoot from the dress circle which can’t have been any fun.