Thursday, October 1, 2015


Russell and Ron Mael, F.F.S. live, Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, 09.30.15

THE WORST PART OF SHOOTING CONCERTS is that you can't do it without leaving the house. Perhaps we'll find a way to change that one day, but for now my (very conditional) rediscovery of shooting live music means that I've gone out more this year to see bands than I have in at least a decade, perhaps two.

I missed Sparks the last time they came through town, touring an "unplugged" show where they performed their hits with just Ron's keyboard accompanying Russell's singing. I didn't want to miss their "supergroup" tour with Franz Ferdinand, though, especially since the record they were promoting was more than up to the usual Sparks standards, and with a band that was far more committed than a bunch of hired hands.

F.F.S. live, Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, 09.30.15

Frankly, I'm not sure I'd be enjoying all this shooting without my new Fuji X-30. Lugging around an SLR and a couple of lenses would make it feel a bit too much like work, whereas this little camera doesn't make shooting so much of an obligation; if the circumstances for photos don't seem right, I can keep it in its little pouch and just watch the show.

F.F.S. live, Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, 09.30.15

Despite having to shoot over the heads of the first row of fans (it helps to be tall,) there was never a question of keeping the camera in its pouch. The opening act reminded me of how much of a handicap it is when a band's frontman has no charisma; with F.F.S. there were at least two dynamic lead singers and a combined band of personalities behind them. 

Once again, I saw how young photographers at shows are self-enforcing with the three song rule, and they either melted away or put away their gear for most of the show. I'm a relic of an older time, however, and happily snapped all the way through the show, an old shooter suddenly set free by never having to worry about running out of film.

Russell Mael, F.F.S. live, Toronto, Phoenix Concert Theatre, 09.30.15
Ron Mael, F.F.S. live, Toronto, Phoenix Concert Theatre, 09.30.15

I came late to Sparks. After sharing the "what the fuck was that?" moment with "This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us" back in the '70s, I ignored them during the '80s (Whomp That Sucker and In Outer Space didn't sync up with my hardcore and pre-grunge sensibilities during that decade) but came to appreciate them fully in the lucid plateau of middle age. They are truly one of pop music's great oddball acts, original, intelligent and richly ironic.

Of course I would have preferred to get portraits of Ron and Russell, and I did try, though their organization never favoured me with a return e-mail. The frames above will have to be a substitute until the day when I can make that opportunity happen. Much as these live music shoots are both a technical warm-up and a proxy for the portrait shoots that I'm increasingly longing to do again.

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