Gig Review – Stewart Copeland, Royal Festival Hall, 30 March 2019

As far as I can remember I’ve only shot one show previously at the Royal Festival Hall which was many years ago and it didn’t work out well. But Stewart Copeland tours very rarely, and I haven’t seen him since The Police reunion tour in 2007 to 2008. I shot two of those shows, really badly, which I regret to this day. I’ve learnt a lot since then.

Anyway, I approached Stewart’s management company about coming along tonight and after a few emails all was sorted. First 3 songs in a specific access area. But I was told the first song would be 16 minutes long so not to worry!

So off I headed tonight and I met up with my contact nice and early and got shown around the empty auditorium. It’s a pretty functional building. Fantastic acoustics but it’s no oil painting. I could use the side aisles and pop to the mixer for a head on shot of the whole stage but that was it.

I was the sole photographer. Back in 2008 on The Police tour you could barely move in the pit for the other photographers. At first I couldn’t believe I was the only one there tonight, then I realised that it’s really not a great venue to shoot in.

Stewart was side on stage left which meant that if I’d been down the front I’d have had a perfect view of him but because I was to only shoot from a specific area, I had to make the best of it. That meant shooting all except the wides on the 300mm f/2.8 as it was simply too dark for the slower Sigma 150-600mm.

Still, I came away with a good enough selection of shots I thought. Nothing stand out, but there just wasn’t quite a perfect angle to find in the half an hour I had to shoot, so I did the best I could. Regardless, it was fabulous to see him playing again and a treat to have an unexpected exclusive.

Gig Review – Wilko Johnson, Alban Arena, 10 March 2019

Six years ago almost to the day I photographed what we all believed was Wilko’s farewell show at the Koko. It was an emotional night because he was suffering from terminal cancer.

A year later I saw him on stage with Roger Daltrey and in the years since he has fully recovered and played a huge number of shows.

It’s not often I get to shoot at my local venue and I was the only photographer. I met Lofty, Wilko’s tour manager, before the show start, was given a seat and shown where I could shoot from. Normally it’s a tricky venue to work in as it’s all seated and they don’t like you even being crouched down in the aisles but my instructions were clear – ‘do what you want as long as you keep out of the way’! Perfect.

Glenn Tilbrook opened the show and from what I’d heard of other nights on the tour I was very worried about the lighting being low and subdued but actually it was fine.

Wilko played a fabulous set, full of his usual energy and unique moves. It flashed by and before I knew it they’d said their goodbyes and left the stage. No airs and graces, just great music and great showmanship.

Gig Review – Twenty One Pilots, Wembley Arena, 9 March 2019

It’s only March but I’m pretty sure this is going to be one of the gigs of the year for me. I went along curious because I’ve seen some brilliant shots of their stage show and came away absolutely converted. I knew that the confetti finale is the best bit to shoot but unsurprisingly the only access available was for the first two songs. Research showed me they were dark and uninspiring to shoot so I took a radical approach.

Rather than shoot two songs from the pit and leave I went early and headed in to the crowd before the start. I picked a spot about a quarter of the way back off to one side and banked on that being a good vantage point. I figured that I’d be able to shoot pretty much whatever I wanted and I was right. I’m not advocating using a pass to shoot from the crowd but occasionally needs must. I knew this could be a one off chance tonight.

So I took occasional photos throughout what was an incredible show. There may only be two of them on stage but everything about the visual aspects of the show was incredible, from the elevated walk way to a B stage to the ladder the singer climbed high above that B stage to the drum kit set up on top of the front row of the crowd, and of course, those 10 seconds of confetti right at the very end of the show.

It was tough. Trying and often failing to shoot through the sea of hands and mobile phones without intruding on the people around me who were loving a great show meant I missed a ton of good shots but I got pretty much all the key shots I’d hoped for. The confetti shower at the end was nigh on impossible to get but somehow my 70-200 lens kept in focus and just as the shower started a surge of people in front of me enabled me to get a clearer view for just a few frames.

I came home converted and keen to now listen to some of their tracks. I’d love to go to the Reading Festival in August when they play but I’m sure photographers will only be allowed a handful of early songs which is a shame when such fantastic action takes place throughout the set.

Gig Review – Katie Melua, Central Hall, 8 December 2018

Tonight I found myself in the exquisitely sophisticated and refined setting of Central Hall in Westminster for the London show on Katie Melua’s Winter Tour with the Gori Women’s Choir.

I was invited to the show by Katie’s manager and once I’d done a recce of the venue before showtime I really wasn’t surprised there were no other photographers there as options that didn’t involve blocking the audience’s view were very limited.

It meant that I shot from the back and the balcony, but it’s a relatively small place and the 300mm was just right, if a little tight at times.

I needed the monopod though as I was shooting at 1/200th of a second to get enough light in – it all looked beautiful and fortunately it worked out as Katie doesn’t move around much while she is performing.

In fact, it was one of the most serene performances I’ve been to in a long time, and you could pretty much hear a pin drop half the time, so a load of photographers going in to overdrive would really have spoilt the atmosphere.

The choir was magnificent and the hour and a half performance seemed to race by. This may well turn out to have been my last gig of 2018. What a treat if it was.

Gig Review – The Wildhearts, Koko, 2 December 2018

Tonight was an absolute treat and shooting the gig was a bonus. Unbelievably it’s 25 years since The Wildhearts released what for me was their best album, Earth vs The Wildhearts. Indeed, 23 years and 1 month ago to the day I shot my first ever show on a photo pass, which was when they were touring the same album and played Southampton Guildhall. Bizarrely though I hadn’t seen them in over a decade and tonight they played the album in its entirety.

