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David Byrne: 3 Arena by Aaron Corr

This will not only go down as one of the best gigs of the year, but on of the best gigs 'I’ve ever been to. As a life long fan of Talking Heads it was a delight to finally see, and photograph David Byrn in the 3Arena for The Thin Air.

I got to shoot the show from the left and right entrance points on the ground floor. This meant having to avoid all the people coming in with their pints to get to their seats, getting in the way of shots. But this didn’t matter. The lights were solid and perfect for shooting, especially at long range. There was barely any photos deleted from this set, they were all so sharp and lit well.

David started on stage with a table and a brain for the first song. I shot from the left side for this and the second song before legging it over to the right hand side for the third song, I Zimbra. When I was done shooting the band began to play Slippery People and I rushed to get my camera lenses detached and packed away so I could run back to my seat and enjoy the full song on time. The show was a joy to watch from start to finish and I want to see it all over again. Let’s see if it goes to Broadway like the stories suggest.

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Franz Ferdinand: Olympia Theatre by Aaron Corr

Franz Ferdinand have a knack for playing Sunday night shows in Dublin.  The last time they played a few years ago I had just returned from a heavy stag weekend in Sligo and was a little worse for wear.  I was in better shape on this February night for The Thin Air and was looking forward to catching Fontaines D.C.  for the second time.  Alex Kapranos later remarked on stage how Hurricane Laughter was one of his favourite tunes of recent times.

Fontaines D.C.

Fontaines D.C.

I had mixed feelings about how Franz were going to play out.  The singles were ok but I hadn’t kept going back to them like singles of old.  Any album b-sides I heard or saw performed live on TV or web were not hitting the spot either.  Somehow it all clicked at this gig and I was won over and digging the newly rejuvenated Franz Ferdinand.  I've already my tickets in hand to go see them again with the Killers this Summer.

It was still not the most brilliantly lit show I’ve ever shot, much like their last show in the Olympia, but it still was enough to get some cool shots of Alex jumping.  They have a cool backdrop that was never well lit at the same time as the band.  The third song, Evil Eye was complete darkness except for the background, with Kapranos’s constant movement on stage it made it not even worthy of a god silhouette shot.  So pretty much all the best results from this set are from the first two songs. 

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The Best Gigs of 2017 by Aaron Corr

Cage the Elephant: The Academy

The year got off to a flying start with Cage the Elephant making their long awaited headline show in Ireland, in The Academy.  Not only was it an amazing gig to shoot, thank you Matt Shultz for being one of the best front-men of any modern band, but also because the music and the atmosphere.  It was genuinely electric.  I've only been a casual fan to this point yet the gig gives me shivers to think of it.  The setlist, fucking hell it was unreal.  I can’t think of how any one person could come out of the gig with anything but “gig of the year” on their lips, and it was only bleedin’ January!!  It could have been all downhill from there, but thankfully not.  

Read the GoldenPlec review and see all my photos here.

Hamilton Leithauser: Workmans Club

I was not prepared for how great Hamilton Leithauser's gig in the Workmans Club would be.  I heard the singles from his current album with Rostam, but hadn’t yet given it a spin.  The Walkmen had always sort of disappointed me live,so I felt like I could potentially take it or leave it with this gig.  This was a completely different ball game to a Walkmen show, the tunes were all fantastic, and I loved his banter and tales in between songs.  He did a stunning rendition of In A Black Out, finger picking the acoustic guitar and holding the crowd in the palm of his hands with his signature voice.  His story about the origin of the lyrics for The Brides Dad was a fun wedding tale ahead of playing said song.  Often singers can bore you by over-explaining but Hamilton nails it, and it makes you pay more attention to the lyrics.  The gig was under an hour and it left everyone wanting more.  I can’t wait until he returns, however long that will be.

See the full gallery here.

