Roxy Music @ The Riverstage, 01.03.11
Well. To say that I royally fucked up tonight would be a bit of an understatement. Being led through the backstage to the front of the Riverstage, the photographers are greeted with a seated audience and a barrier pushed very close up to the stage, with the gap between the stage and the barrier being maybe 70cm wide. The only other time I’d photographed at The Riverstage when it was seated there was no photo pit and we had to shoot from the sound desk and aisles to the very side of the audience. Looking at the set-up I decide that we’re going to have to do this again but where all the photographers are congregating isn’t a very good vantage point, with Andy Mackay’s saxophone stands preventing a clear and unobstructed view of where Bryan Ferry will be stood when at his mic.
So I make the decision to walk around the audience to the other side of the stage. It’s way out to the side but there will be a clear view of Bryan Ferry and I’m on guitarist Phil Manzanera’s side of the stage so it should also give me a good chance of getting some good images of him.
The lights go down, the band come out and suddenly I realise that the photographers have been let into the tiny space between the barrier and the stage, along with two cameramen, who capture live images which are mixed into pre-recorded video and shown on the screen behind the band. Not only am I missing out on being in the photo pit and being in a position to get some great, really close-up photos, but I’ve also got a wall of photographers and camera men blocking my view. On top of that, the way Bryan Ferry is stood at his mic, he’s facing more to the other side and the Phil Manzanera is tending to face away from me as the majority of the band is positioned on the other side of the stage from where I’m crouched.
I consider running back around and trying to get in the pit but the first song – ‘The Main Thing’ – goes by in a flash and there’s no pause with the band going straight into ‘Street Life’. I weigh up the time that it’s going to take to get back around, the time that I might need to convince security that I should be in the photo pit and the time that I would then need to change lenses to exchange the large zoom for something more appropriate for being stood right in front of the people I’m trying to photograph and decide that I’m just going to have to stick it out where I am. In retrospect I should have made the move; even if I’d only got a minute in the photo pit I think it would have been enough to get something better than I got.
Luckily I’m photographing for print and only need one shot (as opposed to needing a gallery for a website) so get away with it to a certain extent, although not making the most of the opportunity to photograph Roxy Music is really disappointing. It’s their first Australian tour since 2001 and with Bryan Ferry being 65 now, the chances of them coming back again are slim.
Moral of the story: don’t try to be smart and decide the optimum place to photograph from until someone confirms that there is no photo pit.
On the upside, I do get to stay and watch the rest of the concert. It’s pretty good, although it’s the much smoother, slicker sound of later Roxy rather than the art school early years, although at times they sound like a more jazz Pink Floyd. I’m not sure of the airing of Bryan Ferry’s solo hit ‘Let’s Stick Together’; it’s Roxy Music, not a Bryan Ferry solo show. ‘Remake/Remodel’, ‘Ladytron’ or ‘Dance Away’ would have made better options if you ask me, even though it’s probably the best received song of the night.