Flights of The Electribird

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The Hiatus is Over When the Hammer Falls

Damn, what a hiatus! Reassignments, trips overseas and death in the family sure take time to deal with, don’t they? Well, no matter the excuse, I owe you something good to read after being away for so long. How about a concert review? Last Friday, I had the honour of spending the evening in front row of a band that’s been on a hiatus too (2 years, to be more precise). If the title wasn’t a good enough hint for you, Hammerfall are back on stage and headbanging their way loud and clear for every soul to hear.

You can really tell that Hammerfall’s been missed after being away for so long. Eager fans had already begun to flock the front row by the time I arrived – over 2 hours early! I was still lucky enough to secure my usual spot, though, which was something I learned to regret in the end… I had a little mishap while moving the images from the camera to the tablet, causing some photos to go missing. Thank goodness I found them in the end, because one of them is the best shot I could get of Hammerfall’s drummer, Anders Johansson.

Hammerfall's drummer, Anders Johansson, checking the drums before the concert.

Hammerfall’s drummer, Anders Johansson, checks the drums a few hours before the concert starts.

After two hours of waiting and sound-checking, Hammerfall finally kicked off – and goodness, did they kick off big! The soundwaves from the on-stage speakers nearly caused an earthquake, fireworks sparkled up from the edge of the stage and smoke sneaked up from behind the band. The combination of these things made it hard for me to get good shots of the band early on, but things got a bit easier after disaster struck. If I heard Joacim Cans, Hammerfall’s current singer, correctly, he’s allergic to sulfur, which caused him to lose his voice halfway through the concert. After a 5-minute-break, he was able to sing again and notifyed the pyrotechnician backstage to stop activating the fireworks for a while. As Joacim’s voice got better, he later told the audience to beat up the pyrotechnician if the fireworks went off again. Just as well, the fireworks were mostly blocking my view anyway…

Hammerfall performing with the stage on fire!

Hammerfall performing with the stage on fire!

After that, it became easier to take pictures of the rest of the band.

Joacim Cans with a large hammer.

Joacim Cans, holding a large, heavy hammer.

One of the guitar players, Pontus Norgren, and the electric bass player, Fredrik Larsson.

One of the guitar players, Pontus Norgren, and the electric bass player, Fredrik Larsson.

The other guitar player, Oscar Dronjak.

Apart from their well-known songs, like “Bloodbound”, “Let the Hammer Fall” and “Last Man Standing”, if I remember the titles correctly, Hammerfall also performed some songs from their knew album, (r)Evolution, for the first time. I wish I could post the videos I shot of them. Too bad the soundwaves from the speakers messed up the sound recording, turning the music in my videoclips into noise. Well, at least the photos that survived the vibrations were enough to serve their purpose as mementos and visuals for this blog post. Then the fireworks went off once more after the last song, which makes me wonder if the pyrotechnician got beaten up in the end after all…

Hammerfall finishes their last song with fireworks.

Hammerfall finishes their last song with fireworks.

Then, after the concert was over, Hammerfall signed autographs in a tent nearby.

The tent where Hammerfall signed autographs to a VERY long line of fans.

The tent where Hammerfall signed autographs to a humongously huge line of eager fans of all ages.

All in all, Hammerfall earned a 4/5 easily. Don’t get me wrong, they deserved top score, but if I have to choose between a good performance from the artists and visual flare, performance ALWAYS comes first. The extra flare on stage isn’t worth it, if it’s going to affect how the performers do their gig in a negative way. A rocker’s life is normally known to be short, so why let them risk their health for our entertainment’s sake? Allergies should never be taken lightly, because most of them can cause all kinds of hell if they don’t kill you first. Luckily, Joacim Cans seemed fine by the end of this concert. Hopefully, he and the other members of Hammerfall will remain in good health for the rest of their lives.

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I’ve Been Watching Sting!

Last week, I got the honour to attend a concert I never thought I’d be attending – especially for free! I grew up listening to Sting, both while he was in the band The Police and afterwards, so you can imagine my delight when I found out that Sting was going to hold a concert nearby. Since I’m a fan of his, I couldn’t possibly say no to going to watch him live without paying a lousy coin. After all, it’s stuff like this that makes a blogger like me very, very happy! That being mentioned, let’s put the fan crap aside for a while and get to the review.

