Arcade Fire

The Best Gigs Of 2018 by Aaron Corr

2018 saw some amazing gigs come this way. My absolute best gigs of the year, one, two or three of which are up there in the list of best I’ve ever experienced, I was in attendance but not shooting. So to begin things I’m going to take a look at the best gigs this year that I photographed. Not to be mistaken for the best shows to shoot, these are the best gigs I saw, heard and experienced in all their glory.

Part 1: Best gigs I shot.

Wild Beasts: The Olympia

The band announced their impending split toward the end of 2017, bowing out with three final shows in the new year, one of which was a final Irish show on February 15th in the Olympia Theatre. It was their second last show ever and it was everything you would want from a Wild Beasts gig. They played a selection from all their albums split out over two sets. If you were at a festival and they played either of these sets it would have been brilliant, never mind getting both fully rounded out, and well conceived set lists in one night. There was no support, the whole night was devoted to them and saying goodbye. It sent shivers up my spine at times, and the crowd sang along and reacted like I’d never seen before at one of their shows. They truly ended on a high.

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Paul Draper: Workmans Club

I have to add this to the best of 2018 list, if not for it being great to finally see Paul Draper return to playing gigs, because Mansun’s epic Attack of the Grey Lantern was played in full to mark it’s anniversary. This was an album I came to late in it’s own promotional cycle. I got in to Mansun on time before they ultimately came back with Six, which is one of my favourite albums of all time. Like Wild Beasts, Paul’s gig was comprised of two sets; the first being his solo material (which the crowd lapped up) and then Grey Lantern. It was an incredibly packed and sweaty gig. Paul could let the fans sing as much of the album as needed. It was a fun show. Here’s to when he comes back to pay Six in full.

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Yeah Yeah Yeahs: 3Arena

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are not a band that swing by Ireland very often. I missed them back around 2002 when they played in the High Stool in Limerick. They seemed happy to just play a festival here every once in a blue moon, and the only times I’ve caught them were at Electric Picnic in 2006 and Longitude in 2013. On this night they were more a co-headliner with Beck than mere support. They were touring the anniversary of debut album Fever to Tell, but this was not just a nostalgia show or a run through the album from start to finish. Karen stalked the stage, singing and screaming to songs from all through their career. They played for a good 1hr 15mins, and given Beck’s delays to get onstage, they may have just pipped him to the post with a longer set. While I enjoyed Beck’s set, the first half was flawless while the second half lagged. That’s why I’m highlighting this as Yeah Yeah Yeah’s show to steal.

Click here for full gallery, and here for The Thin Air’s review.

Rolling Blackout Coastal Fever: Whelans

I am still getting used to saying their name right. Even as I typed the header I got it all mixed up. The Aussie’s brought the heat with them on this night as they gave Whelans a very hot and sweaty August gig. They have just been announced to support Idles in Iveagh Gardens in 2019, turning an already great gig into something extra special. There’s not much else I can add to the review below so just take my word and get an Idles ticket if you haven’t already.

Click here for full gallery and here for The Thin Air’s review..

Julien Baker: Vicar Street

This gig took me by surprise. I was a last minute addition to the list to shoot this show, and I can’t say I’d ever heard a track of Julien’s before that night. Her set was extraordinary, her voice is incredible and the guitar sounds were gorgeous. The gig made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up many a time.

Click here for full gallery, and here for GoldenPlec’s review.

David Byrne: 3Arena

One of my biggest gig regrets was leaving the front of the Electric Arena when David Byrne & St Vincent were to take to the stage, to go to the Main Stage to see another band I loved play an alright set. Everything I heard about the show I missed was that it was an “I was there” moment, and I missed it. Finally getting to see him playing a host of classic Talking Head songs and solo material, while putting on an amazing visual performance on stage in the 3Arena made up for it. The atmosphere with the crowd was one of pure joy, with everyone out of their seats and dancing for the majority of the show. Seeing Slippery People, Naive Melody and Road to Nowhere live will stay with me for a very long time. If he brings the show to a Broadway residency I’ll be booking my tickets first thing.

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Interpol: Olympia Theatre

For the first time ever I went to see a full three night residency of a band in the Olympia. This wasn’t entirely planned on my part, but it’s the way it worked out and I’m all the more delighted for it. Over the three nights they relied on the same foundation of a set list but changed up a lot of tracks on each show. Over three nights they played all but Obstacle 2 from Turn on the Bright Lights.

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Part 2: Best gigs I didn’t shoot.

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Arcade Fire: 3Arena

Seeing Arcade Fire “in the round” was an experience. It brought you closer to the band, the band rotating around the stage so you got different vantage points from the one spot, and the light show topped it off. The set was brilliant, and thankfully didn’t throw in any of the weaker tracks from Everything Now. The show was designed to bring the band and audience together and they succeed completely.

