Seán Twomey writes:
In the end it came down to a single smile.
After over sixteen years running the news website there was still no guarantee back in March 2014 that I’d score a ticket. Over those years I would occasionally revisit my site’s dusty FAQ page, maybe sometimes slightly rewording the question and answer section about whether Kate would ever tour again. I’ll admit it: I had more or less decided that she wouldn’t. Fast forward to August 26th 2014 and I had turned down several radio and TV interviews wanting to get my immediate post-show reaction to Kate’s first concert since 1979. Surreal.
Opening night was all so overwhelming to me that I needed to shut all that stuff out. Excited, busy journeys from Dublin brought myself and five friends together, sitting in an impressively tiled Wagamama restaurant on the Shepherds Bush Road. It was 5.30pm when my day-long, breezy euphoria at what was unfolding came to an abrupt halt. As my friends animatedly poured over the menu, something sank in my stomach. I felt weak. Actual cold sweat. I started searching my mind for the root cause of this sudden unexpected change of mood. The weight of all the hype I’d poured on this occasion for myself condensed down into a single thought; “How is SHE feeling right now, just how is SHE doing?”
As we headed out into Hammersmith and approached that now iconic ‘Before the Dawn’ marquee sign, my thoughts were mostly focused on Kate herself. The person. The private human being. She had somehow agreed to this enormous responsibility after years of avoiding such exposure. I had fleetingly and politely met her in the kitchen of East Wickham Farm many years earlier in 2002. She was a friendly, busy mother that evening, and afterwards I “left the room, caught my breath outside the door and didn’t dare to go back in again” – to borrow Kate’s description of her own first meeting with Bowie. For the briefest moment I had at least once encountered the person behind the famous name, and as I approached the queue at the Apollo, it was hard to imagine that the same unassuming, low-key woman was responsible for all of THIS.
Now the experience is flash-bulb quick. Barricades are set up to guide ticket-holders in. We stroll past the television crews, the blissfully willing interviewees, the mouthy ticket touts and cagey security guards and into the slow moving throng of fans, proudly/shyly wearing their t-shirts and badges as we got closer to the doors. Fan tickets are scanned: no, they don’t tear them, your seaweed and anemones are safe. The merchandise stall: is that really an inflatable life preserver ring? The venue: very Art Deco, Eberhard Weber music floats out hypnotically from the stage speakers. The stage: we can see the instruments. All of them. Did someone accidentally raise a curtain? Are these the actual instruments that will produce ACTUAL Kate Bush songs? Did she really mean to show that? The programme: I rapidly flick through it in my seat. Spoilers. Glimpses of….elaborate, theatrical stuff and pages of notes carefully written by Kate. Our seats: three rows from the front. Dead centre.
My excitement was back. Full force. As the venue filled, as the voice-over announcement came welcoming us to the show, as Lily Cornford’s voice bathed us all in a spell of protection – it felt like a deep inhale before the explosion of sound and lights. And there she was. Dance-marching out into the stage, out into that cacophonous outpouring of love from three thousand people. And there it was, Kate’s reassuring smile.
Nodding and studying the audience, she smiled as the chorus took their place stage right and she presented herself with open arms to the roars of the crowd. It was a relieved, mischievous smile, tinged with only a little nervousness. Bertie was right there with her. Her family and friends were there. She was about to unleash something truly extraordinary, and she knew it. This was going to be an unforgettable night. And oh, how it was.
I too was privileged to be there on opening night. I also went to Wagamamas and the pub on the roundabout before the show. Having seen Kate in 1979 and hung onto every note and lyric given since I had an open mind about what to expect. Not low expectations as such, rather a feeling of whatever this is I’m going to savour every moment. Could her recording voice still carry a live show? Would it be lower key, both on vocal range and physical delivery? Could it be anywhere near as theatrical an experience? But oh my God was I blown away. I smiled and cried throughout, mesmerised by the beauty and power of her voice and the quality of her music. Sheer brilliance. A joy to behold and remember.
Glad you had a good time, Mr. Twomey. 🙂 Still waiting for the DVD so I can see the full show. (I’ve watched clips and listened to audio. Seems like it was a good show.)
That’s lovely, Sean. I think have something in my eye…
I was thinking about the concert yesterday, too. I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since I got to witness that amazing show. To get my ticket, I got up at 4am local time (Atlanta, Georgia) and hammered at the computer for over an hour. I didn’t care what day or what seat and I ended up with a ticket for opening night, center section, second row, right aisle. I was right next to the ramp they installed for the Fish People to carry Kate offstage. How fun to think I was seated very close to you, Seán! My memories are still so vivid, but I hope Kate does release a DVD of the show (perhaps along with DVDs of her videos), because I would love to see it again and experience the emotions of that evening once more.
