Gig Review – Katie Melua, Theatre Royal Drury Lane, 27 November 2016

The Theatre Royal isn’t used all that often for concerts. In fact I think I’ve only ever shot one other show there before. It’s a beautiful venue, but it’s difficult to find a spot to shoot from that isn’t completely obtrusive to the crowd who, after all, have paid a lot of money to be there.

When confirmation of the pass came through I was told to ‘bring a long lens’ and that sends shivers down my spine because when the PR says that it could mean anything from a 300mm to an 800mm. What was clear though was that we would be shooting from the back and the 300mm I have would simply not be enough. So I asked specifically about being allowed down one side, about half way forward, so that I could shoot over the crowd, out of everyone’s way but much closer to the stage and was told it should be fine.

I arrived early and took up the spot I had asked for which on the 300mm lens was about as good as it could get. I only saw two other photographers but it seems they had been told to shoot from the back corner.

I got the impression I could have stayed there for the whole performance – the stewards were lovely and seemed almost puzzled when I packed up to leave after 3 or 4 songs. But I’d got what I could and although it sounded lovely, I wasn’t going to get better shots by hanging around any longer.

Gig Review – Jack Garratt, Hammersmith Apollo, 24 November 2016

I first shot one of Jack’s shows earlier on this year having seen his performance on TV at the Brits. This time it wasn’t nearly as busy in the pit and while he was set further back than I had hoped, I had deliberately brought my fisheye lens with me to make the most of his fabulous lighting rigs. Those towers aren’t as curved as they look in the photo – that’s the effect of the 15mm fisheye at work. It’s not a lens I can use often in a gig setting – you need something dramatic to make it work, but this seemed the ideal show to dust it off for.

Jack certainly doesn’t disappoint – he’s like an interesting version of Ed Sheeran as far as I can tell. However I’m not sure how often I could photograph his shows and expect to come away with anything new – it’s a great show but once you’ve got close ups and wide shots the job is pretty much done.

Gig Review – Brian Wilson, Royal Albert Hall, 28 October 2016

Brian Wilson, Royal Albert Hall, 28 October 2016Tonight was a very special show. This was, as far as I know, the last time that Brian Wilson will ever perform Pet Sounds in the UK. I was working for his PR and management tonight, with access all areas for the whole show. The only proviso was that I couldn’t shoot freely on the stage, but fair enough!

For all his artistic prowess (and he’s written some absolute classics) Brian is a very static performer these days. He didn’t move once from a piano that was positioned facing out to the audience. That meant it was quite hard to see him other than his head and it was really important for me to deliver as wide a variety of shots as possible.

I found a side on angle that worked nicely, but the best shots at the Royal Albert Hall are rarely if ever taken from the pit. I had hoped to get an elevated shot from the organ behind the stage looking out over the whole Hall, but they’d put a screen up making that shot impossible. However with three levels to explore and all sorts of different angles to find, I was able to get really wide angle shots from the very back of the Hall and this was easily the best angle to get a clean shot of Brian’s hands on the piano. I was way up at the top of the Hall on a 300mm lens, but it was worth the trek.

Access like I got tonight is a rare treat, and I was glad to make the most of it.

Gig Review – Rays of Sunshine with Nicole Scherzinger, Wembley Arena, 24 October 2016

Nicole Scherzinger, Wembley Arena, 24 October 2016I was amazed to find there were only 3 of us shooting tonight’s show. I expected it to be packed full of photographers, but it wasn’t, and it was incredibly laid back – so much so that we missed the first song performed by last year’s X Factor winner Louisa Johnson!

The reason for that was that we were backstage in a tiny room doing portrait photos with Nicole Scherzinger, so it wasn’t exactly terrible that we only got time to shoot one of Louisa’s songs!

We had the whole show as each artist was only performing a couple of songs, right up until then end when suddenly we were ushered out of Shawn Mendes’ set after two songs with no warning! Still, it was a decent night, and Fleur East was far and away the best performer to shoot of the night.

Gig Review – Bon Jovi, London Palladium, 10 October 2016

Bon Jovi, London Palladium, 10 October 2016The Palladium is an undeniably stunning venue, and seeing Bon Jovi performing in front of just 2000 people for the launch of their new album was an absolute treat.

I had the best of both worlds tonight. I had a photo pass for the first two songs, and I’d won free tickets in a ballot so had great seats for the rest of the show. And what a show it was!

The Palladium may be beautiful, but because it is a fully seated venue, photography is restricted to the back of the downstairs area and the far sides, for which a 300mm lens is just enough. To say it’s therefore tough is true. The lighting was great and the band were clearly on great form. After playing the new album, they then came back for an encore of classic songs that the audience went crazy over. All in all a great night!