This is the classic line up for me, and for once they played in really good light from the off. Ginger bounces around all over the place but the appeal of tonight was less about shooting, more about winding the clock back 25 years and enjoying hearing this album played live.

And they delivered! The shot at the top is just a snap from up on the balcony mid-set – I was really pleased with the shots I got during the first 3 from the pit like this jump shot but watching them crank through the set from up there while the crowd went crazy down in the mosh pit took me back to the days when I’d have been on that front row…in fact I’m in the Suckerpunch video, filmed live at a concert back in 1994. Only for about 3 seconds, but it’s definitely me…there’s the evidence below! 

 

Gig Review – Uli Jon Roth, ULU Student Central, 30 November 2018

Having never shot at ULU which is now known as Student Central I had no idea what to expect. I had organised to shoot for Uli directly but found when I arrived that all the photographers seemed to have the whole show not just me! The room was really quite small – I’d guess it holds no more than 300-400 people. The lighting for the support act was so dreadful that I feared the worst for Uli’s set.

A couple of songs in he stopped and asked the lighting tech to put some light on him because he couldn’t see what he was doing! That meant the three little white spots above the stage got turned on and when he came to the front for his solos they gave just enough light for what turned out to be pretty atmospheric shots.

I can’t say I’ll be heading back to ULU anytime soon for a show but tonight was fun. Given this is Uli’s 50th anniversary headline tour it was sad to see him performing in such a small place and you have to wonder how many times he’ll be back here now.

Gig Review – Ennio Morricone, O2 Arena, 26 November 2018

Maestro Morricone is simply a legend. He’s 90 years old and tonight was his last ever performance in the UK. So it was a privilege to be there and utterly surprising to be one of only two photographers given accreditation.

We had been told we would be off to the side of the pit or similar so I knew it would be a long lens shoot. When he conducts he actually does so with his back to the audience, facing his orchestra, so clear shots were going to be a challenge. They’d thought it through though, and we were positioned at the far side of the pit with a very restricted line of view, but it was probably the best sightline you could get without being on the stage itself.

I’ve never been timed for my allotted shooting time before. I’ve heard rumours of it for artists like Beyoncé but tonight, Kitty literally had 3.5 minutes counting down on her iPhone. As soon as that time was up, it was time to leave.

For the most part he looked directly ahead, but briefly he turned towards his cellists just enough to be able to see his eyes and his face. This was the shot for me, and The Guardian who commissioned me clearly thought so to as they ran it as the lead arts feature review.

Gig Review – Music 4 Mental Health, Roundhouse, 18 November 2018

Tonight’s show was different to the norm. As this was a charity show we had pit access for every artist. There were a number of restrictions in place with several artists requiring image approval before we could release them to our agencies.

Ed Sheeran opened the night and it’s a rarity to even get a pass to shoot one of his shows these days so the fact that we got 3 songs from the pit was good going.

It was busy to say the least! No sooner were we out of the pit after the first 3 songs for each artist than we were heading back in! There was scarcely any editing time and we even missed a number of artist promo shoots because the scheduling times clashed with our time in the pit.

As it was we almost missed Olly Murs’ set as we only had 2 songs. I had headed to the pit early but everyone else was brought down on time, several minutes after he’d gone on stage, so I had the pit to myself for first half a song.

Anne-Marie was great fun to shoot as well.

Ella Eyre was probably the highlight of the night. She’s such an energetic artist and it’s always great fun trying to get a sharp, clear shot when she’s whirling around with her hair in full flow.

Professor Green isn’t my thing at all, but he tore up the stage.

James Arthur was last on, and even though there were only 6 of us shooting, it was touch and go whether any of us would stay at one point as he was one of the artists requiring management approval of our shots which is an absolute pain.

All in all though it was a great event for a wonderful cause. All of the artists spoke about their own struggles with mental health, anxiety and so on which really did make you stop and think. Anything that raises awareness of the issues is a good thing and tonight’s show was a resounding success, and wonderful to be a part of.

Gig Review – Black Eyed Peas, Hammersmith Apollo, 27 October 2018

I always wanted to shoot the Black Eyed Peas last time around but it never happened. Since then I’ve done one of Will.i.am’s solo shows and with rumours swirling about who would be singing for them on this tour I thought it could be good fun.

It’s rare that a tour starts in London so with this being the tour opener I had no reference point as to what to expect. They performed on the first level of an impressive LED floor to ceiling backdrop which I figured would look way better from the back as I left, hence this shot – it’s one of those shows that would benefit from photographers having official access from the mixing desk as well as from the pit.

The shots from the pit like the one above weren’t as atmospheric but at least I got the three of them together with their current singer Jessica Reynoso posing well. It was surprising that only 4 of us were there tonight – I was expecting a packed pit!

Gig Review – Wayward Sons, FM and Saxon, The Roundhouse, 19 October 2018

Tonight I was at the Roundhouse for Wayward Sons as their official photographer. Toby Jepson and his new band really know how to put on a show, but unfortunately they got all of about the front 8 feet of the stage and terrible light (at least photographically speaking). On stage shots were nearly impossible and when Toby threw his guitar to his guitar tech at the end, which makes a great shot, they turned the lights off so I missed it!

I thought twice about even staying for FM and Saxon but I’d brought my fisheye lens with me in case it might have been useful for Wayward Sons (which it wasn’t) and after shooting the first three songs of Saxon’s set I headed to the gallery because this is a shot I’ve always wanted but never been able to do before. It took a few attempts but in the end it turned out just how I wanted it to as a generic view of a gig in full flow in what I think architecturally is one of the most stunning music venues around.