Luminously put, Séan. You made me nervous & misty all over again. I imagine from the still intensity of the pre-show crowd that Kate is also unique in that it was not uncommon for us to wonder how she was doing. I must say, however, that if I’d had seats like yours, I’d still be in catatonic shock — hung in Hammersmith, suspended in Apollo.
That just gave my goosebumps! What a truly amazing experience. Thank you Kate! x
Thank you for this wonderfully loving view of what so many of us experienced. I had few expectations. From my point of view she could have walked out onstage and said thank you and left and I would have been thrilled. So, imagine then, the total overwhelm I experienced by the wondrous gift she gave each of us night after night for those precious weeks.
PS. I believe I met you, briefly, as I stood dumbfounded, awestruck, and teary with Neil Sheriff after her show. (9/5/14). Your gift of running the site is inestimable. Thank you Seán.
I thought the whole experience would end up being a set of dream-like images in my head (not helped by the fact that one of the lenses fell out of my glasses two days before!), but actually it all felt crystal clear. It still does. I had only seen Kate in the flesh once in my life: at a Kate Bush Club convention so when she walked on stage it was a huge joy to see her. She looked in command of the whole stage from the very moment she appeared. I was in tears then but had to tell myself I would miss the whole thing if I kept blubbering.
I remember her voice as she began to sing “Lily” and then after that she asked the crowd:
“everyone all right?”. I was so pleased because I sensed she would talk to us during the performance…. and she did. We even sang Happy Birthday to one of the sound crew with Kate leading us.
I was IMMENSELY fortunate to see the show twice, on two consecutive Fridays with my partner, a friend and my sister. I realise many fan were not so lucky. I hope when the video is released it will offer a sense of how magical the evening was. I hope it will also show how comfortable Kate was with herself and the music and the performance. She came across as such a genuine and lovely person.
Thanks to this website for all you did in keeping us up to date with BTD and everything since.
Thanks too to the KT Fellowship and massively to Kate: it was all done with such poise and dignity and I am proud to have been a Kate Bush fan since the 70s.
I’ve been a huge fan of Kate Bush for over twenty-five years, so when I learned she was going to put on a series of shows in London I was sublimely elated. And anxious as all hell. I don’t make a lot of money, but I knew that if I didn’t make the effort to see this unique event I would regret it for the rest of my life. After a lot of back and forth, my wife and I decided to go for it. We managed to save up enough scratch to fly out from the States and see one of the shows. Without a doubt the best concert I’ve ever seen. Worth every penny. Watching her perform Watching You Without Me live was the high point of the night for me. Her voice was so angelic, so ethereal, it brought me to tears.
Thank you Sean. I woke this morning thinking about Kate and BTD and how this time last year I was in England feeling so nervous and excited for her and for me too. I kept checking your site every half hour for any update or sliver of information. Thank you for your wonderful website. Sandra (Canada)
I have a sinking feeling that the rest of us will have to wait thirty-five years for the DVD.
Beautiful memories, Sean. I will forever be grateful that I got to see Kate two nights in a row (2-3 Sept). It seems like yesterday, like forever ago, like a fever dream, like a spell being cast. Truly one of the greatest night(s) of my life. If the plane had gone down into the sea on the way back to the states, I would have been just fine. Now, I’m eagerly awaiting the DVD so I can relive it all again.
That’s really taken me back to an unforgettable night, Seán. I frequently have to pinch myself to believe it really happened. Incredible!
for me, i was there on the 2nd night – but the way you wrote it up, you could have been describing my experience.
thank you for always keeping the torch lit for kate.
It’s great to read comments from other people who state similar things as me. I am 31, live in the states, have been a hugely obsessed Kate bush fan since i was 18. I had never been to London or the UK, but I always told myself that I would go there If and when Kate returned to play live, no matter what. When it was announced that she was going to play I got lots of emails and texts from friends, they all know how big of a fan I am. I did get up at 530am to get a pair of tickets. I tried to get another set for a different night but they were sold out so quickly. Anyways, going to the show was amazing. I came back the next day and waited in line all day to get a standby ticket. I got a really good seat, One row behind where Kate walks out with the fish people. Kate walked past me! At the end during cloudbusting I got up to the front, I was singing along, so happy, and for a moment Kate looked at me and I could swear she smiled at me.
The best two nights of my life. Kate is a living embodiment of a god that one can worship in purity. She is the greatest person of all time.
Yes – I was there – and yes I could gush endlessly – but enough.
WHERE’S THE BLOODY DVD?
Fools! For I also had my hours:
Six strong hours and sweet,
As heaven rang around my ears
As Kate Bush danced in her bare feet