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Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Kilmainham

This show goes down as one of the all time best I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen Nick Cave at festivals a few times over the year, and he is truly one of the best, and most passionate performers you’ll ever see. I wondered how he would bring the intimacy of his smaller Skeleton Tree shows to a large outdoor show but he effortlessly pulled it off. Emotions ran high in the crowd during songs like Into My Arms and Distant Sky, and many tears were shed. He still brought the darker songs out for a run through, as well as bringing many fans to the stage during the murderous Stagger Lee. The gig was epic and unforgettable. Not only is this my gig of the year, I think it has safely secured a place in my top five shows of all time.

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The Killers with Franz Ferdinand: RDS

I love a good double header of a gig, especially if it happens to be outdoors and the sun is shining bright. Franz Ferdinand opened the evening for The Killers, and played a shorter version of their Olympia set from earlier in the year. The Killers came on and played a killer set (pardon the pun) and kept the crowd in great form, singing along to all their hits. Brandon channeled an Elvis look in the encore, coming out in a gold suit to finish the night in Las Vegas style.

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Idles: Button Factory

This show goes head to head with David Byrne to battle for my second place for gig of the year. I was happy to not shoot it and just take it all in, especially since it turned out to be dark lighting conditions, and full of strobes for the most part for shooting, and you could barely move an inch with all the jumping and moshing in the crowd. I ended up on stage at one point, jumping around with a bunch of other fans while the band played and in the crowd at the same time. They have provided the album of the year and their show does everything in it’s power to try win it’s place as gig of the year. They’ve got two Dublin shows already in line for 2019, both of which I will be there yelling Danny Nedelko at the top of my lungs.

Arcade Fire: Malahide Castle by Aaron Corr

I was over the moon to get a chance to shoot Arcade Fire for The Thin Air for the second time when they returned to play Malahide Castle for another big outdoor Irish show.  They are one of the best bands to shoot, helped by the fact that there is so many members in the band and all of them are personalities worth photographing on stage, but I’ll get back to them in a moment.

First off was the support on the night, Bomba Estereo.  I hadn’t heard of them before they were announced as support act and checked them out on Spotify.  They sounded like they could be a good opener for a sunny day but having not been able to view the whole set I couldn’t tell.  According to friends, and people I spoke to after, they seemed to have been considered very forgettable (easy to happen for an unknown act on a big stage) and weren’t given their full attention.  Singer Liliana Saumet was an energetic frontwoman, donned in a very colourful outfit, and barely stayed still long enough to let you get the exact shot I was lining up.   This didn’t matter too much since there was no lighting issues to be worrying about.

This was the first big gig I’ve covered since the strict rules were introduced involving bags at concerts was brought in due to the Manchester bombing at the Ariana Grande show.  This is a fair enough rule, but it wasn’t iterated to photographers in advance that this applies to us too, and that having a ticket didn’t guarantee me entrance unless I had somewhere to store my bag.  There is no on site storage or lockers, so this left us in a bit of a pickle.  Getting to Malahide Castle is not as easy as simply attending a gig in the city centre after all, it is just not feasible for a photographer to journey to a show without the kit in a bag.  It was only for Owen Humphries having his car, and a ticket to stay for the show, that I was able to store away my bag during the shoot, camera gear after the three songs, and then go back in to watch the show.  This was a very long winded process to cover a show and go onwards to enjoy it, and a few songs in the set were regretably missed. 

Cameras had to be carried into the arena photo pit without bags that hold spare lenses, memory cards and any other useful items.  Off of the back of this experience I immediately removed my name from future events that I would be attending the show after a shoot.  Unless I am only there to shoot the band and go home, it wasn't worth it.  To be fair to the promoters though, this was out of their hands and they did let us store our bags in a cabin during the support, it just wasn't possible for Arcade Fire.

The band themselves were in flying form.  It was a gorgeous Summer's day which is a rarity for an Irish outdoor show and it was the perfect light to shoot the band.  They opened with Everything Now, followed by Rebellion and every time Win came near to the front section of the stage that edged him nearer the crowd, he was gone again before you could line up the perfect shot.  As they segued from Rebellion in Haiti I got accosted by someone who showed me the setlist and told me that we were done.  I argued that Everything Slow, as listed on the setlist, was not a song and merely intro music for the band to walk on to.  He was having none of it.  The other photographers got wind of the dispute and came over and he eventually relented.  We'd gone through so much trouble and effort so far, we were not about to be short changed as Regine was taking centre stage to sing.

As Regine sang Haiti she noticed a fan in the front row with the Haitian flag and ran down the stair from the stage in excitement, like a child on Christmas morning.  She ran past me to collect it and proudly sing the final verse & chorus with it in her arms.  This provided a cool opportunity to get some meaningful and great shots of her as she embraced it, injecting more emotion into what is already an emotional, yet uplifting song.  For a second time round shooting the band, I think I preferred this shoot over their Marlay Park show.  At Marlay Park there was air cannons and a bigger distance/height between band and photographer, however they had better backdrop on the stage for the Reflektor tour.  Regardless of the conditions, they are always worth the effort to capture live.