Huey Lewis: The Man Who Would Lead Them

Huey Lewis at the Bergen PAC in Englewood, NJ

11 people filled the stage for the Huey Lewis and the News show, including a horn section four men strong, a lead guitarist, a bassist, a drummer, a keyboard guy, and two backup singers.  From my vantage point, the second backup singer and the keyboardist were invisible.  Blocked by the speaker stack, too far to the right side of the stage for me.  That was a shame and, of course, the two backup singers came out front and center for their big number with the fifth song — after I was done shooting.

I’m sure there’s perfectly valid reasons for telling photographers they only get three songs to shoot, but it often shoots the musicians right in the feet.  More on that later. . .

“Heart of Rock N Roll” led off the set, with a pulsating red light that was used (infrequently, thank goodness)  as a wash over the whole stage.  The musicians lined the back of the stage, with Huey Lewis front and center, commanding the stage and running around with the mic.  Looking back on my photos now, it dawns on me that he paid attention to the center of the audience and to the people off to his right, but never really came over to my side of the stage unless he was playing it up with the background singers.  Too bad.  I’d have loved a pic of him looking right at my camera.

Huey Lewis at the Bergen PAC 2011

The thing you have to keep in mind with Huey Lewis is that he’s very expressive with his face.  You need to take bursts of shots to get the right expression. I have a lot of tortured-looking pictures of Huey Lewis on my hard drive today, most of which will be deleted as being unusable right off the top.  It’s a look that works fine in context or on a video, but is death to a still image.

After the break: The other thing about Huey Lewis. . .

The other thing about Huey is that he commands the stage and, while he gives a lot of ground to his band behind him, they’re not often the most photogenic group.  They’re less lit, they’re fairly static, and they all seemed to have been at bad angles from where I stood.  I needed a more straight-on shot to make that work.  Maybe I should have shot from the soundboard?

It wasn’t like that for the whole concert, though. Everyone got their solo over the course of the evening.  “Bad Is Bad” featured solos from all of the horn section.   The lead guitarist had several electric solos where the spotlight was directly on him.  The drummer got his moments.  The bass player was probably the only guy without a solo, as I can remember.

But I wasn’t allowed to shoot any of that.  First three songs only.

Huey Lewis and the News rock the Bergen PAC 2011

Early on, we had at least one solo. . .

So most of my shots wound up being of Huey Lewis. In the rare moments of those first three songs where other band members got a spotlight or Huey was over to the side, I did my best to get everyone else within eye shot.  It just wasn’t easy.

Lighting was tricky.  They did do a light show here.  It worked well with the music, and wasn’t nearly as random and epileptic seizure-inducing as Brian Wilson’s concert.  But it did often go from overall yellow-ish light over the entire stage to a single white spotlight on Huey Lewis to something in between.  That meant I was riding my dial for shutter speed.  Since I was usually down around f/1.8 to f/2.2, I didn’t have as much leeway to change there to accommodate bright and dark lighting. If I were shooting aperture priority, I would have been riding the exposure compensation dial.

So, yes, there was some light chasing going on there, for sure.  At some point, you either get the hang of the differences in exposure, or you slightly overexpose and vow to tweak it in Photoshop.  The good news is, shooting in RAW, you have some leeway.  You’ll need it every time.  I couldn’t imagine shooting a concert in JPG.  Maybe in five years? Nah.  I’ll stick with RAW.

Tomorrow: Security taps me on the shoulder.

Huey Lewis and the News at the Bergen PAC, July 2011

85mm, f/2.2, 1/200", ISO 2500

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