Dame Fortune smiled and my Kate Bush ticket turned out to be a winner. Recklessly purchased for the price of a colour-TV licence, it placed me at the final frontier 'twixt artist and audience, on the borderline between the mundane and the magical. The front row.
The promise of seeing Kate Bush not only in the flesh but touch-tight, as football pundits like to say, was thrilling beyond measure. Having once experienced a Van Morrison show in a jazz dive where you could count his nose hairs, I knew this was going to be special, even sexy.
Taking seat E28 at the venerable venue that will forever be the Hammersmith Odeon, my shoes were actually touching the stage. Within moments, I would be sharing the same air as the sainted singer. Kate Bush was going to be wutheringly close. As she took up her own position, barefoot, beaming and beauteous, it dawned that tonight, like Londoners and their fabled rats, the elusive songbird was rarely going to be more than a few feet away.
Sitting in such proximity to the artist was exhilarating and slightly unnerving. I've met her before and she is kindness incarnate but, with her powers set to "invincible", Kate Bush is a formidable proposition. You wouldn't want to get in the way or trip up one of her sinister Fish People.
It was fascinating to watch her work at such close quarters. The flashing glances, grimaces and grins at her musicians, the monitor mixer and her boy, Bertie. She emanated grace, but there was grit there too that said: "Don't be deceived by the bohemian demeanour". These silent instructions were so small as to be imperceptible in the rear stalls.
During the course of this intimate micro-concert, you became unusually familiar with her tiny toenails, her large ears hidden by tresses of hair, and of course her magnificent voice, which you could occasionally hear, unamplified and raw behind the microphone. Your lucky allocation also allowed you to observe her drinking from a water bottle side-stage and issuing a satisfied "Aaaah" when she'd finished, the way thirsty toddlers do.
In the final third of Before the Dawn, the fine golden chains around her ankles jingled gently as she moved from foot to foot in an entrancing dance. You wouldn't have heard those sitting up in the circle. But it was her eyes that inevitably proved the most revealing. Witnessing their fleeting downward flickers during Hounds of Love, you felt as if you were intruding on her private thoughts.
Getting up getting up close and perspirational with the colossi of pop is a mixed blessing. You can better appreciate the machinations of their music-making, but you also experience the open pores and split ends of these disappointingly mortal creatures, the saggy reality of your heroes as humdrum humans.
Sitting mere metres away from our shoutier singers is also unhygienic. Saliva can be an issue – step forward Shane MacGowan, Napalm Death's Lee Dorrian and Jaz Coleman in Killing Joke's earlier days. Say it, don't spray it, as any seven-year-old will attest.
Last year, Parliament/Funkadelic put on a full live show in a west London room no larger than a greengrocer's. You were so close to George Clinton, you could see the follicles on his funk, so integrated you felt like the 19th member of the band.
In 1994, I had the good fortune to attend a low-key show by Prince in a Monte Carlo nightclub and was close enough to the small showman to smell his jasmine cologne, notice that he'd missed a bit while shaving and realise with alarm that he wasn't wearing any underpants. Sometimes you can get too close.
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