For me at least, Tuesday was the dress rehearsal but last night was the main event. After weeks of uncertainty and frustration, I picked up my ticket for the second night from the box office. To my surprise it was another of the ornate fan tickets; I had assumed it would be a cheap reprint job. But I wouldn't have cared, just as long as I had my row F seat. Or, once you subtract the non-existent rows A to D, my centre of the 2nd row seat!
On the tube to Hammersmith I bumped into Jeffrey and Melissa, two of the lovely people from America I had met at the Swan the night before. They too had tickets for last night so we were able to get to chat some more. At the Swan I met many others; American, Australian, English, Irish, French - a United Nations of fans. And that's been one of the most unexpected and remarkable things for me about this journey - all the connections that have been made. And as well as the expected excitement and anticipation there were even some people who had managed to pick up tickets only that afternoon, after weeks of trying unsuccessfully to snatch the odd ticket that popped up online.
So, at 7:00 we made our way the short walk to the theatre. I felt much more calm than I had the night before, probably due to the tiredness. I took some pictures before the show to try and capture that memory. I would have loved to be able to take one of Kate but we all respected her wishes to not use our cameras during the show.
This was the view as I entered the stalls.
The stage from my seat. The area in front of the band was a vast space for Kate to wander.
And the view of the crowd filling up behind me.
I took one picture on the way out. Again from my row, but with people standing you get a better sense of just how close the stage was. The guy sitting next to me was able to reach out and touch it; he asked me to film him as evidence.
So, was it a different experience from the night before? Hell yes!
Tuesday night the view was panoramic but last night was immersive. The stage occupied my full width of vision. And being in the centre, the sound quality was far more balanced. Kate and the band sounded magnificent. The deep roaring storm in segments of The Ninth Wave, especially Hello Earth, shook the theatre and reverberated inside me.
And then there was Kate; so close you could see into her eyes, notice every detail on her face, see that incredible smile. Did we make eye contact? Probably not, but I'd like to think we may have.
And from the rapturous, thunderous applause as she and the backing singers shuffled onto the stage, to the recurring standing ovations (I can remember at least 8), to the entire theatre on their feet all through the final song Cloudbusting, singing in unison "yeah-e-yeah-e-yeah-oh" - I clapped so hard my hands were sore. The crowd seemed even more vocal last night, and Kate appeared to be genuinely impressed and moved.
So that was it. The event I had given up all hope of witnessing. But even in my wildest dreams I would never have imagined it could have been like that.