Thursday, October 02, 2014

The Long Kiss Hello

Kate Bush Before The DawnThe last time Kate Bush performed a live concert was 1979. I was too young to go and anyway, record buying and gig going were something totally beyond my boyhood consciousness at the time. A few years later when I’d finally 'got my groove on' the chances of Kate Bush ever performing a live gig again were about as likely as Labour freeing the country from the interminable yolk of Maggie Thatcher. And then, subsequent to that event, as likely as Rolf Harris being imprisoned for sex crimes. 

I’d accepted that it was just never going to happen. Never. I would never (for)ever get to see her live. I accepted it with the same life-weary recognition that I would also never marry any of Charlie’s Angels, never be a crime-fighting superhero or be in any way, shape or form, cool and one of the in-crowd. Sometimes you don’t make your bed, you just accept you need to lie in the one that life has given you.

And then suddenly life presents you with a brand new bed - a four poster with satin sheets, vibrating pillows and gold thread in the tassels. In short, life throws you a miracle.

Earlier this year Kate Bush announced a series of live shows (my quest to acquire tickets is well documented elsewhere). For a Kate Bush fan such a happening is a life changer, a dream maker and a soul lifter of extraordinary proportions. Those tickets were the most desirable entities in the entire universe. I was damned lucky to get 2 of them – even if it meant paying through the nose for hospitality tickets. But really, as a fan, I would have done anything to guarantee my presence at one of her gigs. Eaten broken glass. Voted Conservative. Accepted the new U2 album on whatever device the-powers-that-be cared to hijack it onto.

It’s interesting to note here that rehearsals for the shows had been going on for 18 months… the whole thing must have been one of the best kept secrets in the music world for at least a year. God, but Kate Bush is a canny lady.

Last Saturday, after much waiting, after much imagining and speculation, Karen and I finally attended Before The Dawn at the Hammersmith Eventim (Apollo). Neither of us had been to a gig for at least a decade. Neither of us had been anywhere major without the kids for probably about the same length of time. In fact, being without the kids for a night was a source of considerable and most perplexing anxiety and I won’t bore you with our efforts to secure 2 ultra-trustworthy babysitters (who, as it happens, did amazing jobs to keep our boys happy and safe while mummy and daddy partied the night away). But before the gig we did end up (almost subconsciously) sitting in a park near a kiddie’s playground, almost as if we couldn’t quite function out in the real world without the shouts and calls of youngsters surrounding us.

Having obtained hospitality tickets, our first port of call was St. Mark’s Church, across the road from the Eventim where, at 5.30pm, we had a champagne reception and luxury hamper awaiting our arrival. Although for me this was a buy product of acquiring tickets it proved to be rather special in itself and it was nice to be amongst 200 other guests who were all feeling the specialness of the occasion as we were. It was also nice to have early access to a good selection of the official merchandise without having to fight our way through rampaging throngs eager to buy extra programmes that they could sell later on eBay. I must admit I stretched my credit card as far as it would go and bought a gig t-shirt, hoody, poster, keyring, a Hounds of Love mug and a Rescue Tin which had been compiled to compliment the first part of Kate’s set – a performance of The Ninth Wave (the concept piece from her Hounds Of Love album). It was expensive but I figured this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I didn’t want to leave with regrets or that feeling of “I should have done this and I should have done that…”

The food was superb but I confess I was much too excited to eat properly and, seriously, I would have been happy with a bag of chips – I was just glad to be there. The couple next to us had come all the way from Norway and the people we sat next to in the theatre itself sounded distinctly Australian. A reminder that out trek from Leamington Spa was but a small hop compared to the journeys that some of the other attendees had undertaken.

It was lovely to be able to eat and then wander back across the road to the Eventim in our own good time, enter through the VIP entrance without queuing and find out seats without having to panic about anything. In fact the whole trip had flowed smoothly – a good journey down and we even managed to get parked a mere 50 yards from the theatre entrance. It made us realise that we should and indeed ought to do this kind of thing far more often.

And the gig itself?

Amazing. Truly amazing. I'm having trouble holding back the hyperbole. I couldn’t quite believe I was actually there. In fact I spent the first half of the show trying to reign my thoughts in and focus on being present in the moment. The show was as full and as mind-blowing as all the reports had led us to believe. Best of all, Kate’s voice soared. My worry had been that after weeks of performing it would be showing signs of strain by the time my gig came around but I needn’t have worried. Kate seemed to combine power and delicacy in equal measure and for me that was the main triumph of the night. Her voice is incredible and has lost none of its potency.

