All photography and content © John Raptis Photography 2018

AC/DC Live @ Etihad Stadium, Melbourne

It’s A Long Way To The Top…

It’s got to have been a great year in the photo-pit when you get to tick off two big ones off your Bucket ListKISS and now, AC/DC. Photo wise, this would also prove to be the biggest gig I have ever done.

Arriving at Etihad Stadium, I quickly realised I have not shot here before and I had absolutely no idea where I was to meet up with my contact for access and my pass. A mild panic set in as I re-read my email and still had no clue where I should be. I approached one guard who sent me around the other side of the stadium to no avail. At this point, another guard gave me concise instructions and I made it to my point of call bang on time! Phew!

The usual motley crew of photographers were present and we waited under the stadium for a while until our contact came and gave out our passes. I didn’t shoot openers Kingswood and The Hives as they don’t fit the criteria of the Metal Obsession website I was shooting for, so I wasn’t here earlier in the day to get my pass.

AC/DC Photo Pass

Once we were all with our passes, the publicist introduced us to AC/DC’s Road Manager who gave us the do’s and don’t’s for the night. He gave us a heads up about the pyro in the opening number and to stand well and clear from that. We could move to the front of the stage once the pyro had come and gone.

As a photographer, this is where it gets really exciting for me at the bigger shows. Being led to the photo-pit at a big venue is when the nerves and spine-tingles kick effect into high gear. It gets me every single time. Being led into Etihad Stadium, however, whole new ball-game! The first thing that hits you is just how massive a stadium it is when looking at it from ground level. With each step towards the arena, you can hear the crowd a little clearer, a little louder and the adrenaline is kicking into some serious overdrive! Heck, I’ve been doing this for close to a decade, but the thrill is still great pre-gig.

The Walk

We had about fifteen minutes to acclimatise in the pit and it quickly dawned to me that this was probably one of the biggest gigs I have been to or shot. It reminded me of the very first show I ever went to as a kid, seeing KISS in 1980 at VFL Park in front of 45,000 people. The vibe felt exactly the same.

The AC/DC stage was incredibly high up off the ground. I’d imagine close to 20ft off the ground with a huge walkway down the middle. So in essence, the photo-pit area was divided into two – stage left and stage right.

The crowd before the storm!

With each passing minute, the crowd was getting wilder. I’d imagine for the GA folk who had been there a few hours under a hot sun, it may have been getting positively feral.

At 8.35 on the dot, the show begins! BOOM! (quite literally!)

Witnessing AC/DC in full-throttle, is a sight to behold. Seeing Angus goose-step across the stage, not missing a solitary note is testament to just how many years and how many stages he has done this. With each he waddled from one side to the other. It made me chuckle inside as I was capturing all the action with the camera.

The intensity of the photo-pit is frenetic as hell at this point. As the band is blasting through song 1 – the self-titled Rock Or Bust off the surprisingly great album of the same name, there are photographers, security and venue staff all over the place. Most of the photographers have the camera well and truly wedged to the eye at this point. Taking shots. Checking your results. Checking your settings. Changing your settings, on the fly.

I usually have a set camera setting ready to go for the big shows or the small. A start off point to get into the action straight away. Two or three shots later, within two or three seconds – you’re fiddling with aperture, ISO and shutter-speed after each and every strobe of light. It is frenetic as the action on the stage, but that’s what is so fun about this profession.

The band were certainly on point. Even with two new members, the band locked it in like a heat seeking missile! (see what I did there?)

Due to the extreme height of the stage, and for the most part bassist Cliff Williams, new guitarist Stevie Young and drummer Chris Slade – were very hard to photograph. I could barely get a shot of them unless they would be singing backing at the mics at the front of the stage. For the most part, they were barely sighted.

All in all, this is what it is all about. An incredible night’s fun photographing one of the biggest – if not the biggest band in the world! An amazing experience that I shall not soon forget!

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