Even before arriving on stage, Patrick Wolf, has got a merit.
He draws to his gig a multitude of happy, colourful boys and girls. Teenagers who left those dark thoughts that distress their adolescence at home.
Patrick Wolf acts as the permission that set them free from inhibition. They leave the insecurities into their rooms. His audience is young, positive, upbeat, optimistic, relaxed. Supported by the charisma of their idol as well as by the power of the identification with a group, there are no sign of stress, resentfulness, rancor.
It doesn’t happen that often. Actually it does happen hardly ever.
Indie music two big themes are opposite.
One is about depression, feeling miserable, feeling powerless against the reality, inadequate in front of a world that looks too big. It gave rise to some of the best music, from Velvet Underground, Joy Division, Jesus and Mary Chain to Editors, Glasvegas or White Lies but too often transformed concerts (and its audience) into a sort of funeral with loud sound and a weird body language.
Alternatively rock music has epitomized anger. Rebellion to rules, refuse of the society both identified as your family or as a whole. Nihilism to the end point which meet the refuse of the changing self. Punk and hardcore, since Sex Pistols to Gallows helped to liberate those who couldn’t contain this anger. Concerts are often riots, a violent dance involving everyone with no rules and no distinction between the band and the fans.
It is not so surprising. Depression and anger are the feelings that as teenagers we all had and to a teenager identifying with a band that (gives the impression to) express the same disposition is cathartic.
Too young to perceive or simply to believe that it has all been carefully organised what it is important is not the truth but what to believe. They know that unconsciously, label managers very rationally.
This is why a Patrick Wolf gig is indeed surprising. He manages to gather the positive part of the teenage world.
The doors open late and the rainbow queue, instead of protesting, gets longer and happier.
The organizer told me the delay was due to a Patrick Wolf desire to decorate the stage with some mirroballs, that they hat to search in the basements of the venue.
Once inside I see the spotlights crash against the myriad of mirrors and breaks into a million of drops of light that project everywhere and transform the venue into an electric milk way.
When Patrick Wolf arrives on stage, the first thing I notice is his stage presence. It is not just because I expected him to be smaller, but because his body language is so spectacular that he would easily occupy on his own a 10 times bigger stage. His musicians are relegated to the edges leaving the entire scene to his majestic performance.
Feathers, cloak, black leather trousers, make up and platinum blonde hair, I am clearly in front of someone who believes in the role of the image being central to a show.
To me is quite difficult to disconnect his image to early Bowie‘s impersonations. Fashion is different but the approach is the same. The public either don’t care or, likely, has never heard of Ziggy.
This short tour was set up to test his new album, The Bachelor, live. Due to come out in june it has both the perfect sound and the perfect timing to fill up festival stages and summer open air events.
Patrick Wolf musical taste has always been eclectic, he has songs exploring any facet between electronic beats to baroque pop.
He enjoys playing everything he likes, emancipated not only as a person but musically from genres and styles. His image is the magic glue that keeps things together and surprisingly uniform.
Tonight’s gig the strings were electrified enough to leave his more symphonic approach to his Canadian fellows and the show focused on a more upbeat intervention of synths and effects to free the electronic side. It is the fashion of 2009 after all.
Patrick Wolf is a clever guy. He knows that to be flexible, to be able to adapt to times that are changing so fast, it is vital to survive the stormy weather that often sink even good music ideas in less than a season.
His piano melodies, that remind me so much a simplification of Beethoven‘s sonata adagios, tonight stay put in their hand.
Keyboards is used on a percussive way and design loops able to make those colourful people dance more and feel better.
He dances with them. Wrapped up in a tangled mixture of receivers and cables, the mic fixed next to his mouth, everything looks like a sort of meeting point between Science-Fiction and Britney Spears.
He is in fact free to perform.
Which is the thing he can do best.
If not all the songs are so entertaining, when he pulls off his repertoire of plastic poses, dresses, mythological masks and literate references any eye in the venue is caught on him.
Which such magnetism, success is guaranteed. He could sing children lullaby it wouldn’t make a difference.
It is so clear to Patrick Wolf as well that, in the middle of a set of new songs, he tells the band to jump his biggest hit, Magic Position, to keep going with the new tunes.
Cleverly Magic Position is moved to the bottom of the setlist and closes the concert guaranteeing the apotheosis and everyone’s joy. The Mirrorballs project million of lights onto the fans.
Patrick Wolf has been the first blossom of this delayed spring struggling to displace an endless winter.
As a snowdrop, he appeared in a cold scene with a smile and made anyone around him smile.
He reminded everyone that music can be at the same time, intense, optimistic and confident without decay into radio friendly pop and irritating choruses. Mika has been informed.
That I hate microphones in front of singers mouth (and how to avoid them) I must have told you more than once.
So when I saw Patrick Wolf using a head worn microphone, I felt at the same time annoyed and relieved.
Annoyed because I had to do with it, whichever was the song and the moment.
Relieved for exactly the same reason. It was there and it was going to be there for all the time of the photos.
I used four different approaches. if you have more tips, please add them up to the comments.
Straightforward. You don’t care and include the microphone in the shot. You make it part of the image as much as it is part of the singer’s face. After all it is useless to deny it. It is there, everyone sees it.
The opposite. You choose the other side of the face, trying to hid it. Usually it is not difficult to make it less evident but it is quite impossible to hid it completely on a close-up. Even a clean portrait of the artist would reveal some kind of wires or bits popping out from his head. Try to avoid that but don’t get upset if you don’t manage to.
You move away from a close-up, go wide (angle) and shot the entire figure. Eventually from a low position, so that his head is away from you. This way the microphone is small enough to be not disturbing, if you are on the other side of it, it can be completely unidentifiable.
You go creative. Take a careful look at the situation and see what chances you have.
Shadows are quite good to swallow the small object in the dark to seem it has disappeared.
Cutting it out of the frame completely could make the composition quite harsh.
Using the artists’ own accessories, as Patrick Wolf wig has been useful to me to cover it up in some shots.
As long as you enjoy taking pictures, you will always find a way around any problem, don’t give up, keep trying.