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MEMORIES FROM THE EARLY CONCERTS


Over the years, we’ve had a countless number of photographers come to Scottrade Center to shoot shows for a variety of publications. Check out this first-hand account from photographer Sean Derrick as he remembers shooting our very first concert in the arena, Billy Joel.

 

What were your first impressions of the arena that night when you were shooting?

My first impressions of Kiel Center were outstanding. Having been used to shooting and attending events at The Arena I was used to a cozy, tight experience with some limited views in a very old building. Mind you, I had a lot of great memories at the Old Barn, but its time had come. Walking up to Kiel Center I just marveled at its sleek abstract appearance and I was fascinated and hooked, not wanting to blink for I would miss something. When I first walked into the building I was shocked at how big and expansive it was. My first thought was "Wow! How did they fit everything in here and still have this much room? I kept wondering if they could have fit the entire Arena within the new building and still had room.

From a photographer, and concertgoer standpoint I immediately knew they would not have any issues with any size show and could handle any demands from a show. More specifically I was thinking about a show in 1988 when Def Leppard played The Arena. The concert was in-the-round and the tour and building management were afraid the building could not support the weight of the stage lighting in the center and had to move it to one side of The Arena. It was the only time on that tour that had happened. I thought to myself, that won't be a problem here.

What do you remember about shooting the concert that night?

As far as I could tell, there were only 2 of us (photographers) at the Billy Joel show in October of 1994. Back then, most shows didn't get the coverage like shows do now. I shot for a local newspaper at the time, The Edwardsville Intelligencer, and was the only regular photographer at most of the shows.

I remember that there was no pit for the show. Usually we are guided to a cordoned off portion that is in between the stage and the first row of the audience, so we had to just pick a spot and go to it. Unfortunately, but understandably, the directions were slim and chaotic, being the first event there. No one knew where we should go or even how long we were supposed to be down there. Luckily his publicist gave directions to me prior in a fax stipulating that it was the standard first 3 from the front of the house. Now, having no pit meant not having a specified section where we could go to get unobstructed shots. So someone in security that met me there said just to pick a spot in a corner and stay out of everyone's way.

The show was amazing, classic Billy Joel at his best. I remember he himself marveled at the spiffy new building and was honored to break it in. He played for over 2 hours and played a spectacular version of "Goodnight Saigon" and a cover of The Beatles' "She Loves you", which I thought was fantastic after a few Led Zeppelin covers in a medley were thrown in. It was just a great night.

Which concerts have been some of your favorites and why?

Both Billy Joel shows (the 1994 show and the one from this past April), of course. The Kiss reunion show from July 1996 was fantastic. Alice in Chains opened for Kiss that night and it turned out to be lead vocalist Layne Staley's second to last show with the band before he passed away. Any Rush show, as they have never disappointed me, both musically and visually, some of the best musicians I have ever heard. The Madonna concert was amazing, as was the Pink show, with their expansive sets and entire cast of supporting dancers and actors. Carlos Santana was incredible this year and the lighting was unbelievable.

But my favorite was Queensryche on April 30, 1995. While only about 5-7000 fans were in attendance (and it seemed totally empty in the expansive venue) Queensryche played one of their best shows I had seen from them (and I have seen them about nine times). Not only did I enjoy the performance immensely, but I also had the special treat of being onstage with them during that show. The first song was "I Am I" and the show called for lead singer Geoff Tate to be hounded by 2 reporters throughout the song, with Tate trying to keep his privacy. They asked me the day before if I wanted to try something different, but wouldn't tell me what. When I got there they directed me to the backstage area and told me I was going to play a photographer/paparazzi hounding Tate. So, during the song he pushed me back and interacted with me and the stage hands playing reporters. It was so much fun.