Amazing to say the least. The moment I noticed the intensity and concentration emanating from Skylar Grey as she warmed up her vocal chords in a secluded corner of Key Club’s green room, I knew I was in for quite the ride. In my experience as a night/weekend photojournalist, opportunities for concert photography have been such an amazing experience to me, albeit still few and far between. Yet, none brought me closer to the artists themselves, as demonstrated by my favorite photo of Skylar above in the stairwell of the venue just before the side stage entrance. Intense? Seems so from the moment one leaves the green room to perform for one’s audience. Concentrated? Artfully so; I can’t imagine whether an artist such as Skylar still goes through any sort of anxiety before going on stage. If she was, she sure hid it well.
Skylar Grey’s newer material is also still new to me, but I’ve been a huge fan of her older work when she was known as Holly Brook. Her involvement with Mike Shinoda/Fort Minor and Machine Shop Records back in 2006 with the song “Where’d You Go” struck a very nice chord with me at the time, combining elements of Shinoda’s hip hop flavor with Brook’s calm pop-folk chorus into two very contrasting but harmonious elements. When she changed her name and started working with acts like Eminem, Diddy, Lupe Fiasco, Dr. Dre, it sure took me by surprise; I had to peel back the layers of these songs to understand her contributions as a singer-songwriter to see how far she’d come as an artist of her talent. Being able to be around her backstage was a very honorable feeling; how often do people get to see the artists they appreciate live, let alone in such personal space as the green room and away from the hustle and bustle of the stage floor?
Along with Skylar Grey’s presence, this concert was especially relevant to me because of my long-standing taste in R&B. Emeli Sande was new to me at the time, but my coworker Randy suggested that I may like her music. Sure enough, from the moment Emeli’s opening act with her song “Heaven” began its drum-beat buildup to the soaring vocals of Emeli demonstrated in just the first few verses of the song, I was instantly hooked. How many artists who you’ve never really heard before immediately captivate you within the first minute or two of performing on-stage? Signs of an amazing artist, indeed.
Emeli constantly teetered a fine line between a mixture of feelgood soul (“Next To Me”) to heavy-hitting R&B anthem (“Where I Sleep”), even sometimes taking an even slower but steadily building-up beat (“Mountains”) that almost makes you feel like you’ve really reached the summit of an adventure with her sweeping lyrics echoing across the view from the top. The fine-tuned control over the highs and lows of her voice combined with the way she commanded the stage really showed the audience, me included, just how skilled she was with this type of music. I made some statements that night about how her style is like a slightly more soulful and positive version of Adele’s music, and I still believe that to this day; only time will tell to see where she takes what seems like she mastered and refine it even further or continue to evolve as an artist with her future releases.
Myspace and Chapstick were wise to have Skylar Grey and Emeli Sande team up for a concert like this. Their styles of music compliment one another very well, and it shows in the audience’s feedback throughout the entire night. It rejuvenated my taste in R&B and pop-folk music and won these artists my approval as musicians in their respective rights. The moment Emeli played her last song, “Next To Me”, it felt so right to end the show, but conversely felt like I hadn’t had enough of their performances. And considering Emeli is from the UK, it will be interesting to figure how long it will be before she circles back around as a headline performer in the Southern California area again for us, much less with someone like Skylar Grey to open for her.
Special thanks to Kim, Ros, and Randy for their direction in capturing these moments and for the learning experience; Antonio for letting me borrow some photo gear to get these shots; and Key Club for hosting such an amazing concert. As of this writing, Key Club is actually no more, so these photos would probably be evidence of one of the last shows to have been held at that venue. Sad times for concert-goers and passionate live music lovers, but with each door closed is another opportunity. I can’t help but feel the same way with my own photography and these artists as they continue to promote and evolve as artists in the making.
The rest of the photos can be found here at my flickr photo page: