Saturday, May 31, 2008

Kiss Close

It was 1979 and I had just moved to SE Texas to work at a small newspaper. "My" entertainment writer, Denny Angelle, was glad to have a photographer who loved music and was willing to shoot concerts. Denny has been a good friend and broadened my musical mind many times since then.(see his great music blog at He asked one morning if I wanted to head over to nearby Lafayette, Louisiana to shoot Kiss at the college then known as USL. I said sure. I really didn't know Kiss then and didn't know what to expect. I wish I had been more prepared. If so, I would have spent half the night in the crowd shooting them. What an archive that would be now.

I remember the concert in the reverbrating barn known as the 'Cajun-Dome' as being dark and loud, mostly dark. I don't remember what equipment I was shooting with or much else except the moment of this photo of Gene Simmons. Amazing to me he's still performing almost 30 year later. (I saw in todays paper where Kiss was performing in Germany. There was a photo of the current lineup with Condoleeza Rice! Weird.)

I was hunkered down in the 'pit' between the crowd and the stage early in the show when Simmons wandered down to my corner and leaned over me in his macabre, maniacal face, stared straight into my lens and began flashinghis famed, long-as-a-snake tongue. And showed it off some more...and some more... I suddenly realized what was he was doing. He'd spotted the lone camera allowed in and was 'giving' me 'THE' shot of the show, stealing coverage from the others in the band. Also, he was waiting on me to let him know I had the shot. I put thumb to forefinger in the universal OK sign and off he went back across the stage. He returned two more times and repeated the shot, each time with me giving him the OK when I felt I had it. It was a glimpse of the mind of a performer, of what he's thinking of, where his mind is going while on stage. I don't remember if this one is the first or second or third time he came over but I'm sure that each time I was more prepared to shoot it. And it left me forever more aware when shooting concerts. I know 'technically' I was probably shooting on Tri-X 400 speed B&W film pushed to at least 1600 ISO since it was SO dark. It was an especially tough shot since, when he leaned over, he was backlit by the stage lights above him. I imagine I was shooting with a short fixed telephoto on a Nikon F2. And after nearly 30 years, it's still a favorite photo and moment.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Neil Diamond 1987

Over the years I've been admittedly a music snob when it comes to certain artists,ometimes justified...Christopher Cross, Air Supply, you know... One person I never appreciated was Neil Diamond. But in his case time proved my attitude unjustified. It is amazing for someone who wasn't a fan, I can sing so many of his hits. The "Jewish Elvis" as he was once known has proven a time-tested great singer and songwriter. Solitary Man, I'm a Believer, Cherry Cherry...lots of great song writing there; over 40 top-40 hits. He should get his due and be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame sometime in the next few years.

But when I went to photograph him in concert in May 1987, 21 years ago, I wasn't a fan and I wasn't when I left either. In fact, I liked him even less because of how 'restrictive' his imposed photography limitations were. Unlike most shows where I showed up, shot three songs from the pit and left, his was different. I was 'required' to meet my 'handler' at the box office at the end of the first song. The show was ' in-the-round'. My "handler" then escorted me halfway down the isle (equidistant from the front and back and a long way from the stage) where I was required to kneel on one knee at the end of a row. I was 'allowed' to shoot 'one song only' from that spot while the 'handler' stood over me. I guess they had to be at the ready in case I bolted for the stage or something. When my one song ended (I wish I could remember what that song was) I was escorted back out the front door of the arena. Walking out, it was amazing to see the faces of all his fans, mostly women, looking with total adoration back to the stage.

He's got a new album out and still performs to legions of loving fans even though at 67 his voice is a weak imitation of the power he once had. Still, his true power is his song writing, his ability to create songs that people want, in fact can't help, sing. And it seems he's a genuinely nice guy. And also, though long before we met, I later learned that my wife was in the crowd that night too. See Neil Diamond and other muscians in concert at my website

Thursday, May 1, 2008

David Lee Roth-Man of Many Moods 1988

I wasn't a big fan of "Diamond Dave" David Lee Roth before this show in 1988 but I left a true admirer. Anyone who works that hard for his audience, makes it that much fun and makes such a joyful noise it aces in my book. He'd split a couple years before from Van Halen and their great run of top hits.

Roth's flamboyant antics contrasted with Eddie Van Halen's technical wizardry on guitar. Roth put his own stamp on their mid-80's hits like "Panama", "Jump" and "Hot for Teacher". You can't hear those song without hearing DLR's voice stamped in your brain. His later solo hit cover's like "California Girls" and "just a Gigolo" returned him to huge commercial success.

On this tour Dave's recording and touring supergroup of Steve Vai (see photo) on guitar, Billy Sheehan on bass and Gregg Bissonette on drums was super-tight and didn't miss a beat without Eddie and crew. Roth's energy on stage commanded the audience as he ripped through hit after hit. But he often made room for Vai to step forefront in the same way he had for Eddie.
He worked his ass off on stage and few artist I ever shot in concert gave me more 'looks', more different images in the short three songs I got to shoot. He wasn't the worlds greatest rock singer but he was a marvel of an entertainer. You have to appreciate someone who is having so much fun doing what they love.

IN January 2006 Roth replaced Howard Stern's show on CBS but that didn't last but four months. In Spring of 2007 he and Van Halen bandmates were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and last fall they were finally able to rejoin and tour together for the first time since 1985. The tour has been a huge success. I think it was the #3 grossing tour of the year.
These and all my concert photographs are available to buy from my website