22nd September 2020
REPOST: Six years ago this week I was one of the fortunate few to witness Kate Bush in her epic Before The Dawn concerts. This post was originally shared on September 21st 2014 and seeing as how it popped up in my Facebook memories, I took the time to re-read it and decided to repost it as well…. this time without the typo’s and grammatical errors.
I make no apologies for the very long read!
KATE BUSH REVIEW IN FULL:
THE DAY: Sept 19th 2014
The day, it had finally arrived, nearly 6 months [to the day] since my heart almost stopped beating when I (after much hysteria) managed to secure 2 tickets for the concert I would be attending tonight.
At 9.00am we wandered round to the venue (Hammersmith Apollo) just to check it was really within walking distance from our hotel ( at this point I need to let you know, my better half was being incredibly patient, whilst I was being an hysterical wreck). The sign outside doesn’t mention Kate, it just says ‘the K Fellowship presents “Before The Dawn” SOLD OUT’. Of course I had a photograph taken stood below the sign, it had to happen!
After a day sightseeing in London, we got back to the hotel, got changed and set off to go to church, not any old church, oh no, this is where we would be having our very special meal. St. Paul’s in Hammersmith, was a venue for a sumptuous picnic! The tickets were ‘hospitality’ which meant we had this as a before the show treat! When we got there, PANIC, no one was around, did I have the wrong date?? In my hysteria we managed to arrive a full hour too early, never mind, we found a bar and had a celebratory glass of wine.
When we went back to the church (at the correct time) it was a relief to see lots of other Kate fans. We were given a glass of champagne, taken to our table, and given our individual hamper basket filled with delicious and quirky foodstuffs, a bottle of wine and a tour programme! I spotted a merchandise stand: “1 of everything please” I said, but then dropped a hoodie and 2 t.shirts from the total, what a sensible man I was being! The stand also had a few items missing but I was informed they were available in the venue, so I needed to get there ASAP!
We headed over to the Apollo and got in relatively quickly, phewee, at least I’d get the items I needed without any panic; did I say needed? I meant HAD TO HAVE! How wrong I was, there was a scrum going on, people were battling to get to the front of the desk, screaming and barking at the staff, it seemed everybody wanted everything! The items I needed, they didn’t have them! But they would be available during the intermission; more stress, I NEEDED the emergency tin, the mug, and the pin badge. Whilst mentioning stress, I must at this point mention that the better half was amazing at keeping me calm, we sat down, had a drink, chatted to some other obsessives and waited for what seemed like a lifetime till we could go into the auditorium.
The seats! Amazing, in the circle, 4 rows back. Slap bang in the middle, Kate would (naturally) see me in my customised ‘little light, shining” shirt, resplendent with said Red light which security made me turn off, just in case it was actually a camera!
LIGHTS DOWN, SHOW COMMENCES
Breathe, be calm…..
A delicate, mature voice began the proceedings, it was Lily, Kate’s spiritualist who opens up the song of the same name, and then there, at the side of the stage was Kate, she ambled on in a nonchalant manner, but the tension and nerves were palpable. she was followed by her 5 backing singers, including son Bertie! The screams were deafening (primarily from me!!), the audience jumped to their feet, she was there, 35 years most of us had waited for this moment and now, she was about to start singing.
She looked nervous but happy, a big moment for all of us, but a huge one for her. I knew from reviews that her voice was going to cut the mustard….. but when she started, I melted! She was looking directly at me, as she did for the entire concert… And she sounded incredible! Lily is a beautiful, spiritual song and Kate’s voice was pitch perfect on it, an excellent song to start with and one that she obviously enjoyed performing. The audience, well we were entranced, caught in a special moment where time stood still, we listened, enchanted by the sheer beauty of her voice until the song came to its close and then we all jumped to our feet for one of countless standing ovations, we applauded, roared with delight and showed Kate just how happy she had made us all…. Then, straight into Hounds Of Love, another roar of approval and off she went singing a true classic, she was relaxing into it, this was a true concert, songs, no special effects, the comfort of being surrounded by her band, not what I was expecting! Hounds was followed by Joanni, a haunting track about Joan Of Arc, then on to Top Of The City, an odd choice (I thought) but it was apparent Kate was singing what she wanted, this wasn’t a greatest hits package it was a selection of deeply personal choices that she knew would suit her voice perfectly.