It looks like my habit of being extremely early to a concert has become a common trend. In less than 15 minutes after I got myself a good spot at the front 2 hours before the concert, the crowd had quadrupled. You’d think that some people would avoid waiting in the rain for a concert, but it looks like I’m not the only one who can take a bit of water from the sky. Some people didn’t even bother with their umbrellas when the crowd got too thick, which was just as well. The rain kept going on and off like someone’s playing with a faucet during the entire evening. This frightened me a bit, because my camera wasn’t built to resist water. I had to keep wiping it every now and then to prevent it from short-circuiting on me…

When the concert started, it didn’t take long for me to notice how hard it was going to be to take good photos of Sting. He doesn’t move much in front of the microphone and kept his eyes closed most of the time. Thank goodness I’m not a photographer for hire yet, huh?

He doesn't make it easy for me...

Sting sings with feeling instead of eyesight.

It’s always good when singers put some emotion into their vocals. Even amateurs like me can feel every note that comes out of the singer’s mouth that way and with Sting, you could definitely see that he was really giving it all from the bottom of his heart. For every note he played and every word he sang, you couldn’t stop listening and it wasn’t just him. The other musicians and the back-up singer were really hard to miss. Especially the guitar player, Dominic Miller, kept himself so visible, you’d think he tried to steal the show.

This guy almost rocked the stage.

Guitarist Dominic Miller sure likes the spotlight (or possibly just my camera).

Can't believe I spotted him so well...

Pianist David Sancious kept his focus on the keys.

I think he also played the lute, but I couldn't see it...

Peter Tickell rocks along with the violin.

She also danced her way from one side of the stage to the other.

The voice of vocalist Jo Lawry was hard to hear, but her voice made a difference.

He's a quick one!

Sadly, this is the best shot I could get of this speedy drummer, Vinnie Colaiuta, in action.

But there wasn’t just casual singing and music playing. There was some walking about on stage as well and Sting also did some belly-dance-like movements to the song “Desert Rose”.

It took some time to understand that he was singing partially in Arabic...

Sting “belly-dancing” to “Desert Rose”.

Sting wasn’t the only one to move around. Dominic Miller moved around half the stage about 25% of the time, Peter Tickell left his hiding place in the back to do his solos at the front of the stage and Jo Lawry danced her way from one microphone to another on the other side of the stage. They way Sting interacts with the band is quite amazing. I’ve seen performers interact together before, but not like this. If my lip-syncing skills served me right, Sting cheered his bandmembers on like a boxing coach while they were doing their solos, which is something I’ve never seen lead singers do.

This rocky Mozart couldn't ask for a better coach!

Sting cheers on while Peter Tickell plays his solo like a speedy heavy-metalist.

Even the guitar-duets between Dominic Miller and Sting looked like fun! It was so hard to tell if they were duelling or co-operating, but it definitely gave you the feeling that they were enjoying themselves while they went at it. I’m not sure if it’s a duet or Dominic Miller’s solo on the photo below, but Sting looked like he was struggling to get an awesome finish.

I'm not sure if this photo is of a solo or a duet, though...

Duets or solos, Sting looked like he had a hard time keeping up with Dominic Miller’s pace near the finish.

All action aside, I still ended up wishing I filmed the concert instead. For snapshot-shooting, there wasn’t much to catch on film, but I did catch the shot I wanted…

Not bad for an amateur photographer, huh?

My best shot of Sting!

… before the concert ended and everyone on stage gave their bows.

Got'cha, Vinnie!

The performers bowing to the audience and a view of Vinnie Colaiuta’s face in one shot!

But in the end, whoever hired the cameraman in front of me came out the biggest winner of them all…

He failed to block me!

The cameraman who was hired to record the close-up shots in front of the stage.

This concert certainly earned its 5/5. This may have been an ordinary concert with a bucket-load of nostalgia, but the energy and love on stage made up for that. Being there didn’t feel like you were at a concert. Instead you were in a crowd watching six people play for the fun of playing and the joy of music on a stage, like youngsters in a garage. It was pure music and fun. No real showboating, media stunts or any other form of rubbish. That’s how a concert should be. Fanwise, I was also glad to hear my favourite songs from both The Police and Sting’s solo-career on stage and wish I could upload the videos I recorded here without having to pay a coin (can’t afford such luxury yet)… either way, it was an honour to be there and if anyone plans to let me watch something like this again, I’ll say yes before Sting shouts “ROXANNE”!


