Mr. Scott and Mr. Wickham are no strangers to my lenses. I caught them at a street performance on a very cold January day earlier this year as they promoted their latest release "Modern Blues". It was a significantly easier assignment given that it was outdoors in the early hours of the morning. For that, the only challenge was to be able to withstand the cold and hold the camera steady. This time however, it's a return to Vicar Street to catch them on the first night of their four night residency in Dublin. In retrospect, I probably should have tried for the final date, but my schedule that week was so insane, that it made more sense to get the first night while I was still relatively fresh.
The curse of Vicar Street continues, as I collect my pass, I'm told sides only again. Fair enough, "Is this a seated gig tonight?", I ask, to be told it was fully standing downstairs. "How the fuck is that going to work?", I asked myself. Balcony was also off limits, so that left me scratching my head. Mike can be a bit unpredictable when it comes to photographers but this was a seemingly impossible task. As most of the people in attendance tonight seem to have drank copious amounts of Baby Bio as kids, as I'm amongst the land of the giants (unusual as Ireland is known for being a race of short guys!). Due to my last show here, I made sure to pack both zoom lenses. Hallowed be thy 300mm lens!
Support on this particular night is Joe Chester, who has done his time on the music circuit over the years as a singer/songwriter, session guitarist and producer. He's only doing support on this particular night, as The Jimmy Cake opened up on the other three consecutive nights. A rather dark stage set up, accompanied by Vivienne Long and alternating between keys and guitar. Due to the lack of pit access, I can just forget about about getting him behind keys due to the lack of vantage points. However it's still possible to get some shots of both a guitar wielding Joe and Vivienne from the floor which slowly fills up.
As previously mentioned, light is dark, blue and quite moody. Perfectly workable with a 70-200mm f/2.8 presenting little in the way of problems as there are spotlights on both Joe and Vivienne. First song was shot mostly at ISO 1600 between 160mm-200mm at f/2.8 with shutter speeds varying between 1/100sec and 1/160sec. This set is a lot darker than it actually looked. The second song got even darker as I had to slow the shutter speed down to 1/80sec. Luckily for me, this acoustic set means they're not moving around quite as much, and say what you want about the original VR version of Nikkor's 70-200mm, it's vibration reduction is still quite effective if you can hold the camera steady for 1-2 seconds to allow it to do it's job.
I begin to get very nervous just before The Waterboys walk on stage. At this point, the ground floor is very full. This is clearly going to limit me to three vantage points. One by the steps to enter the left tier seating, one by the sound board, and one by the steps on the right tier seating. Back of the floor isn't an option, I'm simply not tall enough. First song is 'Destinies Entwined', and this works in my favour as it's almost six minutes long, giving me a chance to get enough from the right hand side, before battling my way through the back to get to the other side. 'Still A Freak' is up next at four minutes long, giving me enough shots from the left hand side of the venue this time. Scott retreats to the keyboard for 'A Girl Called Johnny', only option here is to go to the far left hand side of the venue and zoom.
In what can only be described as a funny facepalm moment, one of the security crew tell me as I'm packing my gear up, that the pit was actually accessible as long as I wasn't in Mike's direct line of sight, it would have been alright to use the pit. By this point, the third song was almost up. I was in such good spirits from what I had gotten against the odds that I just laughed it off. The jury is still out on which story is true regarding access, but five days later and I'm still laughing about it. What's done is done and all that.
The lighting was just perfect for this show. Even my crappy 55-300mm f/4-5.6 lens was able to produce the results that I was looking for given how far back that I was. There was so much light on the stage that I found myself stopping down all the way to f/5-5.3 even with the good lens. ISO 1600 used once again, there was no need to bump it up to 2000. Shutter speed was consistent at 1/200sec. It's safe to say that even if pit access was available, one could have walked in there with the most mediocre of lenses and still would have ended up with press quality shots. So kudos to those operating the lights in the venue for these shows. They were a dream for me to work with, and they looked fantastic to the paying crowd.
I left the venue after the third song. Ground floor was just too crowded for my liking. It was one of those shoots that was more mentally draining than anything else. My week was fairly full on with gigs, and when the body and the brain speak, you shut up, sit down and listen. I left the venue grinning from ear to ear and was home within an hour putting the finishing touches to the shots with delight. Ready to see what the following nights gig was going to bring.