OMG, another amazing vocal performance and then she went straight into Running Up That Hill, everyone, especially me, went crazy, that rhythmic, hypnotic beat (that is my personal favourite song) was magnified by the thumping drums and the synth pumping out in a way that made me shiver, it was truly epic and I screamed my appreciation until I thought my voice was going to give. This was proving to be a monumental experience, and I was transfixed by Kate’s stage presence, subtle, delicate even, nothing overly exaggerated, her dancing was more like soft flowing movements that suited her perfectly, but it was that voice, magnificent, and getting better with each song! King Of The Mountain followed and with it Kate started ‘performing’ to suit the flow of the story, her Lynsey Kemp background was coming to play and she clearly enjoyed it.
BOOM, cannons fired confetti into the air, alas it didn’t reach the circle, so it will be a trip to eBay to purchase some for me! The confetti is large golden pieces of paper with Tennyson’s ‘Ninth Wave’ written on it.
*2020 update: I purchased 3 pieces of confetti off eBay, they are now safely stored with all the other memorabilia from the night.
Lights down, hysteria from the audience and then:
THE NINTH WAVE
the singularly most important piece of music in my life was performed in its entirety, this was a work of true genius and the other half likened it to a Cirque De Soleil performance, dancers, actors, vignettes of specific elements, water, waves, helicopter, illusions, comedy, drama, and KATE, at last bringing this masterpiece to life. Was it a word for word, note for note replication of the epic album opus from all those years ago? No! It was much more emotional, much more fragile and heart wrenchingly beautiful in its tragic story of a young girl drowning. There is surely no one else in the music industry who could pull off this awesome piece of musical theatre like Kate did.
It started with a film of a guy reporting that he had heard a distress signal from a sinking ship… Then we saw Kate bobbing about in the sea, in a life jacket, eyes closed, water as dark as the depths of hell and…… a little red light shining!
She sung those words ‘little light, shining’ and my eyes flooded with tears, it was a truly haunting and special moment, delicate and fragile, desperate and haunting, and so we went off into a wild, cacophonous journey of songs that have been with me for the better part of 30 years. To say it washed over me in a torrent of crashing, tidal, epic waves of musical beauty is an understatement, (a very pretentious understatement I agree) however, I sat riveted to my seat, fingers clenched together as I lived the story with her. It was MONUMENTAL in its theatricality and everyone played their part so well, but Kate herself took it to a completely different level, she was really drowning, she was really ‘under the ice’, she was really ‘watching her family without her’, and then when she was rescued, she sang Hello Earth with such relief and such aching in her heart that genuinely I felt like we had all just been rescued from a storm that had swept through the Apollo ocean!!
The Morning Fog was glorious, uplifting and bordering on spiritual in its absolute affirmation of survival, we clapped and screamed and cried and breathed an almighty sigh of relief, our Kate (MY KATE) was saved from the darkest depths of some murky ocean and the delight in our faces was reflected in the enormous smile on her face.
As soon as the lights went up I was off back to the scrum to get the remaining merchandise, success with some items, but the rest will have to be sought elsewhere!
*2020 update: I managed to acquire all the relevant merchandise I needed!
A quick glass of vino and off we went to see what was still in store. I had an inkling what was coming but I’d avoided reading reviews because after a 35 year wait the element of surprise was key!
