Steven Wilson: Night 2 – Royal Albert Hall 30th September 2015 – Concert Review

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Ah, back again. This time seated on the opposite side of the circle to the previous evening. The ushers offering to upgrade circle ticket holders to the stalls below – if they so wish – due to spare seating. I am in possession of a row 1 ticket for the circle, enabling me a birds eye view of the stage. I opt to stick with my lot. All the while thinking how foolish the general public are, for missing the opportunity to witness one of the best British artists around today.

The stage appears set for a support act. Indeed, they take the stage. It doesn’t take long to realise that the front man is comedy actor Matt Berry, of The Mighty Boosh, I.T. Crowd and Toast of London fame. I’d recognise that baritone bluster anywhere, “Fossil!”. And what a nice surprise he and his band are. I was completely unaware of his musical prowess, but they are a talented bunch that take in folk, funk, jazz, prog and a few other genres that i’m not sure have been fully identified yet. They dripped fun and enthusiasm, it was a shame they couldn’t have a little more stage time.

An earlier interlude than the previous evening allows the roadies to do their work. Preparing the stage, including a quick vacuum with a Henry, to ready the stage for the inevitable bare feet. The lights dim, the lighting engineer receiving rapturous applause for his fine work with the fader. Craig Blundell ambles on and gets comfortable at his kit. The initial hits of ‘No Twilight Within The Courts Of The Sun’ strike out into the hall. We know where this is going. Sure enough, Nick is on next. The familiar concert opening bassline locking in with the established drum pattern. One by one the rest of the band take their places and lock in. Mr Wilson arrives accompanied by expectant applause, the band launches into the number with commitment.

Continue reading Steven Wilson: Night 2 – Royal Albert Hall 30th September 2015 – Concert Review

Motorsport Photography For Beginners – Part 1

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Standing trackside with exotic machinery passing by at ludicrous speeds, camera in hand sniping shots of your heroes as they display the skills that made them famous – Motorsport Photography, what’s not to love huh?

If you’ve visited any sort of racetrack you will surely have tried to take some pictures as Lewis Hamilton, Valentino Rossi or the like as they speed by. You probably tried with your camera/smart phone right? Unimpressed with your results – tiny blurred subjects, criss-crossed with chainlink fence – the following year you buy a better camera; probably something like a superzoom bridge camera? With a good zoom range you’re feeling confident you’ll get some cracking shots this time. But the fences still cause you problems and the camera doesn’t focus fast enough to follow the racers.

You experiment with pre-focusing on a section of track and then take the shot as your subject passes, you try panning with your subject. You start to end up with a handful of ok shots, but hundreds to throw away. At this point you’ll either lose interest or invest in a proper DSLR camera. Then you’ll find you have to invest even more than the camera cost in lenses if you want decent results…

Taken with Canon 550D, EF200mm F2.8 L lens on Kenko 2x Extender. ISO400 F7.1
Taken with Canon 550D, EF200mm F2.8 L lens on Kenko 2x Extender. ISO400 F7.1

Many have followed this, or a similar path, including myself. The above loosely describes my story. Starting out with my camera phone at MotoGP in Donington 2007. Ending up at the present day with a Canon DSLR and large aperture prime lens. With this series of articles I want to help budding Motorsport Photographers avoid the pitfalls of choosing the right equipment first time, while also showing you don’t have to invest quite as much money in the equipment, as some say you should, to get acceptable results. I am going to address Equipment, Techniques, Settings, Race Tracks and more in these ramblings. Strap-in, this could take some time…! Continue reading Motorsport Photography For Beginners – Part 1

Steven Wilson: Night 1 – Royal Albert Hall 29th September 2015 – Concert Review

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The evening of Thursday 8th of November 2007 at the Oxford Academy, my first live exposure to the musical force that is Mr. Steven. Wilson. Introduced to his work via some very good friends of mine. Like many of you they were already long term fans back then – I was quickly educated by them on his existing body of work, in particular Porcupine Tree.

I now found myself standing a couple of paces back from the stage, and having familiarised myself with their then recent release; ‘’Fear of a Blank Planet’, I pondered, between slugs of warm lager gulped from a plastic cup, on what I might expect.

I came away from that evening having been hugely impressed by the intricate and expertly crafted music. Performed by an immensely talented line-up of rhythmically tight band members and wonderful melodic guitar interplay, framed between huge chugging riffs. Initially at least, I struggled with Steven’s awkward stage presence and sometimes clunky lyrics. But, they had done enough to hook me…

Fast forward Ooo, I don’t know, 8 years, and I find myself seated in the Circle at the Royal Albert Hall. Strapped in for two evenings with the very same man, now sans the ‘Tree. Having forged a very successful career all on his lonesome. Well, not quite. He has some very talented gunslingers at his side…

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As I’m sure many of you are aware; in those intervening years Steven has worked incredibly hard at his career. And boy does it show. I have been lucky to attend many, many Porcupine Tree, Blackfield, and solo gigs in that time. Mainly thanks to my afore mentioned friends being unwilling to miss a single event. Until tonight that is. With the gigs clashing with their holiday plans, they very kindly bought me tickets to both evenings as a very generous birthday gift. Hence this article being a thank you of sorts, to try to give them a flavour as to what went down at RAH! Continue reading Steven Wilson: Night 1 – Royal Albert Hall 29th September 2015 – Concert Review

RIP: David Bowie

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A true original. Here he is being stalked by another of my Heroes:

Update 10/2/16: I was lucky enough to be present at Steven Wilsons recent Hammersmith gig at which he performed a touching tribute to Mr Bowie. Here is the official video featuring a wonderful duet with Ninet Tayeb on Space Oddity:

MotoGP: My First Time…

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On the morning of Friday the 22nd June 2007 I experience something that will live long in my memory. Stood alone on the infield slope beside the Craner Curves at Donington Park, wearing shorts in the driving rain, black clouds roll overhead. I contemplate why I had arisen at an ungodly hour, to travel the length of the M1, in order to suffer the discomfort I currently endured.

Between the beating of the rain, in the distance behind me, an engine fires… First Practice for the British GP had begun.

The revs rise and fall, gently at first. Gears begin to shift, the noise grows from distant to cacophonous in mere moments. To this day this may be the single most beautiful sound to ever pummel my ear drums. In the peripheral vision of my left eye a single small red projectile explodes into view. Flicking from side to side, as it negotiates the curves of the Craners. Down, down, towards the Old Hairpin, which on this day resembled the foot of a waterfall. The pilot, fresh from the pit lane moments earlier, is fully committed on the untested surface. Riding the grip of his bespoke Bridgestone wets as they cut through the surface tension of the standing water. The sound by now has reached its glorious peak. I no longer hear it, it is so loud it inhabits my very soul, inside my head, vibrating the fabric of my being from the inside out.

I can only describe the sound thusly; imagine what you might believe to be the sound of sheet metal tearing. Couple this with what can only be described as the ground opening up before you, topped off with a sprinkling of the finest violin concerto ever performed. This, my beloved readership, is the sound of the 2007 Ducati Desmocedici. With a young antipodean, named Casey Stoner, perched atop. You may have heard of him?

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After years of following it on TV, this was my first ever sighting of a MotoGP missile in the wild. And boy did it deliver. It was visceral. The volume made it a struggle to concentrate. Stoner tipped into the old hairpin, and accelerating away to my right, possessing no fear in the lack of knowledge of the grip level he might find. The traction control, trying its best to rein in the rampant beast, sounding like a hail of gunfire. Continue reading MotoGP: My First Time…