Gig Review – Lorde, Brighton Centre, 30 September 2017

The last time Lorde toured we shot from the balcony at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Not necessarily a desirable location but on a 300mm lens it actually worked out perfectly. Her new Melodrama world tour opened this week so photographers were literally in the dark about what to expect – beyond knowing that we wouldn’t be in the pit.

Tonight’s show was the third of the tour and shooting conditions in Manchester and London looked really challenging. The Brighton Centre is much smaller than Alexandra Palace, so a 400mm lens was actually the perfect choice. The challenge though was the lighting. Beautiful to watch, nightmarish to shoot in – when the lights came up they were never uniform and rarely showed the whole of Lorde’s face. As she also dances and twirls around constantly, getting correctly exposed, sharp shots was tough work – at that distance it all becomes a bit hit and miss.

The show sounded great, and I’m pretty sure the next time we see her will be in much bigger venues. No doubt there will never be pit access to shoot her own tours, so this may be the last opportunity to photograph her in a reasonably small venue.

It was only my second time working at the Brighton Centre and I have to say I was hugely impressed. Helpful, friendly security staff who were unfailingly helpful and accommodating – a far cry from the way photographers are so often treated in big London venues.

Gig Review – Foo Fighters, O2 Arena, 19 September 2017

It’s been nearly seven years since I last shot the Foo Fighters. There are really only two shots you can get of Dave Grohl – going crazy at the microphone and going crazy during a guitar solo. I came away pretty convinced I’d failed to get the shot I wanted, like the one above. A Foos show is nothing if not frenetic and each time he came forward he chose a different spot and the solo lasted perhaps no more than 10 seconds. With a ridiculous number of photographers in the pit (at least 15 of us) it meant that unless he happened to pick a spot directly in front of you, chances are you’d miss the shot. Chuck in to the mix frankly patchy light and it was a very hit and miss night. Fortunately by choosing (guessing) a decent manual shutter speed, I got my shot. I deleted a fair few off the card too though where you couldn’t see his face or there was too much movement in the shot. A challenging shoot but it turned out all right in the end.

Gig Review – V Festival, Chelmsford, 19 and 20 August 2017

So, P!nk and Jay Z then? Should be pretty cool to shoot. Well yes they would be, if we were allowed to! It really is odd when you get major festivals that deny photography access to the headliners. P!nk banished photographers to a far away mixing desk on Saturday night and Jay Z banned all bar a sole Getty photographer from having access to his set.

Fortunately I knew that before I went, so this year was all about catching established artists on the rise and some really interesting new ones like Emani Williams and Elle Exxe, the latter of whom was probably the revelation of the weekend for me – even if I was only one of two photographers who bothered to catch her set.

The rest of the weekend was decent enough, with plenty of good artists to shoot.

Gig Review – Bros, O2 Arena, 19 August 2017

I confess that in the 80s I took great delight in disliking Bros. I was more in to bands like Guns n’ Roses, Dire Straits and Queen. But in recent years I’ve been lucky enough to cover a number of Matt Goss’ solo shows and freely admit that he is not only a gentleman but a man of very considerable talent. So there was no way I was going to miss their first show in 28 years, indeed it was 28 years ago to the day that they played Wembley Stadium.

Tonight was a celebration as well as a revelation. I covered the whole show for the band which meant I shot everything from the moment Matt and Luke left their dressing rooms backstage through to this final frame of the night when they thanked the crowd before leaving the stage at the end of the show. They played a blinding show and Luke is a phenomenal drummer, and the sell out crowd adored every moment of it.

Luke’s drum kit was set up atop an 8-10 foot riser which meant getting close shots of him drumming was precarious to say the least. It’s rare to be allowed utterly unrestricted access during a show like this and as well as looking for the right angles, lighting and timing, you’re also making a conscious effort to be as inconspicuous as possible and to  keep out of the way.

Shooting from on stage probably looks very easy, but in some ways it’s a whole lot harder than shooting from the pit, especially with spot lights shining straight in to your camera sensor, confetti and dry ice chucked in to the mix. Sometimes though I leave a gig absolutely on a high knowing there are plenty of shots in the bag. Tonight was one of those nights, and I suspect we haven’t seen the last of the boys being back on stage together.

Gig Review – Guns n’ Roses, London Stadium, 16 June 2017

Almost 25 years ago to the day I attended my first ever stadium gig…Guns n’ Roses at Wembley Stadium. I’ve seen and photographed hundreds of shows since but I’ll never forget that first gig. So fast forward to 2017 and I had tickets for Friday’s opening show and tonight’s show. I got lucky for tonight’s show and managed to buy early entry golden circle tickets. We queued from 10am like the teenagers we most definitely aren’t anymore and that got us a front row spot on the barrier.

