Soundwave 2011 @ RNA Showgrounds, 26.02.2011: Part 1

I’m now at a point where I’ve photographed hundreds of gigs and think I must be closing fast on having photographed 1,000 bands.  But out of all those hundreds of gigs and bands, I don’t think any of those times has been as thrilling as being in the pit for Iron Maiden tonight.

When it comes down to it there are so few acts that I really want to photograph, as in REALLY WANT to photograph.  I can probably count them off on my fingers.  Most, if not all, of them are bands that I grew up listening to in my more formative teenage years.  It’s depressing that half of them either aren’t together any more or have shuffled off this mortal coil and most of the others either have rights grabbing contracts or make you photograph from all the way back at the mixing desk.  If I do ever get the chance to photograph Bruce Springsteen, Van Halen or Madonna I’ll still probably do it though, even knowing that the photos aren’t going to turn out that good because I’m so far away from the stage.

Iron Maiden were a major band through my mid-teen life and headlined the first festival I ever went to, Monsters of Rock at Donington in 1988, where they were supported by KISS, David Lee Roth, Megadeth, the up-and-coming Guns n’ Roses and Helloween.  It was an incredible experience for my first festival.  It cost a massive £16.50 for a ticket but we bought the package with the bus trip up to Donington.  We left at some ungodly time of the night and I think the bus journey was something like 5 or 6 hours (not much by Australian standards I know) and I can remember listening to Appetite For Destruction on my walkman for most of the trip up (when I wasn’t trying to get some more sleep).  There were 107,000 people there and I’d never seen as much denim and leather, and probably haven’t since.  From memory I think I got my t-shirts really early in the day, like on the way in.  I got the one with the lineup on the front and a David Lee Roth Skyscraper one.  They’ve still got them both but they’re back in the UK and I haven’t got any photos and couldn’t find any on Google.  One of these days I’m going to have to properly photograph my t shirt collection.  I also have some photos from the day but those are back in the UK as well.  I think they were taken on a Kodak Discman camera.  There’s even some of the bands, although I think there’s nothing from later in the day taken from a country mile away from the stage with lot of the backs-of-people- stood-in-front-of-me’s heads.  Highlights were Guns N’ Roses, David Lee Roth and Iron Maiden, but you probably could have already guessed that.  The day took a sad turn when they announced over the PA after Iron Maiden had played that two people had died in the crush during Guns N’ Roses’ set.  It made the bus trip back a lot less celebratory and a lot more sombre.

I missed out on getting to photograph Iron Maiden the last time they played in Brisbane, on their Somewhere Back in Time Tour.  It was a real disappointment as the tour covered the 1980 – 1989 period, the soundtrack to my teenage years.  I did go and see them though.  I hadn’t bought a ticket and had been holding out for a photo pass but then decided on the day of the gig that I had to go.  I managed to pick up a last minute ticket on eBay for $50.  It was situated in Row Z (or thereabouts) at the very back of the BEC.  I can easily say that out of everyone who was there that night, I was sat in the seat furthest away from the stage.  It didn’t matter though, it was such an amazing night, the last-minute decision to go really added something to the night and even at that distance, the band showed their ability to project right to the very back of the venue.  I was in New Zealand a year later, when they were playing a couple of shows and went to see them again in Christchurch.  I again tried and again failed to get a photo pass for the night and ended up paying top dollar to be in the standing section near the front.  Bizarrely, although I still had a great night, it wasn’t as enjoyable as being at the very back at the Brisbane show; although I was closer to the stage I had a more limited view trying to see the stage over the heads of the people in front.

So Soundwave really is a case of third time lucky in finally getting to photograph the band.

It’s one of the times when I really wish I had a second camera so I could easily switch between lenses, instead of having to miss 30 seconds changing lenses.  I choose the wider 24 – 70mm lens for the first song because I’m anticipating Bruce Dickinson doing his usual entrance (I have made mental notes having seen the band play twice in the last few years) and run out and jump over his foldback speaker.  I’m primed and waiting for it to happen, the rest of the band come out onto the stage and I ignore them, then Dickinson makes his entrance and just walks out to the middle…  After the first song I rush off and change lenses to the 70 – 200mm zoom and of course I have this lens on the camera for the couple of times that he does his big jumps over the speakers.  I got a bit lucky with the lead photo at the top of the page as I took one shot as it happened and just about managed to get enough of him in frame to make it work.

Even though Iron Maiden songs are generally lengthy and I take more photos then I’ve probably taken of any band, the first three songs – The Final Frontier, El Dorado and 2 Minutes to Midnight – go by in a flash.  After leaving the pit, I watch most of the rest of the gig from the edge of the D barrier.  It’s good but not as good as the last tour, mainly because I haven’t bought any of their albums since 1990 and am completely unfamiliar with their more recent albums (I say “more recent” but that’s actually 20 years), although there’s still a lot of the old classics in the set; The Trooper, The Evil That Men Do, Iron Maiden, Hallowed Be Thy Name, Running Free and Number of the Beast.

There is one disappointment though, in that Eddie doesn’t make his usual appearance during Iron Maiden. Everyone is obviously waiting at the given point in the song but there’s a collective shrug of shoulders on stage when he doesn’t walk out onto the stage.  Apparently there were technical issues that prevented his appearance.

It’s incredible that the band are all in their mid-50s now.  It’s scary that they don’t really seem to changed that much in the last 25 years and their energy levels are astounding.  They seem to be always on tour so I’m really hoping to get the chance to photograph them again in the future.  Just because I’ve finally ticked them of my selective list of bands I’ve always wanted to photograph doesn’t mean that they’re going to be removed from the list; they’ll always be one of the bands I REALLY WANT to photograph.


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