Gig Review – Iggy Pop, Finsbury Park, 30 June 2018

Given his age, you have to wonder how long Iggy Pop will carry on performing, especially when you see how he throws himself around the stage…and the crowd! They just don’t make them this way anymore and I was delighted to get a pass for tonight’s show as it’s a while since I’ve seen Iggy perform.

Whereas yesterday I’d braved the heat and shot a fair few of the artists, I just came along for Iggy’s set tonight. At one point it looked like access was in doubt, but then it came down to pick a side and stick to it. As we went in to the pit the whole middle section (where he is in this photo) was taped off and photographers chose their side. I didn’t think he’d come down in to the crowd while we were there but I knew I wanted to be stage right because of the angle of the sun and I’m so glad I stuck to that choice. He was great to shoot up on the stage but when he came, ever so briefly, down to the front row, this shot would have been impossible from the other side and even though shooting gigs in bright sunshine usually doesn’t look good, I’m really pleased with how this turned out.

Gig Review – Liam Gallagher and Richard Ashcroft, Finsbury Park, 29 June 2018

It’s years since I last shot an Oasis show so I thought it would be fun to head along to Finsbury Park this weekend. I’d also never shot Wolf Alice, and Richard Ashcroft brought the house down with a surprise acoustic set just before Liam Gallagher. For once it all worked out beautifully because we were ushered in to the pit for Richard’s set too – all too often you miss the ‘secret’ set because it’s, well, too secret. Richard nailed it. He stole the show, end of!

Liam definitely isn’t a fan of photographers and I have to say he sounded much better than last month when he supported the Rolling Stones. I wanted to get something a little different as he is pretty inanimate – either scowling behind the mic or in front of it, shaking the maracas.

I also went along to the second stage to see Dream Wife and managed to stay for the whole set. Not really my thing but they were great to shoot and it will be interesting to see how they get on.

Gig Review – Lenny Kravitz, Wembley Arena, 22 June 2018

I’ve wanted to shoot Lenny Kravitz for as long as I’ve been a concert photographer. So after finally getting accreditation, tonight was a tale of two very distinct halves.

First off, I was shocked when I got there to find that there were only two of us accredited. Two!? For Lenny Kravitz!? WTF!? Standing in the pit waiting for showtime it seemed too good to be true – a near empty pit for me and my friend Awais.

And that’s where the second half of the tale kicks in. Venue security were really relaxed and helpful but Lenny’s own security people were rude and aggressive. Down came the lights and on came Lenny, right up and the back for the first song, in reasonable light but miles away up high. The rest of the shoot the lighting was miserable and in fact I barely got any useable frames. Utterly predictably, as the fourth song opened, he came and stood right in front of us and started soloing. Obviously we wanted a few frames – even just a few seconds of that in half decent light would have saved the show but no, his security physically stopped us from shooting, pushed my camera down and made it very clear that we were to leave. He had to have seen it happen and I wonder what he thought.

I had friends there with standing tickets and we’d been given tickets to stay and watch the show so I went in to the crowd to try and find them. I had no intention of shooting from the crowd until Lenny went walkabouts and ended up high in a seating area serenading the audience. That made for some great shots but what I would never have predicted was that when he went to the rear of the standing area on his walkabout, almost the entire crowd surged backwards away from the stage, towards him. Suddenly, having been midway back in the crowd, I found myself with a 30 foot gap in front of me to the next person and before I knew it I was 5-6 rows from the front for the encore. I knew the final song would be Are You Gonna Go My Way and surprise surprise the lighting had improved as the show went on. I simply couldn’t not shoot it! I was right there and although I rarely had a completely clear view, I did manage a few frames like the one above that I’m delighted with. Alas I can’t do anything commercial with them since they were taken after my time in the pit, but had I left after those first three songs I would have been gutted as my photos were absolutely terrible. Funny how these things work out sometimes!

Gig Review – Katy Perry, O2 Arena, 15 June 2018

It’s been a number of years since my last Katy Perry show and even though these are routinely mixing desk shoots now I thought it would be good to do. She always puts on a great light show and the stage set up and production looked great as you can see from her dramatic opening on a hydraulic lift.

Further in to the show she came to the end of the runway and even though it was a fair distance away from us still, it made for nice shots. There were only two of us there tonight which was surprising. Whether that’s because mixing desk jobs are wearing thin on people or whether it was something to do with saleability I don’t know. Either way it was nice enough to do and the Sigma 150-600mm really came good again.

 

Gig Review – Guns n’ Roses, Download Festival, 9 June 2018

I’ve shot most Download Festivals over the past 10 years and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get access to shoot the headliners. It hardly feels worth bothering spending three days in (usually wet but not this year) muddy Derbyshire fields when you can’t shoot the main acts. Or when there are silly restrictions putting photographers way back at the mixing desk.

This year Avenged Sevenfold were the only headliners playing ball and treating working photographers with any respect. On Saturday, Guns n’ Roses accredited just about every single photographer, but forced them to shoot in daylight from the mixing desk about 100 yards away, and on Sunday, Ozzy Osbourne just banned photographers except his own from the pit completely.

So here’s the thing. Guns n’ Roses have been my number one band since I was a kid. I saw the (nearly) original line up destroy Wembley Stadium with Faith No More and Soundgarden back in 1992 and I’ve never forgotten that show. It’s one of the reasons I do this. Last year I got tickets to both London shows but of course you can never take a professional camera in.

As an accredited photographer for Download, I decided to sacrifice my photo credentials on Saturday and watch Guns n’ Roses from the crowd. My plan was simple. My accreditation allowed me early access to the arena and so I went straight to the front row first thing in the morning and stayed there all day. It also meant bringing in a camera was straight forward. What I hadn’t banked on though was just how rough the crowd would be for Guns. Even though I was on the barrier, at times I could barely stand up, let alone take photos and I was taking a real risk with my camera equipment. It was worth it though. From the moment it started to get dark, I shot the whole show on a 70-200mm lens, although those photos will never see the light of day from a commercial perspective – they’re purely for my own enjoyment. It was a massive physical challenge and there were several points when I thought I’d made a mistake and couldn’t take the pushing anymore, but I couldn’t have left even if I’d wanted to – I had the entire crowd behind me!

Getting a good frame of Axl and Slash together was the only thing I wanted to achieve and they came together a fair bit more than last year in London. Of course if you’re in the crowd and you’ve staked out your spot you can’t move to capture a moment taking place elsewhere on the stage so I was limited to shooting when any of them was at the front of the runway. Still, I came away with better shots than I could have possibly got in the first three songs from the mixer with official accreditation and bruises aside, I came away utterly energised by an incredible day.

Sunday was pretty good to shoot with the exception of Ozzy closing the pit, but in general, shooting heavy metal in broad daylight isn’t ideal. I think next year the only thing that will get me back to Download will be amazing headliners we can actually shoot – my money is on Metallica and Iron Maiden being two of those. No doubt even if I’m wrong I’ll end up back in a muddy Derbyshire field again in 2019!