Gig Review – Robbie Williams and the Black Eyed Peas, British Summertime Festival, Hyde Park, 14 July 2019

Today was the last date on the Barclaycard British Summer Time Festival calendar for this year. Maybe I’ll see Hyde Park again in September for the BBC Radio show, otherwise it will be another year.

Robbie Williams closed out the festival, supported by Texas (who I missed), Keane and the Black Eyed Peas. The Peas were great to shoot but you pretty much had to make the choice of being at the end of the runway for group shots or taking a side and going for individual shots. For a daylight show the lighting was great. As I’d done the Hammersmith show last year I decided on group shots and although I’d have like a couple of decent close ups of will.i.am, I was happy with the shots I got.

Robbie Williams had an approved list of just ten of us. Until late on we thought we would be in the pit which would have been fabulous because he used the runway throughout the first three songs. But no, we were back in that gap between the diamond and golden circles. However, because he was on the runway most of the time he was actually fairly close especially with the diamond circle seemingly smaller than for the previous BST shows.

As I headed for the exit for the last time, I wandered through the back of the golden circle again. I knew the light show would be quite something from back there and took a couple of snaps as a memento on my way out. Maybe next year they could organise for photographers to shoot the headliners once the sun has gone down and the stage lights are up – what a difference 45 minutes make!

Gig Review – Bob Dylan and Neil Young, Hyde Park, 12 July 2019

Day 4 of 5 in Hyde Park for me this summer. Today was another show where we really had no idea what sort of access we would get until we arrived. This wasn’t (ahem!) a British Summer Time / Barclaycard show but only because Bob Dylan had insisted that all branding was removed, apparently due to a bust up with Barclaycard in the past about a house insurance claim or something like that.

As it turned out we had pit access for Neil Young. It was the first time I’ve shot him but apparently he can be somewhat of a recluse. We had to pick a side in the pit and stick to it. We were told we could be in there a while as he tends to jam his songs and we had a good amount of time. Thing is though, I gambled on stage right and he spent more time playing towards the handful of photographers who’d gone stage left. And there was no opportunity to swap sides. Still, it worked out okay.

Frankly with Bob Dylan it’s a miracle we had any access at all. We had initially thought we might be in the pit but in the end we got a couple of songs way back at the mixing desk. But it’s Bob Dylan, so who cares!? So off we went to the mixing desk. We might as well have been shooting the show in a different London Borough and he skulked behind the piano for both songs. We weren’t given a choice of which mixing desk we went to – half went one way half went the other. I think the other half had a better angle, but they think we did! The fact that every photographer there got two songs is incredible. Even on the 150-600mm lens he was distant, but it was good enough.

As I left for the evening I walked through the back of the golden circle to the same spot where I’d watched Stevie Wonder last weekend. The stage set up was really simple but unlike one I’ve seen before – nine massive freestanding lamps towered over the band providing all the light. Everything else was black. I watched the show for 10-15 minutes. At 78 years old he can perhaps be forgiven for poor vocals, but it was hard to distinguish one song from the next. I took the last two shots just as I was leaving so that I’d have a record of the full stage.

Gig Review – KISS, O2 Arena, 11 July 2019

When KISS played at The O2 two years ago, there were plenty of rumours doing the rounds that they’d never tour again. Fast forward two years and this is really it – this time they’re definitely packing up. Or are they? Supposedly yes, but in 2023 they’ll have been together for 50 years and given they’re nothing if not a money making machine these days, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them ‘come out of retirement’.

Regardless, for now I assume this really is it.

Getting accredited for KISS shows hasn’t been easy for some years, so I was commissioned tonight by a national newspaper. Somehow the pit was rammed though with over 15 photographers. We had two songs. Standard for KISS. Except when they came on we were still out in the wings, waiting. That’s because we weren’t allowed in the pit until the curtain had fallen and been cleared out of the pit completely. They descended on massive hydraulic risers and if we’d got that shot it would have been the shot of the night, but no, by the time we were in the pit they were on the stage.

Still, it’s KISS, and they know how to put on a show for the cameras. Gene slobbers everywhere, stares and points and licks his bass. Paul poses all the time, but no longer drops to his knees with a KISS guitar pick stuck to the end of his tongue. Mind you, if he had, the two over zealous videographers would have ensured we saw none of it!

Even though we really only got about 4-5 minutes in the pit it was still a cool show.

As this is (allegedly) the last time they’ll ever play in London, I’d bought myself a standing ticket. Once I’d locked my DSLRs in the car I headed in to the crowd with my little Sony RX100. I had already decided to get directly in front of the mixing desk if I could as I figured I ought to get some half decent full stage shots from there. I pushed the little camera to its absolute limits tonight. Yes, it can shoot RAW files, has continual focus and you can set the whole thing up manually, but it’s a pocket camera. I have to say that I was delighted with a few of the shots I got with it. I knew they’d pull out all the stops but it was a crazy show and I’m really pleased I got to see it.

Gig Review – Stevie Wonder, British Summer Time Festival, Hyde Park, 6 July 2019

We had no idea what to expect with Stevie Wonder. He’s a legend and it would have been no surprise at all if he’d not allowed any photo access at all. As it was, for much of the day we thought we were going to be shooting from the pit. Not so in the end.

But first Lionel Richie. Well not first, actually second last of the day, but he banished photographers to the mixing desk which is a ridiculous distance away from the stage so I didn’t bother – both times I’ve shot his shows, including the last time he headlined BST here in Hyde Park, it has been from the pit.

In the end we got one song for Stevie Wonder, shooting from the gap between the diamond and golden circles. Only about 6 of us got accreditation. It wasn’t ideal but actually wasn’t too bad a distance. I used the 150-600mm Sigma for close ups but the 300mm f/2.8 gave the sharpest shots.

We had song three specifically because during the first two songs he was at a different piano, hidden from view. As you can see, you don’t get to see much of him but hey, it’s Stevie Wonder so who cares!?

After our shoot, I walked through the crowd on my way out and decided to stop for 10-15 minutes to watch some of his set. Who knew when or if he’d ever return here to play again. As it is, he announced at the end of the show that he’s having a kidney transplant in September and I’m sure I won’t be the only one to wish him well.

When we had been shooting earlier on, it wasn’t practical to get a whole stage shot because of the angles, so this shot below was a quick grab shot before I headed for home. I wanted a general view of the whole stage because it looked magnificent from back there.

Gig Review – Celine Dion, British Summer Time Festival, Hyde Park, 5 July 2019

You know the summer gig season has truly arrived once the British Summer Time Festival rolls around again. Mind you last year we had everything from searing heat for Eric Clapton to torrential storms for Michael Buble.

Headlining tonight’s opening show was Celine Dion. I’ve only photographed her once before, back in about 2008 at the O2 Arena. The years haven’t been kind. She very sadly lost her husband to cancer three years ago and appears to have lost a lot of weight. Mind you, she can still sing. She was supported by a wide range of performers across three stages.

One of those was Claire Richards, formerly of Steps.

Josh Groban was another.

Probably the most interesting for me was Alice Chater. She is practically unknown outside of Bournemouth where she lives and she powered through a set on the tiny Bandstand Stage. Playing to a tape with a guitarist, drummer and at one point random dancer, she appears to be tapping squarely in to Rita Ora’s market and was impressive – watch this space.

The night belonged to Celine Dion. Although when she came on at 8.15 the sun was still so bright on stage she wore sunglasses during the first song. The sun has the effect of destroying all the beautiful stage lighting, and leaves the shots looking quite flat, but she gave a belting performance.