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The Devlins | Whelan's, Dublin, Ireland | 05.11.15

This was a show that took me back. An ex girlfriend introduced me to the 'Live Bait, Dead Bait' EP from The De…

© Shaun M. Neary 2015. Please do not use this image without permission.

This was a show that took me back. An ex girlfriend introduced me to the 'Live Bait, Dead Bait' EP from The Devlins back in 1993, which admittedly took a while to grow on me due to being quite rigid in my musical choices and very being very heavily influenced by the likes of Ministry and Die Krupps at the time, the concept of trying to mellow out was somewhat foreign to say the least. Said EP had been out a good number of months, and their debut 'Drift' was around the corner from being released with more polished versions of most of the EP featuring on the album. By then, I was able to appreciate The Devlins for who they were and what they would become.

Twenty two years on and four albums later and the band appear to go in and out of hiatus. With no studio output in over ten years as a cohesive unit (although Colin did issue his first solo studio effort in 2009, titled 'Democracy Of One'). Having seen The Devlins live at The Ambassador in 2002 and being subsequently blown away by the performance, they were one of those bands that looking back, I wished I'd had a camera (and a barrage of confidence) back then to have documented it. Upon hearing they were performing at Whelans this month, I was all over it like a rash.

Kicking things off, is Toronto singer-songwriter, Lesley Pike, who is given the task to break the ice of what appears to be a very shy Dublin crowd on the night, and she made it look easy. The standard lighting used for her performance made for an easy shoot, with plenty of room to move around up the front. One of the drawbacks about Whelan's while the place is still filling up, is that everyone stays down the very back by the desk, which tends to make me very self-conscious up the very front taking photographs. One of the things music photographers are supposed to be is inconspicuous. There was two hopes of that happening tonight, and Bob left us a long time ago.

Tools of the trade tonight are my trusty 14-24mm f/2.8 and my 24-70mm f/2.8, the former of which I have owned for just over a year, and I have to say, when it comes to the smaller sized venues, it is a godsend. Definitely no case of buyers remorse here. Strong case of white back light in the venue tonight, so settings for the most part end up at ISO 1600, with an aperture between f/2.8 and f/3.5 and shutter speeds varying between 1/160sec and 1/200sec. For this particular set, I am literally done by one song due to having so much room up the front to get everything that I need from all angles. 

The moment of truth as the lights go out and The Devlins hit the stage. Waiting for the lights to come back on and I'm then reminded of the show at The Ambassador in 2002, and how dark that was. Well nothing really changed, save for the lack of smoke machine which from a photographers standpoint, was a welcome omission. The front light finally comes on for brief periods during the first song, so it's a case of going hell for leather in the 40-50 second window. Blue lights for the second song, which will make for a challenge ensuring that the band don't look like ill Smurfs. With a dark, orange colour for the third song, this made for what was possibly the toughest gig that I had shot at this venue since I started in May 2013.

Refusing to cave in to cranking the camera's ISO to 3200, setting was alternated between 1600 and 2000. Aperture remained at f/2.8 with a temptation to ditch the 24-70mm and switch to a 50mm f/1.4, but given the slow focus on that lens, and the lack of lighting, the results most likely would have ended in disaster, so I kept the two zooms for the show. Shutter speeds varied, but were kept between 1/100sec to 1/160sec, although for guitarist, Mark Murphy drew the short straw and got the dark corner of doom, so slow shutter speeds were required, alternating between 1/60sec and 1/80sec. Being able to capture him at all was nothing short of a miracle.

When one considers the challenges faced at Whelan's most nights with the lack of a barrier, in this particular case, it wasn't particularly needed. But given the choice, I'd have picked shooting in the middle of a packed venue over the lighting conditions tonight. From a punters point of view, the light setup added to the atmosphere of the show, and I'll never take that away. It's just one of those cases where photography cannot do the show justice, which is a rarity. In saying that, during the second and third song, some gems were captured, such as the shot above. Even if I did have to dash across the floor to catch it!

I certainly wouldn't let this put me off snapping The Devlins again should the opportunity arise to do so, but I would probably attempt to trade off the 24-70mm for a 50mm f/1.4 in an attempt to compensate for the lack of lighting. But for anyone who suggests that all photographers do is just "stand there and push a button" should try their hand at one of these shows, and then come back to me with your findings.

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