Tony has always astounded me with his wonderful musical talents, conversational skills and passion for life. I have been a fan of his for years, beginning with his energetic contributions to North Coast post-rockers And So I Watch You From Afar. I remember when I was 13, I came across their anthem ‘A Little Solidarity’ and I was hooked.
When I was working with BLKSTF [Blackstaff Music Belfast] last year, Tony headlined one of our Strppd Bck nights in August at The Sunflower Bar, Belfast. How he filled the small venue with rhythm and stories was mesmerizing. He is a wordsmith with charm and wit. Two months later, I interviewed him for what became the last issue of Treason Magazine ahead of his debut performance with The Tragedy of Dr Hannigan at The Belfast Empire. Tony embodied this twisted manic personna – it was truly a Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde affair if I ever saw one.
With the after-work rush to meet Samantha, we ventured up East to The Strand Theatre. I’ve never been at this theatre but was instantly impressed with its Art-Deco era architecture. After a bit to eat at a nearby restaurant (always remember to ask restaurants about veggie options, they can turn anything veggie these days), we ventured into the Arts Centre upstairs in the Strand. The room was packed with people ready to listen to Tony talk and play tunes.
Tales were exchanged, reminiscing of his adventures around the United States spoke of poets who knew Duke Special, new urban experiences, colourful and hyperactive uber drivers, tour dates with Gogol Bordello and reflections on songwriting. The room was dimly lit for atmosphere, like a campsite fire. His shadow danced on the stage-left wall, which I felt showed a duality of character – the man in the flesh, and his creativity manifesting alongside him. Tony had the crowd onboard his emotional rollercoaster, which was often resolved in true Tony-style humour. Tonight, many people from the local scene were present – from Jonny McKee to The Mad Dalton and Paul McMordie. I met Paul at dinner before doors opened. In the most colloquial of descriptions I can think of, thon boy is a mad man [laughs]!
The rationale for Photographic Style
Seated at the back of the venue, and with the nature of the performance, I wasn’t able to run about mad. Rather, with as much respect as possible, I had to navigate the room light-footed and find little nooks and crannies to work from. I used two lenses for this show; the Sigma 35mm ART and the 70-200mm f2.8 VR. Tony, in his lighting choice, possibly didn’t realise the shadows he was creating which made for some excellent figurations. The colour choice here tonight was more in a vintage style in light [no pun intended] of the warm lighting and dim conditions. I felt it added more character to the shots.
Processing mainly involved the curve lifting the blacks, high contrast, a lightly-applied blue filter and the white balance pushed to make the images warmer. Clarity stayed around 20%, vignetting was applied and digital grain was also added to assist the film-esque feel. The high contrast was used to benefit the shadows being created from the light positioned stage-right. There was also a glass window to the right of the venue near the bathroom which reflected the light emanating from the fairy-lights lining the ceiling, which assisted in creating a double-exposure effect when using a prime to capture images through the glass.
Promises of more Chapter & Verse performances were made, which I look forward to attending once again. Tony, you are gentlemen and a gifted individual, a man who has grabbed life by the horns.