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.

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.

Sigrid: The Academy by Aaron Corr

Sigrid is a star on the rise, so I made sure to get to her show to catch her on the smaller stage for GoldenPlec before she ends up playing bigger, and less intimate shows.  I only stayed for the three songs I shot so I can't really comment on the gig itself, but you can read all about it here.  I did have a giggle at the set list noting when to talk to the crowd, and what to say.  The crowd were going crazy for her on the night and I don't think the smile once left her face while I was taking photos.

Kate Nash: The Academy by Aaron Corr

When I completed my shoot of Brian Wilson’s show in Bord Gais Theatre I realised it was still very early and was thinking that I could have easily have shot the Kate Nash gig that same night, but usually there is no way of planning this and it working.  The Academy is on one of my routes home so I strolled past it at 8:45 and saw crowds of fans outside having a cigarette.  I chanced my arm and walked up to the MCD person working at the front door and asked if there was any spare passes to shoot.  As it turns out MCD’s snapper opted out of the shoot and now I had the pass to shoot my second show of the night.

I wasn’t long waiting before Kate Nash’s band took to the stage to play their intro before she took to the stage.  The set up on stage was busy with flowers, trees, streamers and clouds, the lights were heavy on purples, greens and blues and Kate was ready to reacquaint everyone with her debut album.  She stalked the stage left to right after teasing a verse & chorus of her biggest hit, Foundations.

This was the first show of the tour and the band were in fine form, with plenty of hair flicking and rock poses.  Kate, fresh from her success in starring in Netflix's GLOW, was bouncing around and by the last song of the shoot was down to the front row of the crowd to scream the words to Dickhead into the eager fans faces.

The usual Academy issues still applied, mainly being the harsh colours and the annoying efforts it takes to try fix them in Lightroom but I was happy to get shooting the show regardless.  Especially given the contrast to the fixed and distant position given to me in Bord Gais for the previous shoot.  

Brian Wilson: Bord Gais Energy Theatre by Aaron Corr

The Thin Air sent me to cover the legendary Brian Wilson's Pet Sounds show in Bord Gais Energy Theatre in Dublin.  The show started early and, as I expected, I was not able to stay to take in the rest of the show which is a pity.  I won't let that bother me though, I did get to see him do the Pet Sounds show in Primavera last year and the early exit afforded me the opportunity to dive into another show that night, covered in the next blog.

As usual with BGET, three songs with no flash and from one side of the theatre.  They are not a dynamic band on stage, it's all about the performance of the songs and being faithful to the music.  This doesn't create any great variations with the shots I've got on the night but who cares, it's Brian Wilson and he may be retiring from touring soon.  The lighting was really good on stage which was great for shooting on a 70-200mm throughout.  I got to hear I Get Around during the shoot which was a nice touch.  I left the venue happy to have photographed the great man.

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.

Liam Gallagher: Olympia Theatre by Aaron Corr

Back in my teens, when I was still mourning the loss of Nirvana and Kurt Cobain, Oasis came along and were just the band I needed to move on.  They were the right band, at the right time for a generation.  They were my first ever concert I attended, Pairc Ui Chaoimh in Cork, straight after their massive Knebworth performances.  They were at the pinnacle of their career, and though they continued on for a few albums, continued to sell out stadiums and arenas, nothing was ever as good as that point in time.  As my musical tastes grew and as original members dropped out of the band, I too began to lose interest, but I did still love the band for what were a perfect few years of music.

With Beady Eye now a thing of the past, and Noel and Liam Gallagher's sibling rivalry getting in the way of an Oasis reunion, it is now time for Liam Gallagher to have a go at a solo career, and Dublin's Olympia was one of the first ports of call for him to play.  I bagged myself a chance to get a photo pass and got nostalgic in anticipation at photographing the man himself.  I half expected a photo contract to sign, and rules to shoot from the side only (like requested for photographers of Beady Eye) but amazingly that was not the case.  My teenage self would likely not have been able to contain himself at the chance to have the best view in the house at this gig for a few songs.  Liam and the band walk on to the stage to flashing lights while Fuckin’ in the Bushes plays over the PA.  He engages the crowd by reaching his tambourine out and then takes to the microphone for Rock ‘n Roll Star.

Prior to his arrival, photographers were warned that if the crowd goes nuts and crowd surf over the front barrier through the opening two Oasis songs then we would get pulled out of the photo pit, shoot from the sides and then enter on the third track when things calm.  Irish fans can be nuts, but they didn’t go that far that through the opening double whammy (Morning Glory being the second song) that we had to get escorted out.  All the better for us.  The fans were still as enthusiastic as they come, even if this didn’t mean launching themselves over the barrier.

The lighting was fantastic throughout the shoot.  He has a strong white light predominantly on him, and the mirrored stage decoration helped matters even more.  The light was so bright it allowed me to shoot at far higher aperture and shutter speeds than usual, which provided plenty of really sharp and crisp images compared to most other shows where lighting can be a battle.  My favourite shot from the set is the portrait I’ve added to the Live gallery as it actually feels more like a portrait of the man, rather than a concert shot, and it got an amazing reaction from fans and viewers on social media.  

Liam is well and truly back.  Complete gallery here.  As you were.

Take That: 3Arena by Aaron Corr

My April was spent getting ready for a work trip that I was extending into a long holiday, taking in Orlando, Miami and the Bahamas.  I purposefully held back from shooting too many gigs in advance, however I did have one gig on the calendar for the day I came back and that was this one.  Take That have always put on huge shows with creative visuals for their fans and I didn’t want to let some jet lag get in the way of what would be a fun shoot.

I knew the shoot would be from the middle of the crowd and that a telephoto lens was pretty much all I’d be using.  This doesn’t matter as much with a show of this nature since it’s all about getting the scale of what is on stage.  What I found out after the show was that the best was yet to come, and the first three songs was essentially an empty stage by comparison.  My sister was at the gig and told me how the show kept getting bigger, busier and better, complete with rain which fell in patterns and shapes, band members being raised up to the rafters.  I was there to shoot the three lads in action and I got that, but given the chance to shoot the rest then it would have been icing on the cake.

Bar the distance from the stage to shoot, the only other obstacle was when the crowd got to their feet by the second song.  This meant a lot of dodging and moving to try get the angle I wanted and without people’s heads, hands or phones in the way.  It wasn’t always achievable and either resulted in a little of them getting in the shot or not being able to capture the image at all as planned.  The band moved around the stage quite a bit and were only in the same frame when zoomed in at a handful of times.  The rest of the time they would be separately wandering the circular stage to see other parts of the crowd and give them some face time.

Regardless of how tired I was from my overnight flight and lack of sleep over the last two days, if I was offered a seat to stay I would have been very tempted to stay and see the rest of the show they put on.  As much as they would have been laughable when I was growing up, listening to grunge, Britpop and everything else, they have aged gracefully ( both as a band as well as musically) and are as strong as a three man group and not showing any signs of losing quality for it.