Sep 132011

Saturday night was spent at the Florida Theatre, attending the Delbert McClinton concert.

McClinton hails from Lubbock, Texas, and moved to Fort Worth when he was 11. My wife was born and grew up in Fort Worth, so McClinton is something of a local hero.

I have to confess that prior to moving to Texas in 2000, I had never heard of Delbert. I have since learned the error of my ways and have seen him three times.

His mix of blues and country is infectious. It is impossible to walk away from a McClinton concert not feeling that you have had a good time. That was certainly true again on Saturday.

With second row seats, the Ricoh GRD III was not out of its depth for a few stage shots.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

I find in these situations, it is best to set the camera on Program mode and let the camera’s processor figure out the best exposure. That is why some people term the P mode, the professional mode. A camera joke there, I doubt it will be appreciated by “serious” photographers.

Believe me, a lot of people out there take themselves far too seriously when it comes to the business of taking photographs or even talking about photography. An essential ingredient for any photographer, in my opinion, is a well-developed sense of humour.

After the show, 70-year-old Delbert was at the stage door signing autographs. Lighting conditions were not the best but I fired off a couple of shots.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Someone doing a Master’s degree in Photography could probably write a dissertation on the technical flaws contained in the image. For one thing, flash should have been used. But I detest using flash photography and knew that the GRD III, with a little help from Photoshop, would provide an image.

Despite its flaws, after conversion to B&W in Silver Efex Pro, the image has a certain appeal for me. It captures the essence of McClinton. He is something of a rough and ready character, the image is likewise.

Feel free to comment as to whether the Delbert McClinton shot works.

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May 052011

It seems as if every time I attend a concert at the Florida Theatre, I end up in conversation with someone famous. A few weeks back I spoke to Jimmy Pons, the bass player with The Turtles and Mothers of Invention. Last night after the Jeff Beck concert and while waiting for the great man to emerge from the Stage Door, I got chatting to two British guys, both Londoners, one of whom turned out to be Trevor Tanner, the former front-man and guitarist with the 1980s band, The Bolshoi.

Trevor is now based in Jacksonville Beach and plays with celtic rock band Rathkeltair, as well as pursuing a solo career. The other guy, Rob, was his manager. I guess that should have tipped me off that I was dealing with someone talented.

We chatted for about 20 minutes about life in Jacksonville but more importantly football and Stoke City’s appearance in the FA Cup Final on May 14. Trevor turned out to be an Arsenal fan and the less said about that the better. Rob was a Spurs fan.

With no sign of Beck during that time and the security men saying that he had left by another exit – well they would say that, wouldn’t they – my wife and I headed home still talking about the amazing concert we had just witnessed.

There are guitarists and then there is Jeff Beck. His virtuoso performance at the Florida Theatre demonstrated just why fellow guitar legend Eric Clapton describes Beck as the most innovative guitarist in the world.

Before the concert, I got talk to the guitarist of a street band playing outside the Chew restaurant as part of Jacksonville’s monthly Art Walk. In this kind of situation, the Ricoh GRD III with its 28mm equivalent lens copes just fine. I was able to get in close. But in a concert setting and sitting a few rows back from the stage, its limitations are all too obvious, as the photograph further down the page shows.

Street band on W Adams Street, Jacksonville. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Naturally, we got talking about guitarists in general and Beck in particular. He agreed with my assertion that the mark of a truly great guitarist is when they can be recognized instantly from just a couple of notes; people like Roy Buchanan, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Jerry Garcia, Carlos Santana and BB King to name just a few.

And no one can replicate the searing guitar tone of Jeff Beck which tore into the hearts and minds of a near sell-out crowd at the Florida Theatre.

Beck ably demonstrated that he is a true master of his craft. Some of his solos, the sheer dexterity, had me shaking my head in disbelief as well as adulation.

In the course of his set, Beck raised and lowered the tempo to perfection, allowing both the band and the audience to draw breath for the next sonic onslaught. He covered a wide spectrum of genres – rock, jazz fusion, blues, soul, and rockabilly – each one receiving Beck’s unique style and treatment.

Jeff Beck on stage at the Florida Theatre. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

With a career spanning more than 40 years, Beck has accumulated a vast repertoire. His latest album Emotion & Commotion featured prominently in the set list but Beck turned the clock back and reached into his musical past. I was lucky in that two of my all-time favourites – Big Block from Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop (1989) and Brush With The Blues from the 1999 Who Else! album – received an airing.

Last night, Beck’s band featured Rhonda Smith on bass, Jason Rebello on keyboards and the legendary Narada Michael Walden on drums. That is some line-up, particularly Smith who takes bass playing into another dimension pretty much in the same manner as Beck’s guitar playing.

Beck is normally the kind of musician who lets his music do the talking. The previous two times I saw him, in 1972 and 1990, he never addressed the audience. Last night, not only did he speak on a couple of occasions but also conducted the crowd’s response in Led Boots. He even shared a joke near the end of the set when he donned a pair of sunglasses looked down at the fretboard and then said, “Now I can see what I’m playing.”

Another feature of last night’s concert was the inclusion of several rock and pop covers – A Day In The Life and Something by the Beatles, Little Wing by Jimi Hendrix and I Want To Take You Higher by Sly and The Family Stone. Becks’ version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow and Nessun Dorma, which both feature on his latest album, completed the range of his musical versatility.

With four encores — including How High The Moon as a tribute to Les Paul when Beck switched from his trademark Fender Stratocaster to a Gibson Les Paul, well it had to be, didn’t it – Beck further endeared himself to the Jacksonville audience.

As he acknowledged the crowds cheers and applause, Beck touched his heart and then the bicep of his right arm. That sums up his music — power and emotion — the ingredients that have fueled his creativity and playing throughout five decades.

