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.

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