2014 United Kingdom – London

Extravaganza Optima Forma

It must be once in a lifetime an announcement is made that totally changes your life as it is so unexpected and out of the blue. The Before The Dawn gig concert series from Kate Bush were such a life-changing announcement. From the moment I heard about it I knew I just had to be there, had to be part of this… Missing out on Kate’s so far only tour in 1979 (I was still studying and could not afford the gig and trip to Amsterdam at that time) I could not imagining missing out on this rare occasion this time. Although all 22 concerts were sold out in less than 15 minutes I was one of the lucky ones obtaining a ticket.

Even better was that I was able to book a ticket on the same evening my two Marillion friends Jeff and Kenny were hoping to go and that worked out perfectly. Based on trip advisor recommendations I booked a table for 4 at Rangrez restaurant, just around the corner from the venue, to have a gathering and a bite before the Kate Bush concert on the 12th of September. True, the restaurant did not look anything special but once inside… The service was extremely friendly and catering for all our special requests (star anis in our Gin & Tonic). The food… Being a bunch of true foodies I can only say this is without doubt the best Indian food we experienced outside Northern India and definitely the best Indian food in London! (Oh well, there’s still Veeraswamy on Regent Street but that is a different league). The food was tasty and authentic and spice wise adapted to each of our tastes. Instead of having a quick bite ahead of a very special event Rangrez was the perfect choice to make this memorable evening even more memorable.

After Dinner we went to the Eventim Apollo (Formerly known as the Hammersmith Odeon) and needless to say Jeff, Kenny and myself were getting pretty excited for the gig. We said goodbye to Paul who was going out with Trevor, a good friend and headed in. Welcome to the Magic world of Kate Bush. A storm was coming….

Pictures below give a good impression of the sheer brilliance of the show. They are official published pictures. Kate has asked her audience not to make any pictures as she wanted to be in contact with her fans and not a wall of cell phones. Can’t blame her… I would not have had time to make pictures anyway as I was being to overwhelmed by the 3 hour gig to do anything but listen and absorb what was happening.

The whole performance just blew me away but that seemed to be the case for each and everyone in the audience. I knew a storm was coming but I could never expect it would hit me as hard as it actually did. It all started of with 6 songs in a more traditional style. Kate accompanied by hear brilliant band and background singers. Then the drummer came to the front of the stage and started to swing a bull roarer around. The wind was gradually increasing, there were explosions, confetti covered the audience and a big screen came down to introduce the integral performance of the Ninth wave, a collection of songs that cover the complete 2nd part from Hounds of Love. With this suite of songs containing some of my favorite Kate Bush tracks I was gone from this planet. I could talk about fish-head people, silk waves, a very touching living-room scene or Kate being carried off stage after she “fell” from a rescue buoy rocking on silk waves and you might think I got crazy. If you have seen this show you will know what I am talking about. Magic, pure magic…

The ninth wave.

After a 20 minute break the show continued with yet another complete suite of songs which form the 2nd part of Aerial, A Sky of Honey. Once again the theatrics were one of a kind. A puppeteer who’s wooden puppet broke free at the end of the scene. Beautiful sunsets, a painter (Kate’s son) who worked on an ever changing massive painting, trees falling from the sky and finally Kate flying away through a massive gate. Guess one just must have been there to fully comprehend the immense experience this show was.

Aerial, A Sky of Honey

Still being speechless on what I just was part of Kate reappeared on stage for two more songs. Among Angels, the last track from 50 Words For Snow, and Cloudbursting. Then Kate left stage leaving a stunned and flabbergasted audience behind.

I still remember my first words when I met Jeff and Kenny again after the show (Unfortunately we did not have the chance to sit together). “F*ck Marillion”… A group hug and three big big smiles. Not that I seriously meant my statement but Jeff and Kenny totally understood as as of tonight no concert would ever be the same. Nothing would ever be able to match this magical evening. It had not just been a best of Kate Bush concert but we certainly witnessed Kate at her best. We still enjoyed a couple of drinks at The Swan, a neighboring pub that for the occasion had transformed in a meeting place for Kate Bush fans. Far to quick for our liking the evening came to an end and we had to say goodbye.

