concert

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.

Gruff Rhys: Button Factory by Aaron Corr

Gruff Rhys is one of the most laid back, and charming frontmen His dry wit, and long sentences that take an forever to get out add to the enjoyment of seeing him live. He played two sets on this tour, with a full band rather than solo. The first set was the full Babelsberg album, the second set was a bunch of his past solo material.

Lighting wise it was very, very low, and consistently so. The ISO was turned up very high and shutter speeds as slow as I could manage. The shooting angles were also very limited since Gruff had two microphone stands in front of him. If you venture beyond the left side of Gruff to photograph him then you couldn’t see his face. From that same point if you wanted to catch Kliph Scurlock, ex Flaming Lips drummer, then his cymbals got in the way of snapping him in the darkness. So all the angles are pretty much the same, except for one from the balcony taken during the second set.

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Pip Blom: Whelans Upstairs by Aaron Corr

I first caught Pip Blom earlier in the year supporting The Breeders earlier in the year in Vicar Street, and thought they were a deadly band. 8Radio championed them after that point so they kept in my mind, and I kept up to speed with what they were up to and awaited another Irish show. This finally came with one of the final dates of their own European tour.

Shrug Life

Shrug Life

Support on the night came from Shrug Life. Normally a three piece, this time Danny Carroll performing solo, and then a portion of the set with backing vocals by Naoise Roo.

Initially it looked like it would be a case of loud band playing to quiet crowd but people soon relaxed and got really into it. There may not have been moshing, but there was dancing by some, and enthusiasm with the whole room.

The lights were the same throughout, and were the usual pain in the arse to try and calm in the editing. After the show I hung around to try get a portrait with the band after they sold some merch. They were lovely and gracious in doing so. I took the portrait in the hallway between the room and backstage, using the ambient light. In shooting gigs I don’t bring flash with me, so you make do with what you got.

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Interpol: Olympia Theatre by Aaron Corr

This was my second time shooting one of my favourite ever bands, Interpol, and the fourth time I’ve photographed Paul Banks officially. The Dublin leg of the Marauder tour consisted of three nights in the Olympia Theatre, one of their favourites it seems. I shot the opening night for MCD and was just one of three photographers. This made for great space in the photo pit for us. On their last tour for El Pintor the band were quite darkly lit, but the backdrop of the red hands from the album cover behind them led to some shots I really liked. That time I didn’t come out with any great shots of Daniel Kessler, and pretty much none of Sam Fogarino, at the back of the stage on drums. This tour was definitely a better shoot.

Nilüfer Yanya

Nilüfer Yanya

Opening proceedings on the three nights was Londoner Nilüfer Yanya. She was a far calmer and easier support to photograph than Health on the last tour.

Interpol opened with Untitled, and this time Daniel Kessler was better lit and easier to photograph than Paul Banks through the song. I spent a good portion of this song shooting Dan and Sam. I was delighted to get good shots of Sam finally, since he was doing a DJ set on the day of their final show, and I wanted to get a shot of mine signed. I managed to get his signature on the above shot.

The lights and dry ice were a mixed bag throughout the three song shoot, but there was enough time with the songs they played to capture all members of the band well. The biggest frustration were the egg shaped lights between the PA at the front of the stage. It really hindered the vantage points for wider shots. They had a disco-ball overhead (I know right? Interpol and a disco-ball) which was not used to much effect until the last few shots I took. After the three songs, certain songs in the set used it heavily, and it looked fantastic. But while it looked cool, the colours during those songs would have been a nightmare to shoot, and edit, so I’m happy with how the shoot turned out. I went to all three nights and loved every minute of it. They’re still one of the best.

Click here for full gallery, and here to see the set from El Pintor tour.

Kurt Vile: Vicar Street by Aaron Corr

Kurt Vile can be a tough cookie to photograph at a show. With his hari covering his face for the most part, it’s like trying to photograph cousin IT from The Addams Family in a foggy haze. The last time I shot a show of his it was in Whelans on his solo acoustic tour. This was quite a different experience and was tricky during the first song or so.

