This was one of a short string of intimate benefit shows Metallica played just ahead of their massive worldwide stadium tour in 2017.
When I got into the photo pit I snuck a peek at the set list and smiled. Starting the show with Breadfan, Creeping Death and Battery which was the first Metallica song I ever heard when I was 14. My friend Seb played it for us on a boombox between classes in the student lounge.
On top of a bookshelf in his best James Hetfield stance, Seb played air guitar with a big piece of wood, circle headbanging with his not-quite-long-enough hair. It will forever be the image I see in my head when I listen to Battery.
The day after the show my writer friend Karen Bliss interviewed Kirk Hammett (guitarist) and I begged her to bring me along so I could show him my photos from the show. After the interview I showed him some favourites on my iPad and he loved them!
I told him I was the photographer losing his shit when they played Battery. He smiled and said “Oh, I saw you.” How could he not? The stage is three feet high and I was standing like two feet in front of him.
What I love about the low stage at the Opera House in Toronto is that the photos almost look like they were taken at eye-level. Such a different perspective from the tall stadium stages Metallica usually plays on.
Thank you Metallica and Steve Waxman at Warner Music Canada for access to shoot this special show, Ken Green at WMC for taking the picture of Kirk Hammett and me, and course Karen Bliss for letting me tag along.
I like this first photo a lot.
This was the night Billy Talent opened for Gun N Roses! As the openers they didn't have their usual stage production so the main lighting was a couple of spotlights at the other end of the stadium. I really love the silhouettes and super long shadows.
When GNR's Appetite For Destruction came out I was 13 and I listened to it so much that I wore out the tape. It was the first time I'd heard someone say “fuck” in a song, and they said it a LOT. I felt like such a badass listening to them with my friends.
They were the biggest rockstars on Earth, and here I was decades later standing on their stage watching my pals Billy Talent kicking ass. Who knew?
The shot of Ben wearing white is from a different show that summer but it's got the same kind of vibe as the rest of these.
The last one is Billy Talent in the Blue Jays dugout with custom jerseys gifted to them by the Jays Organization.
I think this was the first time the guys wore something other than black t-shirts for a photo shoot. (thanks Jessica Albano !) They liked the black, red and white so much that they wore it for all their shows on the next tour.
Ironically most of these portraits are black&white (you can blame me for that). I did add the same yellow and red treatment that Igor Hofbauer used in his incredible album art for Afraid Of Heights, though. The shadows in photo 5 were inspired by his artwork too.
I also used those colours in last photo of this series which was taken a couple of months earlier for a press release. There's some interesting stuff going on in that one if you look closely.
Along with Funding Innovation the band created gold record plaques with one of these photos, and sold them to raise money for the Billy Talent Charity Trust. It was such a cool idea and I'm happy to have played a small part in it.