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McAlmont & Butler | Vicar Street, Dublin, Ireland | 01.11.15

Here is the ultimate example of how time flies. For anyone who was paying attention to the alternative music p…

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

Here is the ultimate example of how time flies. For anyone who was paying attention to the alternative music press in 1994, one of the bigger stories that shook the industry (after Cobain taking his own life) was Bernard Butler's decision to leave Suede at the height of the bands success at the time. This ended up leaving many to doubt the future of Suede just as their second album was about to hit the shelves and a pending tour looming, while others were wondering exactly what Bernard Butler would end up doing next. Suede survived however, taking on then 17 year old Richard Oakes, who has remained with the band since.

Butler on the other hand, went on to team up with former Thieves vocalist, David McAlmont and subsequently recorded a series of singles throughout 1995. 'The Sound Of McAlmont & Butler' was later released, marketed as an album but it was actually a compilation of the singles recorded and ended up being released after the pair went on hiatus. They didn't tour to promote any of the singles, save for a handful of festival appearances throughout 1995. They both pursued successful solo careers and occasionally reunited. This tour marked the 20th anniversary of the pairing, and Dublin's Vicar Street was the location for their Irish visit.

This show is fully seated which is relaxed and mellow for the punters, it's also hell on so many levels for photographers due to the venue's layout and lack of raised areas on the ground floor. And now matter how invisible we try to be, It's not always good enough in some instances. So it's batten down the hatches and break out the zoom lens for a night of gun 'n run. Opening for the band, were 3/4 of The Magic Numbers, a band I'm no stranger to as I had worked with them last year during the Academy date in December. Minus their drummer, Sean Gannon, they appeared as a three piece acoustic set.

A huge positive for Vicar Street is that it's very rarely that the lights will fail. In fact, it's one of the few venues left in Dublin that hasn't gone the route of the cheap and nasty LED bulbs and still uses the old style, "I don't give a bollocks about energy" lamps. So even from the wings or the desk from the venue, the lights will be the last thing to worry about. For The Magic Numbers, ISO 1600 was used with a 70-200mm at f/2.8 zoomed between 160mm-200mm from the sides with a shutter speed varying from 1/100sec to 1/160sec. I probably could have worked to 1/200sec and adjusted it further in post, but my hands are steady enough, and long may they stay that way.

McAlmont & Butler up next, and trying to keep up with David McAlmont is enough to save you a trip to the gym. He's quite animated, so trying to catch him from a distance is a challenge to say the least. One of the more irritating moments of the show is that despite that it's a fully seated show, you'll always get a few people standing in the middle of the seated area anyway, and it usually takes five minutes to get them seated again (and by then, my shot is completely ruined). But if a photographer dare spend more than 20 seconds in the one spot, we're moved on in the blink of an eye by security. It's a no win situation unfortunately. I appreciate that security have their job to do, but then, so does the photographer. Rules suit me fine, but consistency would suit me better. 

The earlier appearance of The Magic Numbers is also explained as they're part of the backing band for tonights show too, including a six piece string section, keys, drums which in total make 13 people on the stage for the show. In this particular case, taking shots from a distance has more advantages than being up close. Was difficult to get some shots of Butler from stage left without a stack of monitors getting in the way, but from stage right, with a decent zoom was easy pickings. 

The 24-70mm lens was as good as useless for this one, so one camera and one lens was all that was needed. ISO 1600 at f/2.8 (Probably could have gotten away with f/3.5) and like The Magic Numbers, zoomed between 160mm-200mm, only this time, I kept the shutter speed at 1/125sec. This wasn't exactly my finest hour in terms of results. A photographer can only deliver so much when they're restricted creatively. There are so many perspectives from performers standpoint, security's standpoint, and a photographers standpoint, and it's rare that all will agree. It's the nature of the beast really.

I left the venue disappointed, spewing venom and contemplating investing on a longer zoom, because in times like this, even in medium sized venues like Vicar Street, 200mm isn't always enough. Unfortunately for me, I don't have a couple of grand to spare in my bank balance just yet, but the more I look at some of the lenses out there for sound desk shoots, the more I end up salivating and desperately wanting that new toy. A good couple of hours to calm down and I was able to look at the photos with a clearer head. Considering the obstacles. I'm actually delighted with the end result.

One ended up in the Sunday Times Culture magazine the following week, so clearly it wasn't a total waste.

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