When warming wasn’t global, Canadian winters were very cold and Canadian music not yet cool, I was leaving Italy following my UK career.
When Rage against the Machine left a LA studio with their second album ready, a girl from Ottawa, Alanis Morissette, has just moved to LA to take the music scene aback with an album that will be selling around 30 million copies.
It was 1996. I was 26.
In Jagged Little Pill Alanis Morissette put into words and music all the rage coming from an unfaithful boyfriend. Not such an original idea, not even a prophetic thing, nevertheless in 13 songs a straightforward music integrate so well with the resentful lyrics that millions identified with her feelings.
It’s my coming out: I was among them.
For some particular reasons I haven’t yet ascertained, that album upset my unconscious enough to be the only album on my CD walkman in my Yorkshire residency. It managed to win the competition even against Oasis’ (What’s the story) morning glory? that was being played virtually everywhere.
Jagged little pill anger was satiating emotional needs hidden somewhere deep inside me.
Sabine introduced me to the album, the two of us and our soundtrack were indivisible for some weeks.
The other album I got around that time was Evil Empire the sophomore Rage Against the Machine. Despite it wasn’t as good as the debut, the opening pair People of the Sun/Bulls on Parade was my favourite choice anytime I needed to fuel my rebellion against the system!
I flew back to Rome, it was summer. Within few weeks both RATM and Alanis were about to playing.
The Rage gig was due in a space occupied by squatters, anarchists and left wing radicals. They agreed to play there, no tickets required just a free contribution to support that place and to pay the expenses. An amazing occasion to catch the band at its peak in their best natural environment.
A bizarre July day in Rome; it had been raining cats and dogs the entire afternoon. It didn’t stop me and my moped to cross the city to get there, wet, but too happy to see RATM live.
Regrettably, inexperienced organizers ignored that in Rome it may rain in July. The stage hadn’t been covered, got as soaked as me and that concert was cancelled, in the space of minutes it moved from history to a myth.
I have been swearing at those organizers for 12 years since, I kept missing RATM at least twice afterward until they split.
Alanis Morissette’s Italian date was on the contrary organised by a proper rock circuit. Don’t think this in Italy means a gig in a proper theatre or a rock venue, she was to play in a tennis court, but at least that concert happened.
Listening to my favourite soundtrack live was enthralling and emotional at the same time. I was on my own, Sabine was back to France and couldn’t join me.
A kind of magic happens when your fans-attitude pairs with personal emotions and stumble upon the concert of your hero at the peak of success. It is quite rare but if occurs expect to have a touching, unforgettable night.
There are side effects, though. If you have compulsive collector inclination, it is easy to get into fan’s obsession. Once there, you don’t believe that time goes by, legends fade, albums are not always that good and your mood changes. You think the past doesn’t pass, you keep feeding your dreams, you believe memories can indeed be revived.
I have been following Alanis Morissette career since that era, promptly being let down by almost any of her new songs or concert I went to.
2008. I’m 38.
During five days, my twelve years wait since that July rain ended on the 14th of June. Modena, Italy.
I flew from UK for the occasion. RATM are playing Europe, their tour misses London (the only band on earth to tour Europe without playing London). To stop that pluriennial spell which was impeding me to see them live, I pretended to be the mountain and I went to Mohammed.
I am neither a mountain nor a Muslim, but I am still a Rage Against the Machine fan, no way I would have missed them again!
It was well worth the wait and the journey. RATM live are a blast, the only band able to “wake up” 40.000 people, make us jump unruly from the front to the stadium border half a mile away. A breathtaking experience, from the opening Bombtrack with the band hooded and dressed with orange Guantanamo uniforms to the encore, when Killing in the name of proved to be the only song which can question my non-violent, peaceful attitude.
Five days later, still shocked, I am back to UK and I head to the Brixton Academy for Alanis Morissette comeback.
Gossips say she is hurt, her boyfriend left her for an emerging “singer”: Scarlett Johansson. She is not only competing with Alanis on the music field, her Tom Waits covers CD is out now, apparently she also managed to win the love of her fiancé. Tough stardom competition.
Reviewers find the analogy and assume that being wounded brought Alanis back to the angry mood that made her miserable and “zillionaire”…
“…You took me for a joke
You took me for a child
You took a long hard look at my ass
And then played golf for a while
Your shake is like a fish
You pat me on the head
You took me out to wine dine 69 me
But didn’t hear a damn word I said…
Hello Mr. Man
You didn’t think I’d come back
You didn’t think I’d show up with my army
And this ammunition on my back
Now that I’m Miss Thing
Now that I’m a zillionaire
You scan the credits for your name
And wonder why it’s not there”
[Right Through you – Alanis Morissette]
Punctual, history doesn’t repeat.