Kurt managed to show his face a little and from there it was just a battle with the low lighting and dry ice. Some of the colours were really washed out when editing but converted really nice to black & white.

Slaves: The Academy by Aaron Corr

It was a busy photo pit on the night of Slaves return to Dublin. Opening up the show was Murder Capital. It was my first time catching them and I was taken by how animated they were onstage. With the narrow pit and photographers brushing past each other, I kept thinking I’d get hit on the head by a wandering bass or guitar head. They are ones to watch and I’ll be seeing them again this very night opening for Shame.

Murder Capital

Murder Capital

Slaves were great to shoot, given how animated Laurie and Isaac are on stage. Laurie is easier to shoot given he is not surrounded by standing drums, and he takes to leaning over the stage to meet the crowd. There were a lot of strobes through the shoot time but it was still manageable to catch some good action in a burst of snaps. They were the complete opposite of the cheesy tunes they played for the crowd as their stage was set up, but the crowd lapped it all up.

Read The Thin Air review here.

U2: 3Arena by Aaron Corr

Here was a show and a band I was really looking forward to shooting. I saw their last tour for Innocence & Experience in the 3Arena and it was a great show. I remember seeing great photos from those show my peers, and these were what I had in mind when my opportunity came up. Let’s see what Bono and the boys give me to play with. They had very specific directions for where you had to be for certain songs throughout the show. In my mind this meant the optimal angle to shoot from for how they want to be represented, and the lights should be fantastic.

This was not the case unfortunately.

The first song to shoot was the third in the set, I Will Follow. I got to watch the first two songs from the red zone, which fans pay a couple of hundred Euros for the privilege. During the second song, Bono asked the crowd for some light, so they shone their phone’s torchlight throughout the song. The band took to the stage while Bono remained on the cage platform dividing the crowd. He was facing the thousands of fans, a starry background and it looked amazing. But I couldn’t raise my camera to capture it. My fellow photographers on the night looked at each other, sickened to know what a great shot was being missed out.

Bono came back to the main stage to join The Edge, Adam and Larry and kick in to I Will Follow. Camera were drawn and we got to shoot at the same level as everyone else, fans raised their hands in the air and I did my best to try get above this for clear shots and some with them for an “in the thick of it” effect. Some good moments were ruined by a stray hand, covering a kicking Bono in action. The lights were shining directly down on the crowns of their heads, making their faces be in shadow for the song. These pictures are obviously the better portion of the set, some I’m happy with, some are just tricky. The Edge was so far away from us that he couldn’t be given focus during it, and Larry Mullins was obscured by drum stands from where I stood. This was the closest I was going to get, and I was warned by a photographer who shot the night before, that it only got worse.

Mid set we made our way to an aisle to the right of the arena and set up a fold out step to get an extra bit of height over the crowd. It had very limited effect. We were not allowed to move around due to fire wardens directions. The last row of people were mostly sat on their chairs in front of me to give them extra height to see the show. This removed any possibility to take an arena wide shot of all fans surrounding the band. I had to snap these three songs between heads, arms and hands again. The lighting was poor to shoot in from this distance. The max zoom I had was on my 70-200mm. Bono either was in shadow or had his back to us, facing the other side of the arena. There aren’t many shots I feel happy to show off when saying “I shot U2!!”

Later in the second half of the show, we were ushered back into the arena to shoot New Years Day, as the band performed in from of a European Union flag. We were more centred than the mid gig part of the shoot, but again the lights were not great from that distance, and there was still people stood in front of us which affected how shots were taken. Below is an example of how far away I was shooting from. Once again, no picture from this part of the set makes me feel proud.

The band put on a hell of a show from what I saw between being ushered in and out of the arena, but overall I am a little disappointed by the photos.

Boy Pablo: Button Factory by Aaron Corr

I headed to catch Boy Pablo for GoldenPlec on a Bank Holiday Sunday befoer Halloween. I planned to stay for just the three songs as I was tired but the songs were short, catchy and with their penchant to throwing a few pop hits in between to get the crowd going further, I figured I should stay. It was a fun gig and I was surprised by the fandom already on display. I’d never heard of the guy a week previous.

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