I’d decided not to apply for a photo pass as I knew photographers were shooting from the mixing desk a mile away under heavy contractual restrictions. However, armed with my small but trusty Sony RX100ii, I knew that I could get reasonable shots from the front.

Having watched the show the previous night we decided to head towards the far side of the small runway that extends out in to the crowd. As it happens, Slash didn’t play as much to our side tonight as he did last night but it was still the better side I think.

The little Sony was at its absolute limit with a 24-70mm zoom and even shooting RAW fully manual I knew that I was almost asking too much of it to perform in a stadium setting.

What I really wanted was a half decent shot of Axl and Slash together. Unfortunately they seem to studiously avoid standing shoulder to shoulder at any point so the best opportunity came during November Rain with Axl at the piano and Slash pulling his awesome solo.

I just hope this isn’t the last we see of them. Surely they’re already booked for Download 2018?

Gig Review – Aerosmith, Download Festival, 11 June 2017

Tonight has been billed as Aerosmith’s last ever show in the UK. Well if it was, they played a blinder but there wasn’t so much as a whisper of retirement or a lingering goodbye after the encore so I’m already starting to doubt that this was it.

Since 2014 we’ve had to shoot Aerosmith from the mixing desk which is frankly pointless. So like in 2014 I took a risk, turned down my accreditation and took up an early position fairly far forward in the crowd. It was absolutely freezing cold but completely worth the wait as I was able to shoot the whole show freely on my 300mm lens, taking shots each time they came down the runway in to the crowd. It meant I came away with a lovely variety of shots that I’m really pleased with, and it’s always great to get a good shot of the Toxic Twins together.

I just hope this isn’t really the end…but given they are two years away from celebrating their 50th anniversary and if they make it they’ll be one of the only bands in history to do it with their original line up, I can see them making a return in 2019.

Gig Review – Kiss, O2 Arena, 31 March 2017

As we were waiting to go in for tonight’s show, rumours circulated that Gene Simmons has announced the band’s retirement meaning this would be their last ever UK show. Apparently he’s done that a few times before so I’m not panicking yet.

What did alarm me, and everyone else, was the sheer (read ridiculous) number of photographers who were accredited for tonight’s show – 17 or 18 – far too many for the narrowed pit – and this despite a ban on agency photographers. As it was I was shooting for a major magazine as well as a national newspaper so I needed to get a variety of shots.

With Kiss there is no end of fabulous light and ludicrous posing – the problem is second guessing which direction to look in next or frankly where to stand – that’s the split second difference between getting or missing the shot.

When we get this kind of lighting rig, I prefer to shoot wide and fortunately for this shot I was just tall enough on tip toes to get a full length shot on my 14-24mm lens – it just wouldn’t work if I’d chopped them off at the ankles!

Gig Review – Billy Ocean, Cadogan Hall, Bristol, 26 April 2017

I happened to be away working at a conference in Bristol when Billy Ocean’s tour stopped off in the city, and the rather soulless Cadogan Hall was a 5 minute walk from my hotel so it seemed rude not to pop in.

As far as I could tell I was the only accredited photographer and security really weren’t bothered about me shooting three songs then packing up. It actually got the point where I was thinking I should go when I finally got a friendly tap on the shoulder and was ushered out. Fortunately the light improved a little as the show went on so this was one of the last frames I got. Billy was great though, he had the whole hall in the palm of his hand.

Gig Review – James Arthur, Shepherds Bush Empire, 20 March 2017

After a rocky start to his solo career following his time on the X Factor, James Arthur seems to be reinventing himself and gaining in popularity. So off I went to the Shepherd’s Bush Empire for his solo show. There were a fair few of us in the pit tonight and before he came on stage we were optimistic that the lighting guys might actually use the follow spot lights they had set up on the balcony. If only! No, it was moodily and heavily backlit which must have looked lovely to watch but it was a bit of a pain to photograph, hence the black and white shot above!

Gig Review – X Factor Tour, O2 Arena, 25 February 2017

Having studiously avoided watching the X Factor for a good few series, I found myself watching more than a few episodes last year. I photographed Sam Lavery supporting Matt Goss at Christmas, and thought that shooting one of Saara Aalto’s shows would be guaranteed fun.

A lot of it was quite dull if I’m honest. The lighting is great, the production is good too (although nothing like as good as on the TV) but I can’t see many people being able to name more than two or three of the acts a year from now.

Honey G was awful but really got the crowd going and Sam definitely has potential as does Emily. Who knows what will happen to Saara career-wise but she was bonkers good fun to watch.

Matt Terry predictably closed the show and it was all very serious with the high production values saved for his set, perhaps understandably so. We’ll just have to see where they all go from here I suppose.