Thursday, May 22, 2008

#11 - Shooting Stars

Last Thursday, at the Harvard Square theatre, I saw my rock'n'roll past flash before my eyes. And I saw something else: I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen. And on a night when I needed to feel young, he made me feel like I was hearing music for the very first time. - Jon Landau, Rolling Stone magazine (1974)

The arena goes black. Shadowy figures take the stage. The crowd roars. The world explodes in a kaleidoscope of blinding light and thundering sound. 2 hours of nirvana begin . . . for everyone but the newsphotographers. We have only minutes.

Early in my career, performers gave us the whole show to photograph. A few years later, 3 songs was it. Today, who knows?

The night begins with waiting. A handful of photogs assemble somewhere close to the stage. We need to be on time, the artists do not. For example, at a recent Portland show, Springsteen began 70 minutes late -- why? Finally event security herds us to the front of the stage, blocking the view of people who paid good money to be there. "I won't be long," I promise, "I'll do my best to stay out of your way." For the next 10 to 30 minutes, I try.

Prince's first number lasted 3 minutes, Springsteen's lasted 10. One song down, two to go. Prince's first 3 songs gave us 12 minutes to get our shots, with Springsteen it was 30.

No two acts are the same, in duration or style. So come prepared to fire at every opportunity, and to scan the entire stage. Sometimes a 24mm works best, sometimes a 300.

Whether they're late, inconsistent, or even stellar, all that matters when covering a concert is walking away with the shot. I guess that's the price you pay . . . for shooting stars.

If they had told me I was the janitor and would have to mop up and clean the toilets after the show in order to play, I probably would have done it. - Bruce Springsteen