A SKY OF HONEY
From the stress of The Ninth Wave, and the glorious finale of the rescue, part 3 starts on a bright sunny moment. The other half suggested it felt like a renaissance painting, very astute seeing as how that is more or less what A Sky Of Honey actually is in its own way, that and a journey that sees Kate becoming a bird! The backdrop was simply stunning, beautiful sky, beautiful birds, beautiful colours. A strange wooden (painters) puppet walked around the stage, Bertie played the part of the painter, albeit a tad pretentiously, and Kate, now in a more obviously comfortable place, relaxed and confident, sang her heart out for us! A Sky Of Honey is another epic suite of songs and they all showed off her vocal rang to perfection. This element of the performance started slowly and built up to a beautiful flamenco style moment in Sunset, the band relaxed into a Spanish frame of mind, and Kate gently danced, twirling around the floor, until she reached the giant painting that Bertie was working on. At this point Aerial Tal started, here Kate sings like birds, who else could do that? She did it so well, so real and without any sense of irony, she really was becoming a bird!
Bertie sang a new song, Tawny Moon and as a 16 year old with an incredibly talented mother, he did a perfunctory (if not great) performance, the voice is developing, it was okay, the song was pleasant, reminiscent of Donovan, and it fitted in with the flavour of the section, but was (maybe) Mother Kate allowing her boy his moment, and why not, if thats what she wants.
Nocturne was truly epic, it started off off with Kate appearing to walk into the ocean, this song is a celebration of love and life, gently building to a crescendo of joyous singing that Kate used to show off her amazing vocal gymnastics…. And then, Aerial, a song I had always associated with escape, getting to the top of the roof to escape city life, I was kind of right, but tonight Kate showed us what it was all about as she metamorphosed into a bird, with a giant crows wing replacing an arm, and with her dance movements becoming more bird like, the voice becoming more shrill!
The band exploded into a riot of screeching and banging and wailing and reverb, the stage went crazy with trees literally falling from the sky, strange creatures running around, the artists wooden figure breaking free from his master and Kate disappearing behind giant ‘moorish’ doors. A loud crash, the doors swing open and Kate flies off into the night! Awesome, I was speechless and stunned at the imaginative delivery of this amazing conceptual piece. The audience (as you can imagine) went totally crazy, what an epic ending to an epic concert, Kate had delivered the very best musical experience of my life, apologies to Marc Bolan and all the other people I have seen perform over the last 40+ years, nothing comes close to this event. I was sated, absolutely exhausted and euphoric.
Surely that was it, I was an emotional wreck, what I had just witnessed was the most sensational event ever! After waiting patiently for 35 years, my musical hero had delivered on every possible level, even the other half was blown away!
But there was more, Kate came back out on to the stage, alone, she walked to the piano, which incidentally now on of the aforementioned trees right through the middle of it. She sat down, alone, no backing band and broke into Among Angels, a stunning ballad from 50 Words For Snow, it was an highly emotional delivery of the song, and it showed that Kate could, if she so chose to, just sit at her piano in front of thousands of fans with no gimmicks and still blow our minds! Then, another song and what a song to end on. A rousing, superb close with Cloudbusting, she danced, she smiled, she thanked us (as if we needed thanking!!!), she engaged with every single person in the theatre and closed the best concert ever on the highest of highs…. Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah!
And so it came to an end, the standing ovations after every song paled into insignificance with the tumultuous closing hysteria, we went wild showing Kate our appreciation and we all left the concert knowing that we had been part of (and just witnessed) something very special. Maybe we will never see her on stage again, I would love to think it might happen, but, after a 35 year wait, if this is the only time I get to see her perform live then I can say with all my heart it has been a life changing moment, one that I will hold close to my heart for ever more…. And the fact that the other half witnessed it with me and coped with the 6 months of hysteria just makes it all the more perfect.
“little light…. shining, little light, guide them to me”
2020 update: Every year, Facebook very kindly reminds me when the concert date happened (like I need reminding), but this year it just felt like it was time to share the magic again.