The Moonlandingz: Whelans

After seeing Fat White Family early in 2016, and it being one of my favourite gigs of that year, I couldn’t miss Lias Saoudi’s return to Whelans with The Moonlandingz.  They may not have built up the hardcore fanbase of FWF yet but that has changed now that they’ve played our shores.  Their debut LP was released that Friday, so the band and crowd were well up for a mad show.  Lias, aka Johnny Rocket, arrived out with black make up on his face and cling film wrapped around… kitchen roll(?) to his midriff, swinging beers and a bottle of wine.  They started with their three most popular & well known songs, a brave move for any band, and yet the gig got better and better as it went along.  The duet with Slow Club’s Rebecca Lucy Taylor for The Strangle of Anna was both strange and brilliant.  The band barreled towards the end with some b-sides and yet the momentum kept rising, with only one song providing a bit of respite for the crowd before Man in My Lyfe near tore Whelans apart.  They were a band to rival Cage the Elephant for best performance of the year. 

Click here for my full gallery.

Metronomy: Body & Soul

When I took Joseph Mount’s portrait last year it looked there was to be no touring at all for the album.  Thankfully he broke that sabbatical in 2017 for a handful of dates, followed by full on festival schedule in which they came to Ireland for Body & Soul.  It was my first time at the festival and, I must admit, they were the band that swung it for me to go.  They headlined the first night and they were as brilliant as ever.  Photographers managed to be granted 4 songs to shoot, possibly in the confusion of all the initial songs segueing into each other.  They kept the momentum going and barely let it up, even debuting a new song, which is still in my head.  They always look like they are having a blast on stage while lashing out their unique brand of pop brilliance.  I can’t recommend seeing them live enough.  Even my GoldenPlec partner in crime for the weekend, who previously wasn’t convinced by them, was completely won over. 

Click for GoldenPlec's review and click here for full gallery.

HMLTD: Workmans Club

HMLTD were recommended to many of us at team GoldenPlec by Niall, who moved to London last year and has caught them a few times, citing them as quickly filling the top spots for his favourite gigs of the year.  While we may not have got the full London experience, with a half busy but very enthusiastic crowd mixed in with some technical issues for the band, it was still a solid display of their potential.  My GP friends and I all looked at each other and agreed that HMLTD would be the perfect band for a Halloween night.  They are in line with Moonlandingz/Fat White Family for a raucous gig experience, full of showmanship, sweat and catchy tunes.  The unusual twists and turns to songs like To the Door keep things interesting, mixing glam, psych rock and electronic all in one.  Broken guitar strings and faulty PA meant we were denied an encore but the next time everyone in the room will be back with friends in tow to experience them.

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Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: The Academy

The return of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club has to make my list for this year, particularly since they started their first tour in quite some time in Dublin.  I got to see the guys soundcheck some of their new material ahead of the show, in which they played a good amount of new songs from their upcoming album, Wrong Creatures.  Usually a band playing a fair chunk of new material can be off putting when they have an extensive back catalogue of favourites to work through, but I enjoyed hearing the debut of these tracks live.  The gig also had the BRMC trait of being very loud indeed.   The boys & girl are back, Pete might be grayer but they are still sounding mighty.

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BNQT: The Button Factory

BNQT is a ‘supergroup’ consisting of Alex Kapranos (Franz Ferdinand), Jason Lytle (Grandaddy), Fran Healy (Travis), Ben Bridwell (Band of Horses) with Midlake as the core band.  On this date of the tour we were minus Alex & Ben but it didn’t take away from a mighty and fun gig.  Everyone on stage is having the time of their lives, running through choice favourites from each band in between cuts from BNQT’s debut album.  They also peppered the gig with some classic covers of Neil Young, The Beatles and finished with Tom Petty’s Won’t Back Down.  I went in to this gig tired, half thinking of leaving a few songs after I shot the show, but left with a bit of pep in my step and a big smile on my face for what I got to witness.  Their name isn't well known, so it was to a smaller crowd than any of these band members would normally get in their own gig which added to the ‘you had to be there’ vibe of the show.  If HMLTD were Halloween, then this band were Christmas. 

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The best gigs that I didn't shoot this year were...