Of course, she could have sung dressed in a bin bag and the audience would have lapped it up but it was lovely to be present at an event that was so worth the 30 year wait, that was everything a fan could have ever dreamt of. I won’t go through the set list as that will be available elsewhere online but highlights for me were Running Up That Hill, King Of The Mountain and, of course, the entire Ninth Wave movement. The sets were incredible and Kate managed to weave theatre, film and song into one cohesive, emotionally-full whole. Working the plaintive peep-peep of the lifebelt distress signal into And Dream Of Sheep was inspired and really worked (also reminding me of the click-click of the rifle used so effectively in Army Dreamers). It was wonderful to see The Ninth Wave performed so satisfyingly – I’ve spent years of my life letting my mind wander when listening to it; trying to imagine it turned into a visual spectacle. So gratifying that Kate’s own interpretation was not a disappointment but instead added even more depth and meaning. For me Watching You Without Me and Hello Earth are still the central masterpieces to this entire movement.

The second half of the show was based around the second half of the Ariel album and though quieter and calmer than The Ninth Wave was nevertheless not without its shockwaves – the puppet boy killing the gull, tree trunks dropping down from on high and smashing through Kate’s piano – but the overriding sense of joy that these tracks evoke was what stayed most in my mind. A definite highlight for me was the pulsing throb of the opening of Prologue which is so perfectly redolent of the whirring of bird’s wings in flight. The biggest highlight of the night though was the encore. Just Kate alone at the piano performing Among Angels without any other accompaniment and reminding everybody that as great as all the stage effects and stage direction were, the most perfect, unassailably wondrous thing of all is Kate and her voice and her piano composition. Among Angels is such a delicate stirring piece it really didn’t need anything else at all. For anyone doubting if Kate Bush still had it, they had their resounding answer. A rousing rendition of Cloudbusting finished off the night and was surmounted by Kate yet again thanking us all for being such a brilliant audience (as she had done throughout the evening), thanking us for coming and just thanking us all for being. So many thank you’s from the one person in the theatre who everybody else there wanted to thank with all their hearts. No, Kate, thank you!

It was an uplifting, euphoric evening. I was glad to be even the smallest, tiniest part of it. Number one item on the very top of my secret bucket list totally ticked off.

Kate Bush Before The Dawn

25 comments:

English Rider said...

Thank you for sharing this experience. I feel as though I was present. "Soaring" is probably the most apt descriptive of Kate Bush.So far above the Earthbound.

Steve said...

English Rider: I so agree. And, for a little while, I felt like I was up there with her.

John Gray said...

I hear she's announced that she won't be appearing again

Steve said...

John: yeah, I think I convinced her to give me private performances in future...

Gorilla Bananas said...

This post ought to appear in an Economics textbook to explain why pop stars are multi-millionaires. If I were Kate's manager, I'd advise her to auction off her namesake, one hair at a time.

Steve said...

Gorilla Bananas: I think you know I would want to put in a big bid.

London City (Mum) said...

Fab fab fab - so glad you thoroughly enjoyed it!
AND you were within spitting distance of me too (so you should have asked for a bed for the night you numpty!)

LCM x

Nota Bene said...

Glad you enjoyed her...phnarr phnarr!

Steve said...

LCM: really? You were that close by? I had no idea. Doh!

Nota Bene: I think she enjoyed it as much as I did. ;-)

Trish Burgess said...

I have been thinking about you these last few weeks when hearing reports of the show. So chuffed for you that it lived up to, and exceeded, your expectations. Good that you bought memorabilia too - you can't go back and do it again.

Clippy Mat said...

Wow. You know how to push the boat out eh? It sounds awesome and a night to remember indeed. good for you! :D

Steve said...

Trish: nope, absolutely. It was a complete once-in-a-lifetime experience. I feel so lucky to have enjoyed it.

Clippy Mat: I can't believe it's all over so quickly! All those months of anticipation!

Suburbia said...

Very jealous, would have loved to have been there but your description is so good, I feel like I was almost there.
Living vicariously through you!

Steve said...

Suburbia: alas, I don't even come close to the brilliance of the real thing.

Barry Coidan said...

So glad you had an experience of a life time.

Slightly worried about your dubious choice of souvenirs.

Steve said...

Barry: the used knickers stall was sold out.

Rol said...

Jealous.

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

What a fabulous experience. Glad it was everything you dreamed of and more... And remember to get away, just you and Karen a bit more now the boys are older :-)

Steve said...

Rol: smug.

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden: you are so right!

Fredulous Yo said...

I am incredibly jealous of you. I didn't get tickets and might never get to enjoy seeing her. Glad you got to enjoy it though.

Steve said...

Freduloua Yo: I do indeed consider myself to be a very lucky boy.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

So glad it lived up to your expectations so!

I liked Kate Bush, but not quite as much as you so it is only right that you got to see her!

Steve said...

Laura: I knew you'd understand. Thank you for not competing for my ticket! ;-)

Keith said...

Ah. great you enjoyed it. As ever, envious, but I"ll cope.

Steve said...

Keith: that's the spirit. Stiff upper lip.