Having had a very, very hectic run of three weekends on the trot with either a gig, video or promo shoot going on I was really pleased to have something a little relaxing to look forward to on Sunday. So Newton Faulkner at the O2 Academy in Leeds was just the ticket. I hadn't realised just how tired I was until I almost fell asleep on the couch before heading out. Luckily, having young kids there is little chance of actually cat napping and I was woken up just in time by my eldest (Little Racket) jumping on me and nearly fracturing a rib or two.
I headed off into the cold, wet and dark Leeds evening. It is always a bit hit and miss turning up to take pics at larger venues. They tend to have strict professional camera policies, and the reliability of actually being assigned photo passes is a little random. On this occasion everything went smoothly, which was a bit lucky as the first support was just taking to the stage as I entered the building. I usually like to have done a little research on who is who before a gig, but I have been so busy that I literally hadn't had time. I even managed to miss the artists name when they said it as I was chatting to the security chaps about rules, so still none the wiser. I even forgot my old writing/photographer trick of taking a photo of the running order and setlist from the friendly pit supervisor, schoolboy error! Of course, this is now bugging me as I enjoyed the young singer/songwriter's set.
A photographic nightmare though as our un-named minstrel sported a huge shock of curly hair. The modern day revisiting of the afro presents quite a challenge as the hair tends to disappear into the backdrop if there is limited light in the venue, and it also casts shadows over the performer's eyes (in this case the fro was big enough to cast a shadow over the entire face). So it was a case of waiting for the odd moment when the singers head was tilted back letting some light under the canopy.
The second support came from a band called Colour The Atlas. A stripped down four piece with a dual vocal set-up. Most of the songs were sung by Jess Hall, with the odd song being led by Alex Stone. It's quite a challenge to get deeper then 'Oh I quite like this' when you are their taking pictures as you tend to have a head full of ISO's, shutter speeds and apertures. So bands broadly fall into the 'Ouch, where's the exit?', 'When is the main act on?', 'Hmmm, would like to hear more of that' or 'Christ on a bike that is good, I need to stalk the lead singer!' categories. These fell into the 'Hmmm, would like to hear more of that' category. I am a big fan of acoustic music, well when I am in the right mood, but I tend to have to listen a few times before it really sticks. I do recall nice vocals and well crafted tunes though.
From a photography perspective there was some encouragement to be had with some nice lighting. A lot of it was coming from the back, but there was enough spot to make it relatively easy to get some lovely colour wash backgrounds by lining up the singer's head with the backlit source (see pic of Jess below). For straight colour washes this tends to give a nice pronounced outline to the person you are taking a pic of and is one of the wee tricks I always aim for. Of course, this can be even more dramatic with the big swirly lights (Gozos I think they are called)
I had never seen Newton Faulkner before and really didn't know what to expect. My first impression was just how popular he appeared and enthusiastic the crowd were. A real mixed crowd too, with folks from all age groups and music creeds too. I usually find it quite easy to pidgeon hole the O2 crowds (I know I shouldn't, but it is always useful to describe who was at a gig to fill upon a couple of sentences), but this was not easy.
Mr Faulkner had a nice clean stage set-up with 4 or 5 very nice acoustic guitars lined up behind him with a globe (I did debate whether this was one of the ones that opens up to reveal a collection of spirits with one of the other togs). The whole set-up was placed on a riser, which always makes me nervous as the stage is high enough as it is at the O2 in Leeds. It can make it difficult to get anything other then up-nostril shots. Fortunately the whole thing was placed back a bit so wasn't too much of an issue. The lighting during the first three songs was really quite nice. I didn't get to see who was on the desk, but should have gone and shook their hand. All too often the show is very dimly lit for the opening songs with the interesting effects being held back for later on. There were plenty of interesting effects to play with while we were allowed in the pit though.
I am not really intending writing reviews in these little blogs and rarely criticize folks anyway (my mum always said, 'It your haven't got anything nice to say then.....') Anyway, it would have been fun to actually write a review of the show as Newton Faulkner is clearly a very accomplished songwriter and prodigiously talented guitarist. He was also very engaging and witty in-between songs and it is really easy to see why the crowd were so well disposed to him. Well worth seeing if you get the chance and like acoustic music, probably one to miss if you only like Bolt Thrower!
LATE BREAKING NEWS: The un-named first support was called Corima Francis (thanks to Milly Shelbourn for that!)