Gig Review – Matt Goss, Wembley Arena, 1 October 2016

Matt Goss, Wembley Arena, 1 October 2016Some shows are an absolute privilege to shoot, and this was one of them. Having worked on Matt’s Dorchester Hotel show last year, I was invited by Steve Guest and Rob Ferguson to be the official photographer for tonight’s set. That meant all areas access, and permission to shoot from on the stage as well as elsewhere which is always a wonderful opportunity.

The lighting was very challenging. It was at the Dorchester too last year, but that was only because the poor lighting guy didn’t have a big enough rig for the room. This time it was being recorded for DVD so the lighting was low and fairly orange at times.

From the stage, that meant dramatic silhouettes were the way to go, although I’d hoped for more shots really showing the crowd as well. I really enjoy taking shots like this because they are something a little different from normal. Next year when Bros play again, I’m sure it’ll all look very different.

Gig Review – Robbie Williams, Apple Music Festival, Roundhouse, 25 September 2016

Robbie Williams, Apple Music Festival, Roundhouse, 25 September 2016I’ve only ever photographed Robbie Williams once before, back in 2010 when he performed an unexpected duet with Gary Barlow. So I knew we were in for a treat. The Roundhouse is a tough place to photograph in. The light was excellent this year, but at previous shows I’ve always found it a little lacking.

Unfortunately tonight we were relegated to the balcony instead of being in the pit, which was the original plan. To say that is a pain in the backside is an understatement, but the stage was built quite far out in to the crowd tonight, so the 300mm lens was plenty for close up shots, and I’ve been wanting an opportunity to get wide shots like this at the Roundhouse for years.

Our two songs were over in a flash but I came away very pleased with the set of images.

Gig Review – V Festival, Chelmsford, 20 and 21 August 2016

Sia, V Festival, 20 August 2016There’s something about me, festivals, rain and restricted photo pass lists!! I was really looking forward to the V Festival, having only been once before. I thought it would be possible that both Justin Bieber and Rihanna would grant pit access with it being a major festival. Wrong. Bieber was from the mixer which was a complete waste of time, so I went to shoot Faithless who were far better!

On Sunday night Rihanna closed the pit altogether and it was just insanely busy – there was no point even considering trying to get a few shots from the crowd, so pretty much everyone went to shoot the Kaiser Chiefs instead which was a riot.

One of the absolute highlights should have been Sia. She rarely performs and we were told there would be no photography for her set. So I know I wasn’t alone in heading in to the crowd to get some shots anyway, particularly as the agency wanted them regardless. Apparently at the last minute, her management approved a list of photographers for pit access for three songs and I was one of them. No-one told me anyway, and by then I was as far forward in the heaving crowd as I could get. The pit access was apparently very restricted so ironically I probably faired better without it, as a shot like this would have been impossible to get. Then it rained, so I left before I could do any more damage to my poor cameras.

Gig Review – Coldplay, Wembley Stadium, 15 June 2016

Chris Martin, Coldplay, Wembley Stadium, 15 June 2016After trashing my cameras at Download, I had to borrow back my old D3 from my friend Nick for tonight’s show otherwise it would have been a nightmare. I knew from my research that Chris would use the runway and that we’d get a confetti shot like this. Planning for it is one thing, getting it is another as it’s pretty much guesswork as to where he runs, where he jumps and so on.

I still think the best Coldplay show I ever did was on the last tour at the Emirates Stadium but I came away with some shots I was really happy with tonight, despite it being a challenging shoot with a really high runway.

Gig Review – Download Festival 11 and 12 June 2016

Bruce Dickinson, Iron Maiden, Download Festival, 12 June 2016On the scale of difficult festivals, Download is now firmly in the lead. Last year I lost nearly a day’s shooting when my 70-200mm lens fogged up completely in the impossible rainy conditions. Surely lightning does strike twice, does it!?

Yep. So this year the line up really didn’t excite me much apart from four artists – Sixx AM, Juliette Lewis, Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden. Sixx was awesome, and as we almost never got pit access to shoot him when he was with Motley Crue it was well worth it. Juliette Lewis was crazy, such great fun to shoot!

It all went a bit wrong with Black Sabbath though. We knew this would be one of the last ever chances to see them, and even though I was there accredited with a national newspaper I still didn’t get a photo pass for their set. So I headed in to the crowd to get a few shots and to watch the set. What could possibly go wrong? Well a virtual monsoon is what occurred. Even though I was doing my absolute best to keep my cameras covered up under bags and my coat, it was no use. They got soaked, and both gradually began to give up working.

On Sunday, all that mattered was shooting Iron Maiden. By then one camera had stopped functioning altogether and the other worked, but the screen had failed, meaning I had no way of checking focus, exposure or anything. It was just like the good old days of film and having one camera body to use! So by the time Maiden took to the stage, I was seriously hampered by my gear but I did what I could, and this was the shot of the night if not the weekend for me – it looks like Bruce is cooking in the cauldron!