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Testing Canon PowerShot SX50 HS on Iggy & The Stooges

This month, I’ve been keeping a close eye on good cameras. Finding one that can truly be used as an all-round camera for every occasion is an impossible task and the very best ones cost a fortune for the housing alone. Even the lenses cost more than the average consumer is willing to spend and the prices for those can be worth about 10-20% of the cost for the housing. Then we have the camera restrictions on certain places and events (only cameras without exchangeable lenses can be used in some of the concert halls where I am and flash photography can sometimes annoy people), how fast the camera can take a snapshot of a moving target and how far away you can be when you take that shot. Luckily for me and my very tight budget, I got hold of a cheap camera that does that and more, the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS.

Great camera for rookies!

Canon PowerShot SX50 HS, a good all-round camera that’s easy to use and won’t kill your budget.

12,1 MP may seem pretty low compared to most cameras today, since even cellphone cameras are starting to catch up to that number, but the built-in lens with 50x zoom and ability to shoot HD-video makes up for that by a longshot. The fact that I could take photos, zoom in on objects that were extremely far away and shoot a movie at the same time was impressive enough, but not as impressive as how the camera can adapt to the light of the area automatically. I haven’t had the real need for the flash yet because of this, but there are still times when the flash does a better job than the firmware. But how about the situations when a good, fast camera with a proper zoom function is necessary, especially when the flash is a no-no? Luckily, I had just the opportunity to test this when Iggy & The Stooges came to town!

From past experience, I’ve learned the value of showing up several hours early to a concert. That way, you can secure a good spot at the very front of the stage. This is, however, the first time I see them block off the area before a concert. On the upside, this gave me the chance to test the zoom function on the PowerShot SX50 HS.

This could be approx. 100-200 meters from the stage.

The line between the concert area and the first group of people waiting to get in.

From here, I took some snapshots of the stage.

Some zoom may have been used...

The stage and the crowd area.

The text on the drums weren't visible in the camera's LCD-screen.

The stage gear. The zoom didn’t even break a sweat!

Maximum zoom wasn't even used for this shot!

Even the drum kit itself was perfectly visible from where I was standing.

2 hours before the concert, they started letting people into the crowd area. About 10-20 people had already gotten their spots at the front by the time I got mine and some were hanging out further back and in the cafés behind the crowd area. I was surprised to see a familiar face that far away and couldn’t help myself to lower my standards to paparazzi-level.

Can you believe I took this shot when I stood in front of the stage!?

I got a good shot at my favourite guitarist and bass player from the band Solaris, Johan Dedd, at the café. Sorry, Johan.

After an hour’s worth of waiting, the crowd was filling up, making it impossible for anyone at the front to move around. The stench of beer and tobacco was filling the air, which is a bad combination for people who get sick easily from breathing the two. Even the shoving and some chanting from a fan in the distance had already started and it got worse when Iggy Pop hit the stage. But before the concert started, there was a short announcement on stage. A winner at a competition at Hard Rock Café had won a trip to see Hard Rock Calling in London, where Iggy and the Stooges will be attending.

I envy you so much...

Congratulations to the winner of Hard Rock Café’s contest!

After that and some sound checks by the stageworkers, it didn’t take long before The Stooges took their places on stage.

The woman next to me thought he was hot.

Mike Watt accepted the first roars with delight.

Iggy Pop himself took some time for me to spot, because the old man was moving around like a speedy teenager in the middle of the stage. That’s right, people, age is just a number, which is exactly the way it should be!

And of course a stageworker, who failed to hide from my Canon...

The first image of the evening with Iggy Pop and the saxophone player, Steve MacKay.

Due to the settings, the PowerShot SX50 HS took several pictures in a row when I took my photos. This is a feature I was very thankful for, because Iggy Pop sure can move and the shoving and bruising from the eager fans behind and next to me did not do me any favours. But after some getting used to and the help of a very observant security guard, I got some pretty good shots of the evening.

Don't ask me what he was pointing at...

A pointing Iggy Pop.

His pocket looks empty.

Iggy Pop with his hand to the side.

Too bad the camera didn't adapt to the dark fast enough...

Crazy eyes in the dark!

The audience could feel it too, believe me...

Iggy Pop, singing with feeling.

Since this concert is a huge deal, even for the media, the press photographers got let into the front of the stage to take pictures of Iggy Pop.

Thank goodness I took my own...

The press photographers got to pass through the other side of the fence.

I found this to be as useful as it was meaningless, because after the shoving that was required to take the photographers to the front, they had to leave shortly after, missing the rest of the concert. I may not be a press photographer myself, but that’s not the approach I would take. I would rather choose me a good spot and shoot my pictures from there, so I could enjoy the concert too. Well, perhaps they had other obligations… either way, I’m 90 % sure I got home with better shots than these people did and, believe it or not, a nice gentleman wanted to charge me for my photos! I was so honoured, I let him have them for free (the photos were already uploaded here anyway, so the press shouldn’t be a problem).