1996 isn’t back. Alanis new album, Flavors of Entanglement is my umpteenth disillusion. Not a bad album, but albeit the dance-ish feel is not able to move me an inch. My ears are too far away from radio friendly pop tunes.
The new songs are synth rich and have a twist that doesn’t come close to her beginnings, actually is one of her most different works to date. Rock leaves space to dance loops, anger to distraction.
On the Brixton stage Alanis looks like a weird clone made with Sheryl Crow’s head on the top of Janis Joplin body and you don’t have to wonder why it’d be better if it was the other way around.
Alanis still got the energy, the temperament and she enjoys playing. She is into the songs so much to look alienated, as if she doesn’t perceive the five thousands screaming in front of her.
She runs up and down along the stage and is symphatetic with her dedicated band.
The music is arranged, keyboards are more dominant than usual as on the CD. The drummer protected behind a weird plexiglas barrier keeps the beat.
I can be still touched by any tune from Jagged Little Pill, I am sure I always will, those songs hit deep inside, but I just tolerate the rest.
You could argue it would be ridiculous to keep doing the same thing again and again, fair enough, then I think at that RATM gig just 5 days ago, they are back to do exactly the same thing again and again and that thing sounds as effective as always.
I must have moved away from the emotional rebellion that Jagged caused in me, but it is clear I am more than ever in need of RATM incitement, need to wake up.
“…’Cause it’s easy not to
So much easier not to
And what goes around never comes around to you
There’s no love, no money, no thrill anymore
Get up get up get up off of it
Get out get outta here enough already
Get up get up get up off of it
[Wake Up – Alanis Morissette]
Yeah, back in this…
Wit’ poetry, my mind I flex
Flip like Wilson, vocals never lackin’ dat finesse
Whadda I got to, whadda I got to do to wake ya up
To shake ya up, to break the structure up
‘Cause blood still flows in the gutter
I’m like takin’ photos
Mad boy kicks open the shutter
Set the groove
Then stick and move like I was Cassius
Rep the stutter step
Then bomb a left upon the fascists
Yea, the several federal men
Who pulled schemes on the dream
And put it to an end
Ya better beware
Of retribution with mind war
20/20 visions and murals with metaphors
Networks at work, keepin’ people calm
Ya know they murdered X
And tried to blame it on Islam
He turned the power to the have-nots
And then came the shot…”
[Wake Up – Rage Against The Machine]
More Rage Against the Machine [website]
I am not a fan of sharpness in concert photography, if you browse this site regularly you must have noticed it. I like the dynamics arising from blurred images, I like the lack of details in an unfocused pictures.
If flash is not allowed, sharpness at gigs is achieved via perfect focusing, a quick shutter speed and the lowest possible ISO. You need to avoid motion and to minimize rumour (or film grain). It goes without saying that with the low light conditions you have, this is difficult and sometimes simply impossible.
Focusing is the “easy” bit, a good autofocus or a lot of experience on manual focus usually will give you some good images. It is clearly easier if the artists don’t move a lot, the main problem is that it happens when they are singing so you end up with a perfectly sharp picture with a totally irritating microphone in front of singer’s face. Be patient and wait for the right moment.
The ideal shutter speed is not fixed, it depends on several aspects.
Lens length. It takes part in camera shake. The rule of thumb tells to use a shutter speed which is the inverse of the lens length.
So, for example, if you are using a 28mm lens, your shutter should be in the range of 1/30s, if you are using a 200mm you don’t want to use a speed slower than 1/250s.
This usually works to avoid your hand shake and you understand why a wideangle is your favourite choice to have more chance of success.
Then you have to freeze your artist. This is more difficult to predict and depends on his/her motion as well as the distance from you.
A certain rule, you don’t stand a chance to catch a hip-hop star jumping 30cm from you, unless you use flash. If that is the case, give up trying and wait for the next folk concert!
In normal conditions (for a rock show), a shutter in the range of 1/125s-1/250s will be OK in most occasions.
Be aware that to have such speed minimizing ISO (best if you set them not higher than 800), you need quite wide apertures. As a consequence the depth of field will be very short and precise focusing becomes vital.
You may understand now another reason I prefer blurred shots…much less of a trouble!