I haven’t talked about live music photography yet, and to be honest, if I had to choose a field to develop my poor skills in, or focus my work onto, live performances and street art would be my main targets.
I find really difficult to capture those intense moments coming from the spontaneity of the band members, the feelings, the passion, and the workspace is usually terrible. Lights, shades, angles, jacks, annoying mic stands, and even these mobile video units. Now I’m thinking of a picture of Nicke Royale with Imperial State Electric, which could have been awesome but it was completely ruined because of this huge video mobile arm. It was one of these “Fuck My Life” moments, believe me.
I will refer to outstanding photographers covering this field very soon, but now I’d like to talk about something more special and intimate, Neal Casal achieved through hundreds of pictures, many of them included in his book Ryan Adams & The Cardinals: A View of Other Windows.
This compilation of pictures means trespassing the threshold into the inner world of one of my favorite artists, Ryan Adams, and the band he formed and fronted for approximately 5 years, The Cardinals, which Neal Casal joined in 2005.
Their world, including the writing and recording processes and methods, the band on the road, the relationship among members, the good and bad moments, from happiness to exhaustion, euphoria and solitude, is beautifully reflected here, in a humble way, with no ambitious aspirations but to catch and keep part of their lives and experiences for good.
I’ve always thought Neal Casal is a very emotional artist, with a taste for the beauty in a discrete manner. Whenever I listen to his solo stuff it evokes me some kind of peace. The tandem formed between Neal and Ryan is really complementary, as if the second provided the passion and the guitarist was there to balance and keep things under control.
The fans know by know about Adams’ shyness and mood swings, he’s quite a borderline personality, in my opinion essential to be the genius he is. Casal, seems to be the witness of all his extreme behavior, close enough as not to disturb him either, which hasn’t to be very easy.
The relationship among the members of the band is also interesting. So far, so close, everything changes depending on the circumstances. Being part of a band which spends long time on the road must be rough and strenuous. We have no idea of what two hours show means in terms of effort, work and sacrifice. It’s like a family but implying a responsibility towards a different audience every night, and bread on your table. Your working day doesn’t mean 8h at the office, or the factory, but playing eating, travelling, sleeping…
Adams appreciated the talent of Casal right away, and the covers of Easy Tiger and Follow the Lights Ep are credited to him, together with the albums artwork featuring some of the pictures.
I have to remark another personal issue which makes this book more special, and it’s the fact that there are plenty of pix referring to the European tour in 2007. I was lucky to attend to one of the shows in November 2007, a thrilling and absolutely wonderful night, in which I signed not only a peace agreement with Adams, my filthy hair boy, but also my unconditional love for the rest of my life.
Ryan Adams and The Cardinals split ways in 2009, for many reasons, among others, Adams’ retirement announcement caused by the Ménière’s disease, and later on, the loss of the bassist Chris Feinstein.
Neal Casal has just released a beautiful album named Sweeten the Distance, keeps on taking pictures which have been published in many established magazines, and nowadays he’s part of Chris Robinson’s Brotherhood. Let’s cross fingers and wait if he manages to let us into this family through his lens.