So did the sunshine...

Eager photographers got some good shots of Iggy Pop.

By now, you’ve probably noticed how the light appears different in some photos. It turns out that the PowerShot SX50 HS doesn’t always adapt to the dark fast enough. I also noticed that the more sky there is in the photo, the darker the photo will become, because the camera thinks we’re in a bright enough location (that’s my guess, anyway). This is not good when you have a fired-up 66-year-old rocker on stage. Luckily, most of the photos can be edited with a good software, but I didn’t want to edit anything to show how well the camera did on the concert. You think you’d notice all the flaws in the rotatable LCD-screen on the camera, but when the camera displays the photos you just took in a row, you get sick of watching what just happened on stage like a buggy replay and just focus on Iggy Pop.

Who doesn't love good equipment?

Iggy Pop keeps his lips close to the microphone.

A lot of people focuses on just the singer during concerts. I can understand that, since the singer is the most visible one. As for me (and the lovely middle-aged woman standing next to me, with a Citroën-decal in a chain in her hand, who had a crush on Mike Watt), the rest of the musicians are worth paying attention to as well.

Too bad I can't show you Asheton's drum solo, it was awesome!

Mike Watt on bass and Scott Asheton on drums.

I've never seen sticks like that before...

James Williamson on guitar and Steve MacKay on… sticks?

But in the end, most of my photos were of Iggy Pop too…

He makes it look cool.

Even the finger-to-the-dimple-pose works for Iggy Pop.

The zoom on the PowerShot SX50 HS is awesome!

Got a good close-up of him too.

Most of the time, Iggy Pop kept himself on the centre and the right side of the stage, but when he eventually came to the left side of the stage, I was able to take better photos when there wasn’t much shoving going on…

After all that moving around, I'm impressed that there was no panting!

With mineral water in hand, Iggy Pop chills down a bit.

… but that didn’t last very long…

I hope he stays sober...

Iggy Pop singing in a relaxed Captain Morgan-pose.

After all, when you have a sitting with one side of the crowd, it is only fair to have a sitting with the other side of the crowd too.

And then it was fair...

Iggy Pop chills down on the other side of the stage.

Then it was time to say thanks and wave goodbye before the encore.

Cheerful as a cheerleader...

Iggy Pop waves happily to the crowd.

It’s always impressive when the artists on stage try to interact with the crowd. Some say something specific to a random person in the audience. Some get close enough to the audience to shake a few hands or more. Iggy & The Stooges took it a step further. They brought a small chunk of about 20-30 people from the audience up on stage.

Very biblical.

Like a messiah, Iggy Pop shines with his fans on stage…

Not even the cudliest fans on stage could stop him!

… without interrupting his singing, like nothing happened.

I personally love seeing this kind of interactions, but I do have to mention the few downsides with this for the sake of people’s safety. When people enter and leave (or move in any direction at all) in the crowd area, things like shoving, bruising, suffocation and choking are unavoidable and sometimes lethal. Since I was standing less than half a meter away from where everyone entered the stage, I got several blows to my back and head and was often pushed towards the fence in front of the stage, which caused me to lose my breath and almost die. Courtesy isn’t always an available trait when you’re high on excitement, alcohol and/or possibly a random drug and people do end up getting hurt. But wait, it gets worse!

This guy sure likes to get close to people.

Iggy Pop visits the audience off the stage.

Yes, inviting people to the stage wasn’t enough. When Iggy Pop came to my side of the audience, things got lethal again. Arms were showing up everywhere, fingers were in my hair, other people’s hair were in my face, elbows hit my head and back and my stomach and chest were being pressed against the fence again. Even the nice woman next to me got hurt (at least emotionally) when she lost her spot to a pair of hyper youngsters, who’s long hair and arms kept bruising me and blocking some of my shots. This bugged me to the core, because I had Iggy Pop right in front of me and couldn’t see enough to plan a good shot at him with the Canon. But then, as I look through the photos on my computer a couple of days later, I discovered that the PowerShot SX50 HS had a few surprises for me.

And none of them were mine.

Hands were stretching out everywhere to reach Iggy Pop.

Don't ask me why a guy is trying to grab his abs...

Even the touching didn’t mess up his singing!

After that, it got harder to get some good photos, because the closest of the youngsters kept jumping on my foot…

Too bad he's not wearing his jacket here...

