Cold War Kids
I have been waiting for the Cold War Kids concert since July when I rushed to buy the ticket before they sold out. It was my emotional response to a catchy song played live on BBC.
In the meantime I got the album, Robbers and Cowards, on sale for a fiver at HMV which I think is a fair price for a debut. Since then though, my enthusiasm declined.
Cold War Kids LP opens with 2 terrific tracks: We used to vacations and Hang me up to dry, then weakens. Two additional good tracks materialize midway through: Saint John and Hospital beds, after that nothing until the agonizing lament in a “I wish I was Jeff Buckley” attempt, hidden in the last track.
(For the very same reasons that my friends at thelineofthebestfit.com pointed out, I am ready to start or sign a petition for the banning of hidden tracks).
You may argue four good tunes on a debut is not that bad.
Partially true, probably is the big quality gap between those songs and the rest of the album that annoys me. We live in the mp3 “download a single” era. Albums are too often a pair of singles decorated with a dozen of quite useless fillers.
To make their life even more complicate, Cold War Kids let open their Shepherds Bush gig to a surprising wonderful Patrick Watson set, bookmark this site I’ll review him in few days.
9.45 PM, a promising string trio steps on stage sitting on the backside, a bit isolated, then Cold War Kids enter, quite cold more than cool; something I would expect from a Midlands act not from a Long Beach band. My excuse is because, albeit Californians, they met at a Christian Evangelical church!
The 2 violins and cello fail to highlight the first two songs, not their fault, the concert brightens up only on the third, when Nathan Willet sits on a piano and set alight the venue up to the third level with the thrilling We used to vacation. First good song, but it’s just a burst.
A long, pale section follows before Hospital beds is played midway through the set in complete darkness with the band lighting the audience with some torches. Nice atmosphere and second nice tune. Two more to go, but we have to pass yet again through another pretty uninspired part.
Finally Hang me up to dry arrives causing a upsurge of mass hysteria. It is quite visibly the audience’s favourite download. That was also the catchy tune with which they impressed me on the TV show. For obscure reasons its pulsing rhythm reminds me of the Gossip guitar riff in Standing in the way of control moved to a bass line.
Crowd is hot enough, the concert closes with a brand new song, a brave move. I didn’t catch the title (if you did, please let me know) but it was actually not bad.
Three so far. Anyone who can count, knows that there is one missing.
Joined by guitarist and drummer from Patrick Watson band to help causing a controlled chaos on stage, Saint John closes the event in style. Nathan Willet relentlessly begging is mercy:
“…all us boys on death row,
we’re just waiting for a pardon…”
on a mayhem of percussion, piano and cacophonous distortion is the best moment of the night.
If there was an empty space in the indie dictionary it’s because was waiting for the right track. Time to use it now, Saint John is the first example of “indie-gospel”, such a “godly, divine” song.
I must confess in that moment I missed Patti Smith’s sins, but this is personal, not a judgement. Try to live 30 years 3 miles from the Vatican walls then come back to me and let’s discuss about forgiveness.
It must have been distressing to the Cold War Kids that the White Stripes cancelled the leg of the tour they were due to support. It would have been an influential learning experience. Willet singing is a mix of Jack White high pitch with Jeff Buckley howling vibrato, his dissonant “swordfishtrombone like” piano excursions are quite effective and, considering Tom Waits doesn’t tour a lot, would be useful to meet Jack White creativity. As well as any other guitarist this century, Johnny Russel would benefit from Jack too. In fact the hollow drumming of Matt Aveiro made a positive impact throughout the set hence he, on the other hand, would be helpful to Meg!
I finish with a simple, private question for the bass player: why were you wearing a Birthday Party T-Shirt? Oh no, don’t tell me, please no…isn’t it because the Devil is breaking through the souls of these evangelical rockers? Oh my Lord!
Five minutes into the show, I thought to put photo tip section on strike. What to suggest when you are allowed 3 short songs, no flash and the first 2 are played in complete darkness, with only two blinding spotlights pointing at you?
When the pretty girls of the string trio are relegated to the rear and all you are left is a singer with a grumpy face and a bass player with a funny hat playing hide and seek with the guitarist?
Is any of you aware of a concert photographers’ trade union?
OK, OK, I calm down and tell you how to try a photography classic. The silhouette.
It can, at the same time, make use of the nasty lights and get rid of the faces.
To start you need the right conditions, a strong backlight and the main subject in the darkness.
Theoretically all you have to do is to expose for the high light. Practically, from a standard situation, in which my cameras are set to 1/60s at F2.0 (ISO 800), I switch the aperture to F4.0 or F5.6 to underexpose a bit, it should work.
Then you have two further important advices to follow.
First is accurate focusing, silhouettes are nice if the subject is sharp. That is why, working with a manual system, I minimize risks fixing the aperture in order to enhance the depth of field. If you trust your autofocus you can prioritize the shutter leaving the lens wide open. It’s really up to you and to the system you are using. A relaxed moment without too much motion going on is of help.
Second you have to concentrate on the shape, which is the only thing that profiles your picture. It will be either surrounded by a white zone, if there are diffuse lights pointing to the back, or framed by a thin white line, if spotlights from the rear point at you, as in this particular case. Whichever situation the subject is going to be a dark figure.
Try to put the performer between you and the light. Then pay particular attention to avoid intrusive objects (as the ubiquitous microphone pole), other musicians on the back (especially if they wear strange hats!) and anything that overlaps with your focus. To be distinguishable the foreground needs to be neat and separate from the background. Be ready, unless your artist is sitting, the right moment is ephemeral.
Now you can stop complaining about the lack of light and keep shooting, unless you have the trade union address, in that case take a break and send it to me, please.