Interpol: Alexandra Palace

I couldn’t miss Interpol playing Turn On The Bright Lights from start to finish for its 15th anniversary tour.  They announced they were to do the set at Electric Picnic, but I’ve retired from going to EP.  A trip over the water to London was in order to see them play in Ally Pally.  The buzz about the night was great, the weather was sunny and people were handing out Interpol related samples of the book Meet Me in the Bathroom by Lizzy Goodman to those queuing.  Bar someone getting sick beside us fifteen minutes before they were due onstage, the night was a treat.  They launched straight into Untitled, played the whole album and capped the main set off with Specialist, one of their best tracks which just missed being on the album.  They returned to play a ‘greatest hits’ set, even playing a new song which is not in their tendency to do since they toured TOTBL.  I was envious of the photographers shooting the show, the lights were so much better than when I got the chance to shoot the band on their last Irish visit.

Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper: The Olympia

Buying the ticket to Alice Cooper started off as a laugh.  I couldn’t be more happy for that spur of the moment decision because it was one of the most entertaining and fun shows I’ve ever seen.  To think I very nearly could have photographed the show too near kills me.  Missing out on The Thin Air asking for people to cover this show is my biggest regret of 2017.  At least I was there and didn’t let an amazing show pass me by.  He played all the hits I knew, and everything I didn't know entertained the hell out of me as well.  It was a bit cheesey at times watching the guitarists in near competition with each other to throw as many plecs to the crowd as they could, but it's just all a bit of fun and showmanship while they are playing killer leads on guitar.  The pyrotechnics and theatricality of it was a hoot.  Alice Cooper, what a legend.

Depech Mode

Depeche Mode: 3Arena

This was my second time catching Depeche Mode on this tour, the first time being at NOS Alive in Lisbon.  I really hoped to photograph this show and had my name to it but to get into why it didn’t happen would lead to a rant and who needs that, right?  This is about the show, and it was way better than Lisbon and possibly the best show I’ve seen of Depeche Mode out of the four times I’ve seen them. The set list was incredible, while focusing on their more recent noughties and later nineties output through the first half, they showed how after all this time they still have great songs and are not content to stick around as a nostalgia act.  

The latter half was a blitzkrieg of classics which didn’t let up until it was time for them to leave.  Martin Gore’s ‘acoustic’ moments were the best I’ve seen yet, with A Question of Lust and Strangelove getting an airing.  Dave Gahan has more energy now than most front-men under half his age. He controls the crowd like we are puppets and he is the master, no better is this visible than during Never Let Me Down as he  gets the signature famous crowd wave going midway through the song. This always gives me shivers down my spine to participate, and to look around at the view.  God knows how it feels from their vantage point. Once again, they are unreal.  

Green Day: Royal Hospital Kilmainham by Aaron Corr

GoldenPlec sent me to cover Green Day in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham.  It was a very wet and rainy night in Dublin, in between all the nice weather we had been having, which was unfortunate.  I had just one camera cover to do me as I used two camera bodies to shoot the gig.  I didn't know which was better or worse, having it to keep one dry, or to just do without it as it kept getting in the way of me accessing buttons.

There was two songs to shoot from the pit but the band gave ample time with these two tracks to catch them in action.  During the first song Billie Joe Armstrong pulled a fan to the stage and got her to stage dive after a bit of singing and hugging.  He moves around so fast on stage that you were constantly having to move, focus and readjust, trying to be careful to not bump into security or other photographers.  When Bille Joe went out to the platform, we couldn't go further out to shoot a nice wide angle of him with the stage as the background from the side I shot at.  The grey/white cloudy skies were also an uninspirational backdrop compared to a sunny day or some cool looking clouds.  

By the time the second song was started into the cameras were struggling even more to focus through the rain.  I've some great shots that are wasted as a result of this, though one or two others had a cool, near bokeh effect but still not worthy of using overall.  Another missed opportunity was the pyrotechnics which went off every now and then when I wasn't expecting, and when Bille Joe was out towards the crowd on his platform.  So because I was shooting him while he was near me I missed those shots.  It was a quick enough shoot and unfortunately I couldn't stay to watch the band, but the prospect of going home, getting dry and going to see Baby Driver in the cinema was just as good an opportunity at that stage.  31 years going and the band have still got it though.

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.