Playing barefoot on a large rug situated squarely in the middle of the stage, Keller Williams played to a packed house in his eagerly awaited return to the Pageant. In a marked change from earlier performances, Keller played with a full band, the newly formed WMDs, who made their major debut at Bonaroo in 2007. The group, lead by Keller, brings together an an all-star group composed of Keith Moseley on bass, Gibb Droll on lead guitar, and Jeff Sipe on drums.
The WMDs played through an extended double-set that delivered closes to three hours of music by the end of the night, which seemed to satisfy even the diehard fans who had come to love Keller for his solo performances that utilized looping pedals.
The band setup in the middle of the stage, about 10 feet back from the front, hedged in by a collection of monitors, mics, guitar stands, Sipe's drumkit, and all tied together by a trio of Persian rugs. Amid a sprawling assortment of effects pedals, the four-piece band worked in a tight group on stage.
This close dynamic, combined with the dim lighting and the cozy, jam band attitude, gave the show a very intimate feel. I came away with the impression that the performance may well have taken place in someone's living room for a small crowd of friends for all the homey feel and goodhearted interaction of the band.
Bringing in the audience further, and making up for their removed position on stage, a set of small cameras were positioned around the stage and prjoected images of the band members on an elliptical screen on the backdrop.
Concert Photography Notes:
When I arrived at the venue, I saw that the normal pit barricade had been pushed out only enough to form a very narrow division between the floor crowd and the stage.
After a quick radio check to get permission, I was allowed into the very narrow gap and proceeded to shoot. There was no song limit for this show, so I shot through the first set and for the first third of the second.
Lighting for show was generally dim with broad color washes against the stage and backdrop. High front-lighting created relatively contrasty lighting, which was exacerbated by Keller's shaggy hair and created deep shadows over the singer's eyes for much of the performance.
Backlighting ranged from reds and oranges to cooler purples and blues, while the front-lighting remained fairly neutral for most of the set.
In addition to the house lights, two wide strips of LED arrays flanked either side of the stage and cast orange and purple light over the stage.
For this shoot, I used the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 exclusively. Given the distance between the band and the front of the stage, the reach of the telephoto lens was essential for isolation and cutting through the clutter of the multiple mic stands.
I stayed between 1/200 and 1/250 at ISO 6400 for the majority of the set. While the lighting wasn't really bright by any means, the Nikon D3's very nice high ISO performance let me shoot very comfortably with the telephoto zoom. With other cameras, and certainly the old D2x, I would have had to sacrifice my high shutter speed or switch to primes for this shoot.
Looking at the camera settings for this gig, I'm left scratching my head at how I would have shot this show with another camera without more extensive post processing or a wholly different set of lenses. Given the ISO 6400 designation alone, I suspect shooting with the Nikon D2x would have shooting the Nikon 85mm f/1.4 wide open to achieve the same exposure, which would have been a severe handicap against the sheer versatility of the Nikon 70-200mm.
With three gigs in the next week in a variety of different venues, I'm looking forward to see how the D3 continues to fare. Stay tuned for more!