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?
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
Green Day was one of the first bands I ever photographed professionally, back in 2005 at the Brixton Academy. I had frankly no idea back then how big they were but these days they comfortably fill arenas and stadiums. Their shows are unfailingly good fun to shoot but their popularity inevitably means the pit will be full to the rafters.
Billie Joe uses the runway a lot and those the shots I love – if there’s even half a chance of getting a wide shot with the crowd in too, that’s the shot I want…especially as I missed his jump at the end of the third song.
So even though I can’t syndicate the shots to my agency because of their strict contract, I came away with a set of images I was pretty pleased with. It had been a bit of a nightmare getting the pass at all, but it was worth it in the end.
I was lucky enough to be accredited to photograph Cirque du Soleil’s Amaluna last year here at the Royal Albert Hall. It was one of the most impressive performances I’ve ever seen and was a completely different shoot to the type I’m used to. So I jumped at the chance of shooting it again this year. Many of the artists have changed but most of the scenes were the same with mesmerising trapeze and high wire artists like the one above performing high above the stage at great speed with no safety wires.
This year we had the option of shooting from lower down in front of the stage or up at the same spot I’d taken last year. I therefore decided on the closer spot which was nice to get a different and more dramatic perspective but I think last year’s shots possibly worked out better in the main for being that little bit further back. Still, another amazing show!
I’ve started to rack up quite a few Matt Goss shows ahead of the Bros reunion next year and I’m building up quite an archive of shots of him in the process. I hadn’t actually applied for tonight’s show but I got a text from Matt’s PR telling me I had an AAA pass waiting for me the night before which was great news.
Shepherd’s Bush is a much more intimate venue than Wembley Arena, in fact I’d go as far as saying that his shows need the intimacy of a smaller venue – Wembley Arena is a bit warehouse-like and soulless. However the Empire is stunning, and with its low stage and with the front row just a few feet from the stage it was the perfect setting for his music.
It’s a privilege to have Access All Areas, and I was determined to make the best of it. Sometimes there’s only so much you can do from front of house, especially without a pit, and the best shots are to be had if you can get the angles and lighting right from on the stage. With this shot I quite deliberately positioned the myself so that the light cast a halo and shadows around him as I wanted to capture the warmth and intimacy of the show with the crowd watching on.
Roll on the Bros reunion, they were the opposite end of the spectrum to the music I enjoyed as a teenager, but there’s no denying those are going to be great shows and I hope I’ll be invited back…
Just wow. What an amazing show. It’s about 3-4 years since I last photographed them and although I got good shots that time, I came away underwhelmed with what I’d got. Tonight though was one of those nights where great light combined with the band being absolutely on fire and seemingly I was generally pointing the right lens in the right direction when great moments like the one above happened.
Here, Flea bent right over during a bass solo and was absolutely going for it. The stage was low enough for once for full length shots and even though you can’t see his face I like the intensity of it. There were plenty of other moments too, and it was one of the highlights of the year for me.
Everything came together tonight, it’s just a crying shame their contract doesn’t allow agency syndication because it was almost impossible not to come away with a lovely set of images.