CAUTION : THIS POST CONTAINS ONE IMAGE THAT IS PROBABLY NOT SAFE FOR WORK depending on where you work, I guess. If it’s the SoHo book store, crack on but if you’re reading this from the staff-room of a retirement home for nuns, it’s probably best to wait until your shift finishes before continuing.
At the start of November, I was sent over to sunny Belfast to cover the MTV European Music Awards at the Odyssey Arena. Oddly enough, it would not only be the first time I’d been to Belfast but also the first time that I’d ever heard a Justin Bieber song. I should point out that I might possibly have never even made it that far if I hadn’t had an understanding taxi driver. Getting into a Belfast taxi and telling the driver you’re looking forward to seeing Dublin could be seen as a bad start. I can only put it down to a very small brain and fatigue.
The night started off with a quick dash to Ulster Hall to shoot the Red Hot Chili Peppers sound-check ahead of their evening performance. They clearly weren’t massively keen to see our smiling faces though so we waited and waited outside before being allowed in to shoot a ten minutes of them talking on-stage before performing one song with little gusto. To be fair, I don’t blame them THAT much as I probably wouldn’t have wanted to be filmed when I was sound-checking back in my musical days either.
Still, it was good to see Chad Smith doing his thing. He happens to be one of the few people in life that I’ve ever asked for an autograph. You really really don’t want to know the others.
Anyway, after that quick appetiser, it was off to the Odyssey Arena for the main event. Shooting from the rear of the venue, it was an evening of high-risk juggling, with a 600mm f4, a 400mm f2.8, a 300mm f2.8 and a 70-200mm f2.8 to contend with. The layout of the set design resulted in the bands on the main stage being really loose on a 600mm while the 300mm was only just right for the close-up action on the stage below us. Thankfully, it wasn’t just me having to deal with this issue as I was in good company with Reuters photographer Cathal McNaughton, AP photographer Joel Ryan and Getty photographer Gareth Cattermole. A fine bunch of chaps (aside from Gareth who has a habit of wearing dodgy cardigans).
I’m not going to give you a chronological run-through of who came where as if you’re that interested, I’m guessing you probably watched it in the first place! Instead, here’s a bunch of my favourite pics. Firstly, Selena Gomez caused a few exposure panics as she introduced the first few acts from within the centre of a ring of fire. “Yay RAW!”, is all I can say…
Following the warning at the start, here’s the offending fella with his little fella out. A streaker took to the stage as Hayden Panettiere introduced an act in what was supposed to be a “spontaneous” stage invasion. I’m guessing if it hadn’t been staged, Belfast’s finest security teams would have found a new place to park their bikes within minutes of him being dragged into the car park behind the arena.
So streaking aside, we were onto the main performance of the night. Having already been tipped off that Lady Gaga was the big winner of the show with four EMAs, we eagerly awaited her set to see what she’d be up to. She didn’t do too bad a job of it, I guess. Cratered moons aren’t the easiest thing to come by, never mind satellite dish hats…
Having said that, it was me that ended up doing a bad job of it. Having shot the song, including her cheeky bum flash at the end of the song and a lovely side-lit slow fade to black on-stage with her surrounded by her dancers, I quickly ripped the card out and handed it to the runner to get it back to my editor downstairs. Error. It was only at 2am the next morning, after exhausting all options, did I realise that I must have pulled it out before the buffer had finished writing. You’d think by now, a professional photographer would know not to do this, wouldn’t you? Still, a lesson learned the hard way as the pics on the screen on my camera had looked great… *sob*
After the sparkles of Gaga, it was time for the screams of the Beliebers as Justin took to the stage for his performance. As I said in the opening paragraph, I’ve genuinely never heard him sing before. I have to hand it to him for his glossy performance but it is genuinely terrifying that he’s seventeen and so comfortable in front of so many people. The cynic in me sees many years of psychiatry sessions down the line but I’ll battle to restrain that and say good luck to him. I wouldn’t have complained to be that popular at his age.
I’m unfortunately going to sound like a right old man when I write this but I have to say Queen’s closing set at the end of the show was the best music of the night. I’ve never been a massive fan but when they pull out a 10 minute medley of their classics, you can’t help but smile. It’s a well-worn cliché but it’s interesting to ponder how many of the artists performing tonight will be around in forty years. I’m guessing a few may have fallen by the wayside of musical history.
With the show over, I wandered down to the “boards” where fellow AFP photographer Peter Muhly was shooting so that I could hand my final cards over to the harassed editor, only to arrive just in time for Lady Gaga to make her final appearance with all four of her awards. While Gaga isn’t my thing musically, it’s good to have people in the industry that provide great pictures and interesting options. Bravo, Mrs G on a well deserved win.