It was cold and raining and the Terminal 5 box office had no record of my tickets. As I stood on 56th Street, soaked to the bone, I cursed my luck and Editors for bringing the soggy English weather with them.

Were it not for my love of gloomy post-punk-indie and the numerous assurances from friends across the pond that this would be an epic show, I might have packed it in and gone to bed. Instead, I crossed my fingers, bought a new ticket and hoped that Editors would not disappoint.

As it happened, it was my lucky night after all. Following extremely strong opening sets from Louis XIV and Hot Hot Heat, the Birmingham four-piece brought the rock without mercy or fanfare. On stage, Editors were a strange mixture of indie-band appeal and the kind of epic stage presence that immediately reminded me of U2 circa War.

I found the performance surprisingly dynamic considering the rainy day topics of many of the band’s songs. Though Chris Urbanowicz’s guitar riffs dazzled throughout the set and Russell Leetch laid down thick bass lines to Ed Lay’s feverish hi-hat, Editors’ stage presence was dominated by frontman Tom Smith.

Dressed in a dark button-down and jeans, Smith careened across the stage pausing either to play piano or to play on top of it. When at center stage, his frenetic movements only increased. With guitar holstered on the left, Smith threw out one hyper extended hand gesture after another before returning to his signature double-fisted mic grip. The depths of Smith’s baritone channeled Jim Morrison while the higher end of his range evoked a slightly Michael Stipe croon.

Drawing mainly from their 2007 release An End Has A Start, the band had heads nodding and fists in the air from show opener “Bones” to the finale “Fingers In The Factories.” Tracks “Blood,” “Munich,” and “Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors” drew particularly strong responses from the crowd.

Minutes after leaving the pit, I realized that the magic of an Editors show does not reside in some profoundly personal explanation of the their melancholy songs or a slow tear-jerking piano solo, it springs from the band’s uncanny ability to transform their gloomy everyman lyrics into a danceable and uplifting adrenaline-infused experience.

Set List:
All Sparks
An End Has A Start
Bullets
Escape The Nest
The Weight Of The World
Lights
Blood
When Anger Shows
You Are Fading
The Racing Rats
Munich
Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors
Fingers In The Factories

PHOTOGRAPHER’S NOTES

<begin rant>

I arrived at Terminal 5 in a bad mood after a 15 minute walk from the subway in what a friend refers to as slain which, if I’m not mistaken, is a combination of snow and freezing rain. Despite having my email confirmation from SonyBMG stating that a pair of tickets + photo pass would be waiting for me at the box office, they had no record of my tickets.

I look over to find 3x Emmy Award winning cinematographer, fellow rock photographer and friend Paul Bachmann (www.rockographer.com) in the same situation. Our mutual contact dropped the ball and the venue refused to honor the agreements clearly stated in our emails.

These things happen on occasion, but it’s never resulted in me having to buy additional tickets in order to complete my assignment. I guess there is a first for everything. My point in writing this is not entirely to complain.

The point is that photographers like Paul and me are professionals who take their assignments and work seriously.

Yes, Editors put on a great show, but if I wanted to enjoy the concert I would have bought my own tickets, brought an umbrella, and most certainly left my 15 pounds of camera gear at home. It would have saved me the hours of photo editing and writing after the fact and I wouldn’t have had to watch the concert from the photographer’s pen by the EXIT door after the first three.

We are professionals providing a service, treat us as such.

<end rant>

Lighting

The lighting for this set was interesting in that it focused entirely on Smith. For the first three, there was no direct light on the other band members. There was so little light that I didn’t attempt to shoot them. The lighting setup on Tom was fairly ample and consisted of warm frontlighting shot from high above the stage with red, purple and orange searchlights from behind.

More than any previous concert, my shooting position was determined by the lighting rig. For much of the first three songs, a bright light was positioned directly behind Tom’s head such that had I been a few degrees to the left or right, it would have ruined my photos and autofocus with flare (imagine pointing a flashlight directly into your lens and trying to focus on something in front of it). The angle of the light, Tom’s head and my lens had to be in perfect alignment for the shots to work. Were I taller, this might not have been a problem.

Settings

My exposure fell in the range of ISO 1600 to 3200 at either f/2.8 – f/4.0 and 1/200 sec. I’ve become quite comfortable with the image quality from the 1D3 at ISO 3200 such that I will use it as my base ISO in favor of stopping down to f/4.0.

Gear

After seeing some absolutely amazing stuff from my brother Todd’s (www.ishootshows.com) new Nikon 12-24mm f/2.8, I decided to rent the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L. Though the 16mm end on Canon’s 1.3x crop isn’t nearly as wide as the 12mm on the full-frame D3, it’s still a ton wider than I’m used to shooting. A few good ones from the set come thanks to the 16-35mm. The rest of the images are a mixture of the 24-70mm f/2.8L and the 70-200mm f/2.8L.

  1. Chris, thanks so much for the mention. Your shots are superb!
    You really captured and featured the best moments. Not an easy job with the lighting variations you had to overcome that night. Great eye, see you soon .

    Paul

  2. Man I really hate when publicists and labels screw photographers over like that. It happens to me at least 50 percent of the time. How did you get into the pit without a photo pass or did you just need to get a ticket? Great photos by the way!

  3. Nice pics. Makes me want a 1dmk3 even more but then I won’t get to use my 10-22 :(

  4. chris

    Paul – You’re welcome and thanks. Backlighting is really challenging and I must say that I wasn’t very optimistic when I saw the lighting for the opening acts. It was just rubbish.

  5. chris

    Bryan – It doubt that anyone was trying to screw me over by forgetting to set aside ticket. What I was pissed about was that I had proof that I was supposed to have two tickets and a photo pass (which they had) but yet the box office refused to give me tickets even though tickets were available. I asked, “I have the email, you have my photo pass, how can you have my pass and not my tickets?” They just shrugged and told me they were sorry. I’ve tried to see things from their perspective but can’t see why they wouldn’t honor my assignment. After all, my tickets and photo pass came from SonyBMG, not some local publicist running a firm out of a studio apartment on the Lower East Side.

  6. chris

    Chris – I would hold off on the 1D3, it has design problems. Personally, I feel stuck with a lemon camera. I would wait for the successor to the 5D. It should be almost impossible for Canon to fuck up. Hell, it’ll probably be my next purchase.

  7. What flavor was the mic, chocolate or strawberry?

    Really nice set, and the lights at Terminal 5 look great, too. The relatively low rig seems to work well with the water hazers for some nice atmospherics, but this can be a mixed blessing. I’ll be interested in catching some shows there.

    I really dig the piano shot, that’s my pick for the set. Looking good. I think the wide shots work, too — what did you think of the 16-35? Was it the MK2?

  8. Wow, you and your brother got SKILLZ. This is a phenomenal set of photos. I agree, the piano shot is out of this world. Very cool.

  9. chris

    Thanks Keith!

  10. Man I really hate when publicists and labels screw photographers over like that. It happens to me at least 50 percent of the time. How did you get into the pit without a photo pass or did you just need to get a ticket? Great photos by the way!

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