Feb 282011

I have always had a good memory for faces. Last night, while smoking a cigarette outside the Florida Theatre during the intermission of the Hot Tuna concert, I spotted a face that looked familiar. The man was balding and had well worn facial features.

“That’s the guy who came out of the audience and played bass at the Flo & Eddie concert,” I said to my wife. She was not so sure.

Well, there was only one way to find out. I walked across to the ash-tray and stubbed out my cigarette and as I came back, the man was half walking toward me.

“Excuse me,” I said. “Aren’t you the guy came out of the audience and played bass with Flo & Eddie?”

He looked at me with a slightly puzzled look on his face but confirmed my supposition. “You must have a good memory,” he said.

“I’ve always been good at remembering faces, ” I replied. “But I am not so good at remembering names.”

“I’m Jim Pons,” he said.

Jim Pons reunites with The Turtles

We chatted for a few minutes. Jim is retired now but told me he has formed a blues band and is getting it together. We both agreed that the beauty of music is that it is always with you.

He asked me if I played. I told him I played keyboards but poorly. I had piano lessons from the age of seven but gave them up at 11, a decision I have regretted all my life.

“I carried on playing the piano, buying Beatles sheet music,” I said. “I even bought the sheet music for So Happy Together.”

He smiled. Jim was the bass player for the Turtles and recorded that track.

I said that I wished I had continued with the lessons until I was 15 or 16 and then I would have been well set to become a decent keyboards player.

It turned out that Jim’s parents made him take piano lessons as a youngster and he gave them up.

I would have loved to have chatted longer and talked about Jim’s playing days with Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention but it was time to head back inside the theatre for the second half of the show.

“You know, you could pass for George Harrison,” he said, as I held the door of the theatre open for him. “It was his birthday on Friday.”

“You are not the first person to have told me that,” I said. “I was in Las Vegas to get married when I first moved to the States and a guy across the street yelled, “George Harrison!””

Jim’s comment reinforced a similarity that goes back more than 50 years. When I first started at Hanley High School in 1964, which also coincided with me giving up the piano lessons, my classmates used to call me George because I resembled George Harrison, more so in those days when my hairstyle vaguely resembled a Beatle cut.

In the 1980s when I was photographing non-league football matches for The Reporter Group of Newspapers, the fans of Hyde United thought I resembled Bill Wyman of The Rolling Stones. As I took up my position behind the goal, the fans would chant “Bill Wyman, Bill Wyman, Bill Wyman!”

I could never quite see the similarity myself but then again I hadn’t consumed three or four pints of Boddingtons.

Still, I can think of a lot worse people to resemble than Bill Wyman and George Harrison.

Feb 242011

They say things come in threes. I have just realized that Sunday night will present a trio of entertainment opportunities.

First, there is the Oscar Awards ceremony. Oh I know that it is an extravagance that takes itself far too seriously these days but I have always been one who has enjoyed mingling with the stars. Besides, this year should see success for the British in the shape of The King’s Speech.

For the past two weeks on Sunday night, I have been tuned into the PBS channel and Masterpiece Theatre. Any Human Heart based on the novel by William Boyce has proved entertaining fare. Sunday will see the concluding part being broadcast.

You can see instantly that I have a conflict of interests. And unlike the days of yesteryear, I cannot video one of the programmes while watching the other live. I no longer have a VCR and have not invested in a Tivio or DVD recorder.

But whether I watch the Oscar ceremony or Any Human Heart becomes academic in the light of my wife and I having two free tickets to see Hot Tuna at the Florida Theatre.

I have always been a big fan of the West Coast music of the 1960s and 1970s. The Grateful Dead is my all-time favourite band. Jefferson Airplane were up there alongside Quicksilver Messenger Service, Santana, Spirit and The Doors and so the opportunity to see former Jefferson Airplane band members Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen was not one to be missed.

Of course, at the time of acquiring the tickets, little did I realize this gig would face such competition. But when it comes to entertainment, nothing beats a live performance.

I can read about who won at the Oscars on Monday. PBS will more than likely show Any Human Heart again in the future. But there will only ever be one performance of Hot Tuna at the Florida Theatre on February 27. And Jorma Kaukonen is quite emphatic when it comes to preserving any performance for posterity or possible commercial gain.

The Hot Tuna web site contains the following information:

Jorma Kaukonen  does not allow audio / video recording of any of his shows by the audience or the front of house engineer. Front of house engineers are not permitted to record the show unless authorized by Jorma Kaukonen management. If authorized, then recording in whatever format is property of Jorma Kaukonen and no copy will be made or retained by front of house engineer, the venue, the promoter or anybody else affiliated with the Jorma Kaukonen engagement.

Jorma Kaukonen archives and records his own performance for his own usage with no fee to the venue or promoter.

Jorma Kaukonen does not allow flash photography at the shows. Professional cameras are not allowed in the venue unless the persons has valid press credentials or are ok’d prior to the performance by Jorma Kaukonen’s Management at least 48 hours prior to the show. Only the first three songs may be photographed.

Promoter/venue will stop audio /video taping, flash photographers as well as people walking up to the front of the stage and take photos with their phone.

Clearly Jorma, and the band’s management, do not keep pace with the developments in compact digital cameras. Take the Fuji F80 EXR , for example, with its 27-270mm zoom lens, performers on stage can be nicely framed from 20 or 30 rows back. And such is the advance in sensor technology that acceptable results can be obtained shooting at ISO 800 or even ISO 1600. The Sony HX5 and Casio EX-FH100 are other compact cameras that can easily circumvent these restrictions. Such is the progress of camera technology.

I wonder if in the future, theatre-goers and concert-goers will have to undergo the kind of searches in place at airports to ensure that no one enters the auditorium with any recording device, be it audio or visual.