Next morning Paul and I decided to do something the both of us had wanted to do for a long time but for whatever reason had not happened so far, a trip in the London Eye to get a birds-eye view from our most favorite city. Fortunately we did not have to wait long before we could enjoy the city in a way we normally would not. we had been talking about this so long…

We were not far away from Gordon’s Wine bar, London’s oldest wine bar dating from 1860. This place without doubt is my favorite place since I was introduced to it by Michael and Paul’s dad. I have been there several times since then and was always raving about it to Paul. Time to go there for lunch and show Paul what the fuzz was all about. Based on the smile on his face he seemed to like it…

After lunch we walked for a long time. From Gordon’s Wine Bar to Leister Square. Strolling past the shops on Regent and Oxford Street (we even managed to limit our shopping to some Cubaina, a new limited edition Nespresso). We enjoyed another wine break at a cozy terrace close to Hide Park and then continued on to Knightsbridge and visit Harrods. All the walking turned out to be a bit to much for me so we aborted our tour and took a break for an hour or two enjoying a coffee. I just felt if I would walk some more I would not be able to enjoy the evening, and that was something I certainly would not like to happen.

It does not come as a secret that both Paul and I like our food. Neither is it a secret that we are great fans from Heston Blumenthal and we already had the pleasure to have dined at two of his places; the Hinds head, a gastronomic pub, and the famous Fat Duck where we have enjoyed the best dining experience in our lives (Also the most expensive one but the eighteen course dinner was definitely worth it!)

The Dinner By Heston is located in the Mandarin Hotel, one of London’s most luxurious hotels, is running now for a couple of years and has been rewarded 2 Michelin Stars. All dishes are based on historical English recipes so we knew not to expect any molecular gastronomy over here.

The ambience was to die for and the service personal and excellent. The food, as expected, cooked to perfection. After our reservation was being checked we were brought to the bar where we enjoyed a Gin and Tonic to celebrate our third Heston experience.

Once we were brought to our table we continued with a glass of champagne, it would be rude not to. The menu looked amazing so de decided to share a starter of meat fruit from 1500 (mandarin, chicken liver & foie gras parfait) and Frumenty (1390) grilled octopus, smoked sea broth, pickled dulse & lovage. Both dishes were stunning.

As a mains we choose a dish of bone rib of Hereford prime. Wow, most likely the most succulent beef we ever experienced. Accompanied by mushroom ketchup, it’s own gravy, triple cooked fries and broad beens with wholegrain mustard it turned out to be an excellent, but very filling choice.

The recommendation for desert was Tipsy cake from 1810, spit roast pineapple, again very rich and tasty. It’s one of the restaurant signature dishes and as we could perfectly see how it was cooked. Normally warm puddings are not my thing but I must admit, this one was delicious.

So far so good but ehh, no amuses at a 2 star restaurant? As we were on the first serving we could not escape the feeling we were being processed. Also I did not like the fact that the sommelier recommended only the most expensive open wine (25 UK Pound a glass) to accompany our mains. Coincidence or just a marketing trick? Oh well, the food was astronomical but so was the bill… Guess we do prefer an evening at our favorite restaurant Aan Sjuuteaajnd which we regard as a more enjoyable experience evening filling experience overall. Still both of us were very happy we were able to do this one off dining experience. Contrary to The Fat Duck or Hinds Head we have no desire to return.

The weekend so far had been outrageous, I hardly could comprehend what I had experienced the last two days. This weekend will easily score high, if not the highest in my Top Ten. It had also been two extremely tiring days so I could hardly stay awake in the train back to Horsham where Paul’s father lives. We would spend another lovely day with him, family and friends, before driving home to Germany the day after.

An experience of a lifetime, a weekend I will never forget. Truly an extravaganza optima forma…