Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Erykah Badu @ Marquee Theatre

To be honest, going into this the only thing I new about Erykah Badu is that she has some wild hair, and used to wear some large hats.

After the pat down and bag search I made my way to the front pit area of the Marquee Theatre. There was a band on stage that was seriously rocking the house and winning the crowd over. I found out later that it was Janelle Monae... I'm out of the loop on current music apparently. It struck me as a sort of 60's era soul with some R&B mixed in... but then throw in some melting electric guitar and live drums. A sort of novelty act, but in a good way. I came in too late and was not allowed to shoot them unfortunately. There was some serious energy here, it ended with a stage dive and the crowd going completely bonkers for her.

Before any band or performer goes on stage, I sort of hang out in the wings, off to the side of the stage. I get my camera and lenses ready for shooting and wait for the house lights to go down. Tonight when the house lights went off, I made my way to the far side of the stage, where a DJ was set up. I figured it would be a couple of minutes of him "kicking out the jams", getting the crowds pumped, and bigging up Erykah Badu... making her entrance a massive spectacle. In fact, this couldn't be more wrong. The entire intro was so bizarre to me, which made the DJ completely pointless. He played a bunch of greatest hits records from 20 years of hip hop, using his Mac to change the songs. (Don't get me started on this) TWENTY minutes later, a guy from behind the curtain walks out on to the middle of the stage, and tells the DJ to cut it. He promptly fades the music out, and hits a different button that plays some prerecorded keyboard sounds. A solid 6 or 7 minutes later Erykah Badu walks out on stage, very un-climatically, with a dim flashlight in her hand, shining it at the audience for about 10 seconds, then puts it down, and takes her positionat behind the mic. For the next 20 minutes while I was able to stay and photograph, her feet didn't move from the spot she walked out to.

Wearing possibly the most bizarre, in a bad way, outfit I'd seen in a long time, complete with bowler cap and "a smelly old blanket that a Navajo wove"... Erykah killed any 'up' mood that the DJ created by starting the show with three slow moving ballads all in a row. There had to have been 12 or 13 people on the stage... say 10 of them not put to any sort of use... and Badu lit by a spot light. It was the most underwhelming use of the beginning of a show I'd ever witnessed. I can completely understand creating a mood... but this was akin to being on a terribly unsatisfying rollercoaster ride at a ring road carnival, or simply being pushed down a hill. The show started fantastically with Janelle Monae, so much electric energy... then the DJ got everyone in the audience singing and dancing together... then Erykah Badu came out, and might as well could have started reading Pride and Prejudice. Actually, as I was watching Janelle Monae and her band... I was thinking to myself, "It's got to take a serious performer to book someone like that as an opener... she must not be able to be upstaged." Sadly, this was not the case.

I didn't set out to write a scathing review... I don't think my reviews count for much more than a few ok photos and maybe some back story on what it's like being a photographer... but I had to say something, didn't I? I'm sure the rest of the show was brilliant.

On another note, my new lens... the Canon 100mm f/2.8L Macro performed amazingly! I used it almost exclusively for this shoot, save for a few wide shots with my 17-40mm. While this lens is a "Macro" lens (meaning close-up), I think it is dismissed as a nice portrait lens... but I am actually quite impressed by it! This was the first time I really got to see what it can do with light on a persons face. Luckily, the Marquee broke out with their spots for this show and I was able to play with it. The images are incredibly sharp and bokeh (blurry background) was silky smooth! Great purchase!

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