Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Greenday @ Cricket Pavilion

Somehow Billie Joe still has it. I'm not saying he shouldn't have it. I don't think anyone's saying that. I'm certainly not. But, even so, it was refreshing to see someone really attempting to connect with their fans, and seriously rock the house. And in a pair of red and black striped pants and spotted socks, I think he did it.

I think some people are surprised how often I say "I'm not really a fan, but..." in my blogs... so, why stop now? In fact, I was pretty ANTI-Green Day when they really hit hard with the Dookie album. Not because I was a too-cool-for-school-hardcore-true-punk-fan-from-way-back or anything... in fact, I liked 'real' punk even less. I just never liked the 'cleverness' or goofiness to the band back then... fitting words like "melodramatic" into a pop song, and butchering the pronunciation of it to fit the timing. I always grouped them in with the way Ben Folds' lyrics turn my blood and make me want to lobotomize myself. (Or just turn the station) But, that said, I've grown to appreciate them over the years. They fill a gap. And they are very entertaining to watch live.

I shot them last time they were here, at the considerably larger US Airways Center... so they're hugeness may have waned slightly, but they still sufficiently rocked the house. The house, which was only about a quarter full while the opening band (AFI) was playing... did eventually fill up nicely. The stage show was only slightly scaled back from that of the previous show. A lot of the same lights and screens... minus a catwalk and the side perches... but Cricket sort of has those built in anyways.

We photogs were told we'd only get to shoot 2 songs for Greenday, but that the second song would be quite a bit extended. Which, it was. Billie Joe jumped off the stage and ran into the audience... he went searching for a fan and brought him on stage. The fan got to run around on stage, sing a couple of backing vocals, then Billie Joe cleared a space for him... and instructed him to dive off center stage. The kid couldn't believe his luck. I said this before I think... but Green Day had just then turned that kid into a fan for life, and probably made his whole year just then. And what did that cost Green Day?

Lighting, if I'm honest, was good, if a bit boring. Lots of white light meant you could take your time with exposure and get a nice pic... but it wasn’t anything crazy. And the city skyline and flames on the LED screens were a bit, cheesy. But, it was color... and what's the alternative? Rush's shows are crazy, but you don't even know what the hell you're looking at. To be fair, I'm sure the lighting picked up later in the show, they did have a bunch of gear. But I can't complain. This is one of those bands where, if you didn't get nice shots, you probably had the lens cap on.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Slayer / Megadeth @ Dodge Theatre


Slayer fans are serious about their band. While sitting in the press holding bay waiting for Megadeth to finish their set, Slayer fans were roaming the halls shouting "Slayer!!" at each other as they entered the restrooms or cooled their devil horns down with a fresh beer.

I really don't think there are more dedicated music fans than the metal fans. These people were shouting at each other as they passed, ready to fight for Slayer's honor if anyone spoke negatively or mentioned a lesser band. I think the alcohol helped with their courage as well. In fact, out on the floor of the Dodge theatre, which already has a slippery gloss coating over the concrete and on this occasion, spilt beer and jalapenos... I'm surprised these people could manage to stay vertical. But, as if to prove their love again... the crowd on the floor started a giant mosh pit as Slayer took the stage. I really don't know how more people don't end up dead at metal concerts.

Just take a look at this guy... he's partied out, again! Imagine this dude on the floor with you.

One great thing about metal shows, from a photographers stand point, is the metal posing. I'm not making light or complaining, but I really felt that if these guys COULD get closer to the camera, they'd have their crotch sitting on the camera lens. Joking aside, they do make for some pretty great shots. And with metal songs required to be longer than 6 minutes at the minimum, the 3-song limit to shoot is stretched from the normal 9-12 minutes to about a half hour!

There is always this uneasy gathering of photographers before the trek down to the stage. Sizing each other up. Checking out each others gear. Figuring out who to avoid. Making alliances. Then we march down. On this night, during the march down to the stage I notice a really tall dude with a mullet standing near the photographers entrance. He's wearing shorts, and is outfitted in photography gear, and he's standing with his legs spread WAY too far apart, arms crossed. This man is too confident. Then I realize it's actually Randy Johnson, the "Big Unit"... world series MVP pitcher for the AZ Diamondbacks. Craziness. I've never photographed alongside another photographer before. Which was especially interesting because he was actually kneeling down the entire time. And with a 6'10" dude kneeling, there are legs practically everywhere. I managed to not trip over him, but that wasn't the case with the other photogs. I'm not a sports fan or else I would have said hello, but it was cool none the less.