Iggy Pop mews on in a lion-like fashion.

Odd, I could barely hear them sing...

Iggy Pop directs the audience.

Go, drummer man, go!

The other Stooges had no problem keeping up the pace.

Then Iggy Pop did a move even I recognized.

Is it just me or was he still singing when he did that?

Iggy Pop spins the microphone above his head and the right side of the audience.

For a energetic man, Iggy Pop sure slobbers like a energetic dog. Whenever I saw him take a swig of water, half of it ended up somewhere else. Unlike some gross rockstars, who like to share their bodily fluids, Iggy Pop kept his liquids away from the audience. Good, because the PowerShot SX50 HS isn’t waterproof and spittle would have ruined my shots. As for the water, I thought singers knew better than to drink carbonated water, because it ruins the vocal cords.

He shouldn't be drinking carbonated water during a performance.

Iggy Pop spitting mineral water on stage.

Even cool rockers need bibs sometimes.

Behold the slobber on Iggy Pop’s chin and chest…

Iggy Pop's a real rockhound!

… and more slobber on the other chest.

But spit wasn’t the only thing I spotted on him. From time to time, there was even a smile on his face.

A contageous smile.

Iggy Pop, smiling with open arms.

... and into the camera.

Iggy Pop, smiling towards the left side of the audience…

Eventually, Iggy Pop left the stage to get his jacket. Strange, considering how hot it was that day. But then again, I was wearing a spring jacket in a warm, crowded audience on a summer’s evening, so it’s no wonder that cold was the last thing on my mind…

Or is it cheetah? Can't tell...

Iggy Pop appears in his leopard-coloured leather jacket.

Nice kitty.

Here’s the back of the jacket.

Then he returned to his usual routine.

There must be some nice people there.

Iggy Pop returns to sing to the right side of the audience…

... which I'm very thankful for, because the camera caught it...

… turns to the left side of the audience…

No water this time.

… and spits all over the stage.

Ick...

Watch the saliva fly!

Even his teeth got busy!

He must have a very good dentist.

The microphone dangles nicely on Iggy Pop’s teeth.

But then the jacket came off and after some more singing, Iggy Pop made his way back down to ground level.

How touching...

Iggy Pop is reaching out to the audience once again.

After that, it didn’t take long before the concert really ended. Too bad I didn’t get a good photo of Scott Asheton’s drum-solo, because he was way too fast for me to shoot…

I’ve been to a lot of concerts in my life and some of them had dangerous things involved with the act, like fireworks or a live animal on stage. This concert was by far the most dangerous concert I’ve ever attended and the act was never intended to be dangerous in the first place. Iggy Pop just likes to get close to his audience and I admire him for that and the audience can’t really help themselves when they see their idol within reach. Because of this, I hold no grudges to those in the audience who almost got me killed. As a matter of fact, if the youngsters who were next to me asked me nicely, I’d even send them the photos of them from the concert with a smile on my face!

So, was the concert worth dying for? Well, it definitely earned a nice 4/5. After so many years, Iggy Pop & The Stooges certainly don’t disappoint. The songs rocked, they all had the energy to perform almost constantly for over an hour and Iggy Pop interacted with the audience the best he could. The only problem was that the danger level made your senses focus on other things than the music itself, so you never really got to enjoy everything to its full capacity. Luckily, I got some nice compensation, thanks to the camera.

The smile alone was worth getting trampled and suffocated.

My favourite photo of the evening.

As an amateur hobby photographer, taking shots like this is like a dream come true. Whenever I look at this photo, it’s like Iggy Pop himself wanted it to be for me, even if my memory tells me that this was a lucky shot (he was about to move his head towards the right side of the audience when I took this shot). I love this photo so much, I even edited it to remove some unwanted scenery and put my alias on it.

Best photo of Iggy Pop ever!

On purpose or not, thank you, Iggy Pop!

This photo definitely made my week and the other photos turned out pretty well too after some editing. As for the concert itself? IT ROCKED!

As for the camera, the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS is definitely worth a grade of 4/5. If it adapted faster to the darkness of the surroundings and had the capability to handle tougher weather, this camera would have been absolutely perfect for any form of out-door photography, but the last thing it did was disappoint. It helped me take the most amazing shots ever without even knowing it and I didn’t have to stand so close to get some high-quality shots or a good video. If you’re a total rookie at both movie and regular photography, who wants an easy-to-use camera for any occasion, I recommend this camera highly. It’s also MUCH cheaper than the other alternatives.