Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Watch

I’ve already posted about meeting and photographing Martin Levac, the Canadian musician who sings Phil Collins’ repertoire in various bands like a real pro. Taking pictures at his “Dance into the Light” concerts in Stuttgart and Mannheim were extraordinary evenings for me. I had a press pass (free ticket), could take pictures wherever I wanted, and enjoyed his incredible musicianship as I was doing so.
In contrast to all the other Genesis (and Genesis-related) concerts I’d ever been to, these were not sold out. And yet they were in relatively big concert halls that seat nearly 2000 people.

Recently, I had the opportunity to hear, see and photograph a concert giving by the Italian band, The Watch. They play great progressive rock songs of their own, yet are probably best known for their true renditions of early Genesis tunes. On May 30 they were in Stuttgart. A friend of mine had reminded me of the concert, and since I was in town with Fynn and Fiona that day, I thought I’d go by the club and see if I could reserve a ticket for that evening.

I had never been in Zwölfzehn, a small club around the corner from where I work. When we arrived, an old red van was parked on the sidewalk near the front door and a group of long-haired men were sitting around waiting for something. I figured that must be the band. They were waiting – it was nearly 6 p.m. – for the owner to come open the bar. Having just driven down from Sweden, they seemed in awfully good spirits for a group of artists who were slowly realizing they would have no time for a real sound-check before the concert.
 I chatted with them a bit – Simone, the singer, speaks very good English – and asked if I could take pictures that evening. As with Martin, I promised to send them the pictures. They agreed and we waited a bit with them. When the owner finally arrived, Fynn and Fiona and I helped them move their equipment into the bar. A lifetime dream had finally come true: I was a Genesis roadie! After meeting Mike Rutherford at his house when I was 18, I had always dreamed of getting together with the band on the road. This was as close as I was going to get at 48!

Of course, Fynn and Fiona wanted to go to the concert, too, but since it wasn’t to start until 8:30, there was no chance. Actually, it didn’t start until 9. I got there early and helped them take tickets while they went to get some food. By the time the concert started, I had seen all the musicians and they knew me by sight.

They opened with one of their own songs, which I thought was as good as anything I had ever heard from the progressive rock genre. To my Genesis-trained ears, everyone else is just trying to sound like them, but usually come short of the mark. One of the highlights was hearing Gabriel play "Horizons" before they did "Supper's Ready". He played it differently from how I learned it, but it was beautiful! Here he is - deservedly self-satisfied - after having finished his Hackett solo.
As good as the music was, the lighting was awful. Having seen that the place was small, I had brought only my f2.8/28-75mm and f1.7/50mm lenses and a flash. I was glad I had the extra few millimeters at times, but the pictures with the brighter prime lens came out even better.
While I was up front taking pictures, a woman named Inge asked me if she might be able to see the pictures sometime. I assured her she would. When I took some pictures with wireless flash, she even held it for me at various angles, resulting in some interesting looking shots.

I’m finally getting around to posting these pictures and I’ll tell you why it took so long. As I mentioned, the lighting was awful. The flash didn’t help much because I couldn’t bounce it off anything (the ceiling and back wall were dark) and I hadn’t mastered the art of mixing flash and ambient light (I’m still working on that).

Anyway, I took a few hundred pictures, concentrating on the singer and guitarist because the light shining on them allowed for the best pictures. However, it wasn’t until I was playing around with the sliders in Lightroom that I desaturated one of the pictures and realized that in black and white they looked great. The red tinge provided by the overhead lights added nothing positive to the atmosphere. Still I wasn’t sure whether it would be good to do a totally black-and-white set of pictures because that’s not really how I remember experiencing the concert. So I've added a bit of red in the highlights. What do you think?

For the encores, I sat backstage and took some pictures from that vantage point, which allowed me to get the crowd in some of the pictures.
 The drummer, Marco Fabbri, lay down the beat for the band but still had time to pose for me before the last encore, “Watcher of the Skies”.

The magic of this concert for me was seeing a relatively small audience in a small place listening with rapt attention to the great music. I could imagine what the first concerts of Genesis were like forty years ago. The music matched the setting perfectly. I’ll definitely make an effort to hear them again. You should, too!

1 comment:

  1. Great pictures, Jim! The idea of "coloring" them red was good, you have created a special atmosphere with them.

    I've seen The Watch in Oslo twice (Nursery last year, Foxtrot this year) and they're brilliant. Can't wait to see them play Selling next spring, so I hope they include Oslo next time as well.

    Thanks again!