Arcade Fire @ Empress Ballroom, Blackpool

Arcade FireBlackpool Empress Ballroom, Nov 2013

Following dates in London, Glasgow, Germany, France and Belgium, the Reflektor Warm-Up tour came to a flamboyant close in Blackpool. For those not familiar with Arcade Fire’s latest jaunt, it was far from a conventional tour. Probably the most notorious difference was the band’s ’suggested’ dress code, which probably caused far more uproar than needed.

From the off, there was an air of mystery surrounding the event (I’d not really kept much in the loop with the other dates, so only really have myself to blame). Before I arrived at the seaside resort, the band had made a grand entrance to the town – arriving on one of the iconic trams wearing giant papier-mache heads, escorted by a mariachi band. Yeah, this wasn’t going to be normal.

The tone of the evening was pretty clear long before I’d even parked my car – hoards of fans flooding towards the legendary Winter Gardens in dinner dress, ranging from your standard two piece tux to a full on masquerade ball gown. Having become entrapped in Blackpool’s RIDICULOUS one way system for what felt like a lifetime, I arrived at the venue with about half an hour to kill, and took the opportunity to grab a couple of quick portraits with some of the punters – taking advantage of the fantastic art-deco ballroom fantastic backdrop. The mood was very much set.

The past few times i’ve photographed at the Empress Ballroom it’s been a pretty easy affair – nice big pit, not too many photographers, decent lighting – it’s been kind to me. Sadly this wasn’t one of those occasions. There were no support acts, so opportunities to get a feel for the pit and establish some angles were limited. We weren’t in to photograph the first song, so this did give me an opportunity to gauge what it was going to be like, and it wasn’t great. Really narrow pit that was disected with a short platform into the crowd. In other words I had to get in the pit quickly – first, ideally.

We were ushered in at the start of the second song, and I managed to get fairly close to the platform. Win ventured out to the crowd pretty much straight away, although mainly facing the other way. Then, just when I was resigned to the fact that I was only going to get a shot of his arse, he turned round, crouched down, and reached out for the light ontop of the video camera that some fella was holding next to me. I fired off a bunch of frames, and thankfully I managed to capture it just as the strobes went off. Lucky shot, but I was made up. 

The remainder of the gig was pretty standard to shoot – the pit situation meant there was no opportunity to wander around and mix things up, and the narrow pit and high stage meant angles were all a bit “worms eye view”. Thankfully, the split second at the start of our three song allocation made it worthwhile. It was certainly a unique spectacle to cover, and I’m delighted I put in for it, even if it wasn’t that great to shoot.