The piano takes one slow spin. The lights go out, the music follows. We're in the eye of the storm.
In the next moment, it's all white-hot light and Alicia Keys crushing the ivories of her grand Yamaha in an entrance that establishes one thing: this woman is a force.
A few short bars later and Keys is up and owning the stage, backed by an entourage of dancers, singers, and supporting musicians.
Touring for her third studio release, As I Am (2007), Keys exploded out out of the gates to set the pace for a performance that saw the singer strutting over the stage as much as behind a keyboard.
About 15 minutes before the performance was slated to begin, I was met by the tour's super helpful media contact, who led me down onto the floor. There was a long extension from the middle of the stage that split the floor and restricted access, so we stayed stage right.
Alicia's media contact was flat out the nicest and most helpful rep I've ever met at a concert, and she went so far as to give me a detailed rundown of when the singer was coming out, what she was going to do, and details to watch for. Honestly, if you're shooting this show, there's not too much I can add; she' going to hook you up.
Still, despite the pre-show tips, I should add that this was a technically challenging shoot due to the high amount of movement on stage during the first two songs. Alicia Keys was dominating every square inch of the stage and just tracking the singer was a fast-paced workout.
There was no demarcated pit for this show, just the aisles in front of the seated section on the floor. I shot for the first two songs.
Lighting for this set was actually as tricky as it was bright, at least in my experience. There is a huge array of lights positioned directly over the main stage and these lights fire in different patterns, bathing the stage in a lot of surprisingly bright light.
All those lights you see take turns blasting the stage with more white hot light than you can shake a stick at. The quantity is the good part.
The bad part is the directionality of the light, which created some high contrast shadows on the singer. This was most true toward the front of the stage.
Aside from this light, there was also blue accent lighting from behind in the first song, followed by more red washes toward the end of the second.
Lenses & Gear:
I shot with the Nikon D3 and Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 for a large portion of the set, which proved to be a nice all around range for wider shots of Alicia Keys and the production. I also switched to the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 for several tighter shots and was glad to have this lens as well.
Exposure & Metering:
This was a tricky one. Ultimately, I settled on ISO 640 at f/3.5 and 1/640 second.
I'd like to give a big thanks to Alicia Key's media representative at the concert, who was exceedingly helpful prior to the shoot. Give this woman a raise, Sony.