July 8, 2009 – Touring for the first time in five years, No Doubt delivered an electrifying set that has this concert photographer throwing up his arms early, declaring, “Best Show of the Year.”
This was just one of those shows that taxes one's ability to self edit. The lights are great, the band is hot, and the adrenaline rush is immense. All this translates into a huge haul of images with a very high keeper rate. So, consider this one for the fans.
I'm pretty sure I had a huge grin plastered across my face while I was photographing No Doubt, though I did manage to suppress the urge to high-five my fellow photographers during the set. Even Paramore, who put on an amazing performance, were only a warm-up for No Doubt's headlining set.
For me, No Doubt's set is one of those performances concert photographer's dream of: a huge band that brings out the killer lights and works the stage with amazing energy. It's also one of those shows where time seems to slow down.
The production on a show like this is so good, and the performers so on, that these shows are, relatively, a piece of cake to shoot. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Gwen Stefani is on stage, either.
Lighting for this performance was ample, to say the least. For much of the first three songs, the band is bathed in glorious white light from spotlights and the stage rigging. A large video wall a the back of the stage provides a nice backdrop, while the third song for this performance saw a lusher treatment of yellows, oranges, and plenty of haze pumped in from the sides of the stage.
I photographed this set with two camera bodies, an approach that was highly effective. Using the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 on the D3 and the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 on the D700, I was able to cover about 95% of the action that I wanted without switching lenses. For the remaining slice, the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 picked up a few wider atmospheric shots.
Due to the very high level of movement on stage, and particularly with Gwen, I kept my shutter speeds as high as possible. There was plenty of light shining down over the performers, so this was generally not a problem. The band is fairly literally bouncing all over the stage, so my goal for this show was not only delivering emotionally compelling shots, but highly technical images as well.
For the most part, Gwen spends the first three songs dominating the center of the stage, moving back and forth between Tom and Tony and working the crowd. Gwen does come to the front of the stage on multiple occasions, as does Tony Kanal, but overall everyone hangs back. For this reason, the Nikon 14-24mm didn't get too much use.
If I can offer one piece of advice, it's this: wear comfortable shoes. This show is non-stop hustle, so if you're hungry for the images, you're going to be getting a bit of a workout chasing Gwen around the stage. I almost knocked over a fellow photographer in the pit while hurdling security guards and I'm only a little sorry (I know you understand, Sarah).