The Story Behind the Photos
Part 2: The Concert and
I told him I’d begin that night, taking photos during the performances, and when he was onstage, during the first of 2 sets, he often performed directly to my camera. But, here, I must report with great regret that I didn’t have the nerve or perhaps bad taste to use a flash during his live act, nor think to ask (now I would) if I could go up on stage (and I’m sure he would have ok’d either request) but…I never mentioned it, because I felt it would somehow intrude on the magic of what I was hearing and seeing, and – at least in those days – I didn’t have the nerve or gall to get up on stage with him and take “in his face” photos as which would impinge on the audience's attention to his set, performed in front of a fairly packed auditorium.
Also, Wolf’s performance was so amazing, moving, awesome and also humorous as well as powerful, that it was all I could do to not get lost in just feeling it. Well, it was more a “found” than a “lost.” This was the first time I’d heard him live up close, after all. But I had to concentrate on the photo taking. The next night I went back without the camera, to just hear and feel the songs. By the way, I’ve never yet heard a recording of him that fully captured all the tones and timbre of his voice...
During his sets, besides “posing” directly for me at times, (although no one but us knew that) he put on an incredibly fast-paced, energetic show. What a non-stop high-powered performance! Well, after all, you know his stuff or you most likely wouldn’t be reading this now. He was amazing, playing harp, slide guitar, singing, and doing all kinds of moves and faces on stage...
Stalking the stage at times, often deep in his own feelings yet fully aware of his stage image while the entire range of his great material was being expressed in so many ways, he sang and played harp or guitar, depicting the feelings and sub-feelings of his lyrics with his body and expression. He glowered, mourned, humorously mocked something, sometimes posturing in a style that clearly shows where Mick Jagger got some moves from, sometimes clearly acting and yet obviously experiencing his words and music, feeling it deeply, and thinking, doing SO MUCH musically and vocally, while also keeping on top of the full band’s timing.
He sometimes would crawl around on all fours while singing, occasionally dangling or swing the very-phallic microphone between his legs (in reference to which he’d later say to the crowd’s amusement something like, “Please forgive me. You have to understand I get like that ‘cause I was raised in the country. You see, I’m a country boy and don’t know no better.”
I had never really known such a “showman” before… and this was a real eye (and ear) opener. And Wolf’s voice tones… they were amazing, so many levels and ranges... deep, scratchy, smooth, rich, strong, eerie, varied and dead-on soulful and mesmerizing. This was skillfully backed by his great group of musicians each doing a powerful individual and group performance.
Even though I was then a Steve Miller fan (his early band was a blues band) I doubt if I heard more than one song by them, in fact just the one they were playing as I left auditorium that first night, which suddenly sounded drained of vitality after following Wolf, at least for me. And I left the second night I was there after Wolf’s second set, too, He was a hard act to follow ;)
During Wolf’s sets, while shooting, I had to just estimate the distance in almost every shot, due to the VERY pale blue light he was working under for 98% of the time! I was forced to use satellite recording film which was 4000 ASA (for low to nearly no light) and then push it to 8000 ASA during development of the negatives. This made the photos’ depth of field (depth of focused image on the negative) almost nil. Maybe it was an inch or so, which is a very unforgiving leeway for even the slightest misjudged distance from the camera to subject. I rarely could see the lenses indicators of distance..
That’s why maybe two hundred or more performance photos were out of focus to one degree or another, and why the ones that are in sufficient focus are somewhat “grainy” if blown up large, although - thankfully - SOME came out ok or even better, and were recently used in the newly-released documentary film/DVD about Wolf’s life and music. But, relatively few came out as finely-focused as nearly all iconic, sensitive Eddy Street Hotel and Motel photo-session portraits of Wolf that would follow.