This was a fairly easy shoot. The lighting was good, with the exception of all the red lights... cameras don't respond well to lots of red. And the performers played right to the cameras. There was lots of room to move around. Really, I can't say anything bad about the show. It was fun to shoot.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Meat Loaf @ Celebrity Theatre

Meat Loaf... he's sort of one of those pop icons that I can identify, but can't really tell you more than one or two things about. Similar to Paris Hilton... or Ronald Reagan. However, I was kind of glad when I got the assignment. Then I heard it was at Celebrity Theatre, and I think my face sort of shrugged.

I like the Celebrity Theatre, in theory... but in practice, not so much. I've only actually sat and watched a few shows there, even tho Frankie Valli is the only one that comes to mind at present, and from a watcher's perspective it works nicely. But from a working photographer's POV, the staff is unorganized, and no one is on the same page in regards to what I'm allowed to do. So pretty much every show at least one security guard tries to strong arm me and tell me I'm "not allowed to shoot from here", or I "need to stay out of peoples way", or I "can't chew that brand of gum in the building". Bitch bitch bitch, I know.

For Mr. Loaf, the stage that usually rotates, was made stationary to accommodate a video screen at the back of the building. I didn't know what to expect from him. I really honestly only know the "But I won't do that" song... and I know his real name is Robert Paulson. So I was a bit shocked to hear the high pitched voice that came out of him when he sang some ruddy epic-sounding songs. (Reference "Bat out of Hell") He put on a good show, he was on pitch as far as I could tell... I didn't notice any dropped notes... and neither did the audience.

Lighting at the Celebrity usually consists of 3 spot lights on the lead singer, with a few scattered colored cans on the band. It was the same deal for Meat Loaf... but the added color from the video screen made for some nice contrast when I was able to squeeze it in frame. One pleasant surprise was seeing Danny Miranda on bass. He played bass on the Queen + Paul Rodgers tour. Good to see him working! He was in the dark corner of the stage, so he was hard to photograph. But all around, a pretty decent shoot.

What, specifically "won't" he do?? I never worked that out.

Friday, August 13, 2010

American Idols @ US Airways Center

Maybe I'm the only person in America who doesn't watch American Idol... but I suspect not. Regardless, I wasn't exactly "thrilled" about shooting this show, but I knew it would be at least a decently produced show.

It was sort of funny how 'precise' everything was. Before I even got to the arena I had an email detailing every aspect of the show and what I, and the others, would and wouldn't be allowed to do. Then, when we met the press contact, she had even more details for us... down to who would come out, in what order, and where they would be standing, and for how long. It really felt machine-like. I don't mean that in a bad way... well, no, I do. It IS a machine. Watching American Idol is like seeing what happens behind the curtain inside a pop music manufacturing lab. Or like watching the process of mechanically separating the gross parts of a chicken to make McNuggets. However... machines can be put to good use. Just look at the McNugget machine! And more recently, that doll that wets it's own panties. And right along those lines, the American Idol machine CAN be a good and useful thing, in that it churns out exactly what the people want, and it hard codes the importance of being entertaining and performing to a crowd.

I got to photograph the last three songs of the night. Which, for me, started with two songs by the current American Idol, Lee DeWyze, performing a few covers with a back up band. We were allowed to watch a couple songs from the side of the stage before we started shooting, and I have to say, while the guy CAN sing... I really can't imagine the word "Idol" applied to his name in any real musical arena. I'm not trying to slag him off, I'm sure he has a great personality. But to me, being introduced to him for the first time... he looked like a very normal, if thick, guy... who can manage to stay in tune, whilst singing other people's songs. And not to sound like a crotchety old man here... but what is the point of singing a cover if you're going to slaughter the original melody (which is what people attach to) and turn it into another terrible "Rock meets R&B" shit sandwich?

Ok. I'll get off my horse and put away my extendable index finger now. From a performance aspect, yes, the show was great. But that is by design. Instead of a pile of 'artists' on stage, it was more like a legion of handpicked 'experts'... pruned for their very specific and singular talents. There were no flubs. No bad notes. No mistakes from the singers, the band, or the lighting crew. Everyone was standing perfectly on their marks for maximum fan ingestion. And if it seemed preplanned, that's because it was. We were actually told up front who would stand where, and when they would approach the front of the stage, and how long they would be there. But, that's better than being let down right? (I never did make it off that horse did I?)

Well, really, what CAN I say? It was like photographing a TV show. So in that regard it was perfect. The lighting was ample, and interesting. I'm very happy with the shots I got. There were seven photographers and two videographers, and there was even plenty of room to shoot. No one could really complain. I would say, on a personal/technical note... I do wish I had a second camera again. My back-up broke, so I've been shooting solely on my 5D MkII. I really would have liked to have a 7D, for example, last night. I changed lenses a few times prematurely, and I wish I could have just swapped cameras. It would make my life so much easier... and more perfect.