Gig Review – Tony Bennett, Royal Albert Hall, 29 June 2019

Tony Bennett is almost 93 years old. The fact he’s even touring at all is amazing, so to hear him in fine voice tonight was quite something. Only two of us shot the show which in itself surprised me, and we had access right down at the front of the Hall. It’s where you want to be but you have to do everything you can not to obstruct the audience who themselves are seated – it means basically shooting on your knees! Still, what a privilege, I can’t imagine we will ever see him playing over here again.

Gig Review – Download Festival, Day 3, 16 June 2019

At last the weather had started to improve, just in time for the end of the festival! Today was all about old school hard rock – Anthrax, Lamb of God, Smashing Pumpkins and Slayer’s last ever UK show.

Anthrax are just good fun to shoot, and certainly delivered.

I’m not particularly fussed by Lamb of God but Randy Blythe’s dreadlocks are always an opportunity for an interesting shot or two.

I fully expected that the Smashing Pumpkins would close the pit and force any of us accredited for their set to shoot from the mixer. All the shots from other dates on their tour have been from the mixer so it was frankly shocking when we took our place in the pit and weren’t moved on. However camera shy Billy Corgan is, he and the band certainly delivered. His solo on the 3rd song went on and on and although he did his best to hide away, we got our shots.

The vast majority of us turned down the ‘opportunity’ to shoot the festival headliners and Sunday closers Tool. First because they had the most ridiculous, restrictive contract that forced you to hand over your copyright. Second because you got one song. Third because it was from the mixer and fourth because the singer stands off to one side in darkness throughout the show. Why would anyone bother!? Seems about 6 of our number did and I can’t see why. Cue Slayer instead, headlining the second stage and performing their last ever UK show. It was an absolute blast, a ton of dry ice from the off, great light and a barrage of songs that seemed to be over in an instant. What a way to close my time at Download 2019!

Gig Review – Download Festival, Day 2, 15 June 2019

If I’m honest, today was really only about three bands for me, Stone Temple Pilots, Halestorm and Slipknot, but they all turned out to be great as did some others. Yes there are multiple stages and if you want you can spend all day trudging between stages in thick mud shooting anything and everything but I’m getting too old for that!

One of the highlights of the day was Trivium. Not my type of band or music but to see them under proper stage lights must be fantastic. The pyros were used from the word go and they made great use of the runway despite the rain.

Stone Temple Pilots were a bit of a shock for me. I saw them here the last time they played with Scott Weiland in the driving rain on the main stage and they’re back now with a new singer, a competition winner apparently. Bizarrely their management insisted on a contract that required our shots to be approved prior to their use. More surprising was the singer. He wasn’t Scott Weiland obviously, but he looked like him, dressed like him and had all the Scott Weiland mannerisms and moves down to a fine art – not so much a tribute as freaky.

Halestorm headlined the second stage and I’ve wanted to see Lzzy Hale for a long time, so this was another tick on the bucket list. She certainly delivered and it was nice to have some decent lighting to experiment with.

Slipknot were of course the draw of the day for me. With so many of them on stage and so much going on they’re a bit of a nightmare to shoot. Add in a runway and it’s almost impossible to know where to stand or where to point your camera. All you can do is hope you get some decent action. I still think I got my best shots of them some years ago but here are a few…

Gig Review – Download Festival, Day 1, 14 June 2019

Every year I say I’ve shot my last Download Festival then every year I find myself back in a (usually muddy) Derbyshire field. Last year the weather was amazing, not so this year. Normal service resumed. I thought seriously about whether to go again this year as for me the headliners were okay but not that inspiring but as I got back in the car on Sunday night I concluded I’d done the right thing to come. No doubt I’ll be back again in 2020.

Day 1 for me was all about Slash. Access to his solo shows is getting harder and harder, and even though the show and his style never change from year to year, it’s Slash!

It turned out not to all be about Slash in the end. I’d not even clocked before I arrived that Deadland Rituals is the supergroup put together by none other than Geezer Butler and this was their first ever UK show. I’d not seen Matt Sorum since the last time I shot Velvet Revolver and I’m so pleased I saw them.

Last up on the second stage were the Eagles of Death Metal, one very much ticked off the bucket list. It’s always hard to shoot any artist in daylight as it never does them justice but they were still great fun to shoot.

I fully expected Def Leppard to be a write off because every single show on the current tour has been from the mixer. I resolved not to bother – not because of them but because I think it’s completely pointless shooting a rock band from way back at the mixer. For reasons not even known to Kevin Nixon, my mate who is their tour photographer, we all got pit access for 3 songs. And as you can see it was an absolute treat!

Gig Review – Muse, London Stadium, 1 June 2019

Matt Bellamy is quite a front man and you live in hope that they’ll let you in the pit for Muse because when they do it can be spectacular. Tonight was anything but spectacular though.

Unfortunately I arrived just moments too late to get in to the pit for Tom Morello and even though it was daylight still, it would have been great to shoot his set.

Rumours swirled of pit access for Muse even though we’d been warned to bring long lenses because we could be at a lighting tower, which even with a long runway were a long way back.

So minutes before showtime they took us in…to the pit! We were told to stand in a particular spot at the end of the runway and thought our luck was in. Then the head of pit security ordered us to a different part of the pit slightly further back from the runway. Not as good but still it was the pit, it would be okay. Then 3 minutes before showtime he decided to ignore his own decision and ordered us out of the pit altogether telling us we had to go to the lighting tower. How we made it in time I don’t know but we did.

Predictably it was like snatching defeat from the jaws of victory – it was a lousy shooting position, off to one side and miles back. The only saving grace was that when Matt used the end of the runway you could get a reasonable shot over the sea of hands. Such a shame as had they just left us in the pit we would have got great shots. In all my years I can’t remember ever being treated so badly and I will think twice before attending another Muse show. Their head of security was an embarrassment.