TK Roll 2015-7: A Night at the Arena (Minolta Riva Mini, Fuji Superia 1600)

I don’t go to concerts all that much. My taste in music always seems to be at odds with who is touring at any particular time. When I do make it to one, though, I am usually very happy that I went.

This event was special. Its seeds were sown in the early nineties, when I first discovered the music of Queen following the death of the band’s one-of-a-kind singer, Freddie Mercury. I started buying CDs, and even VHS tapes of concerts and music videos – a format pioneered by Queen in the late 1970s. I immersed myself in the band’s music and lore; the hits and the B-sides, the origin stories, the groundbreaking redefinitions of what was possible and what was appropriate in both the music and its presentation.

Long before I knew about concepts like “camp” or understood the implications of the band name’s double entendre, I found something at the same time exuberant and serious in Queen’s music and demeanor. It seemed like their answer to every spoken or unspoken “You can’t do that!” was always a wry smirk, a tilted head, and the simple question “Really? Why not?” They were good at what they did, and realized early on that it freed them to not have to accept categories, but to make them, smash, and remake them. Sometimes all in one night. They transcended, and without knowing exactly what, I was on board.

When some twenty-odd years later, a re-formed Queen + Adam Lambert played Cologne’s Lanxess Arena, a mere two tram stops from my apartment, I was there. My girlfriend had seen posters around town, and bought tickets as part of a belated birthday present. She hadn’t told me what exactly we’d be doing that night, just hinted that “You might want to bring a camera.”

It appears she knows me quite well. I brought along my smallest all-singing-all-dancing point-and-shoot from the nineties, the Minolta Riva Mini – see roll 1. I loaded it with Fuji Superia 1600, and shot the whole roll at the concert. The camera did better than I could have expected, but not quite as well as I had hoped for.

Lessons learned? It turns out that f 3.5 is a bit slow for night time concert photography (big duh here…), and that a 35mm lens is a bit wide. Still, some impressions were captured, and having any camera is always preferable to having none.

The show was grandiose, but also intimate at times, as when Brian May gathered the band members around him to perform “’39” from Queen’s 1975 studio album “A Night at the Opera.” The catchy tune, heartfelt performance and emotional lyrics stuck with me. Weeks later, I’ll still start humming it randomly. The song is best described as a folk song about a spacefarer who falls victim to the effect of Einsteinian time dilation. Yes. A sci-fi folk song and the theory of relativity at a rock concert. “You can’t do that,” someone seemed to be saying. And the man with the long hair and the guitar would turn to them, smirk, and ask “Really? Why not?”

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