Friday, 27 December 2013

Kim Wilde's Christmas Party at Shepherd's Bush Empire

The Saturday before Christmas was Kim Wilde night - it was, at last, time for her Christmas Party at Shepherd's Bush and I delighted at the illuminated sign outside announcing the event. This was the first time that Kim had played a full show in London in something like 20 years so I was definitely going to be there. She's played on the '80s revival tours but I don't want to see Kim doing 4-5 hits before being ushered off stage, I want a full gig and that's what she gave us, with nearly two hours on stage and lots of fun!

This was obviously not just much anticipated by me but anticipated by everyone - I got onto the first balcony around 7:30pm and all the seats were already taken.  I've been to Shepherd's Bush loads of times and have never seen that before. That's pulling power! So I decided to find a good spot at the back of the balcony with a good view and stay there.

Kim occupies a powerful spot in pop history - after Debbie Harry and before Madonna. She toured with Michael Jackson on one of his world tours so is no slouch when it comes to working an audience and the pop star life but she gave it all up in the '90s to raise her family and become an award-winning garden designer. Lucky for us she was lured back into pop stardom and she's released some great albums since then, including her latest, 'Wilde Winter Songbook'.

I found a good place to stand at the back with an excellent view of the stage and waited for the show to start. Up first was Nik Kershaw, someone I never really paid much attention to back in the '80s but he gave good show and played some songs I knew, including 'The One and Only' that I didn't know he'd written. He strutted round the front of the stage giving us good rock star and enjoying himself. He fronted Kim's band and played a crowd-pleasing set that got everyone into the right mood.

Only fifteen minutes after Nik left the stage the lights lowered and we were treated to a series of photos on the video screens at the back of the stage of Kim through the years, from being a baby onwards. Then her band came on and then there she was, Kim Wilde at last in her first full gig in London in forever. It was great seeing her centre-stage, leading her band and in full control. The band were very tight and played off each other nicely and included Kim's brother, Ricky on guitar, and niece, Scarlett singing backing vocals (and in the smallest mini-mini skirt). She had a great light show supported by five video screens at the back that kept the visuals alive throughout the show.

Kim launched into a great set of her '80s classics and, as she reminded us, she loved the '80s! We had the big hits of 'View From A Bridge', 'Chequered Love' and 'Water On Glass' before she went disco-tastic on us with 'If I Can't Have you'. Then 'Love In A Natural Way' and a moody 'Cambodia' before we had a short acoustic set with just Kim, Ricky and Scarlett. Something went wrong with Ricky's guitar so he borrowed Nik Kershaw's guitar and we had 'Four Lettered Word', 'Love Blonde' and 'Wonderful Life'. On came the guitarist to play along to the delightful ' Hey Mr Snowman' and then the full band joined again for 'New Life' and 'Hope', all from the new album.

Then Kim introduced her dad, Marty Wilde, to join them on stage to sing the lovely 'White Winter Hymnal'. That meant we had three generations of Wilde's on stage at the same time and all singing. Kim was clearly proud of her dad and introduced him as one of the original pop stars.

Kim introduced the next song by saying that 'they' also had a new Christmas album out before launching into a great version of Erasure's 'A Little Respect' (that she covered on her own 'Snapshots' album). She dedicated the next song to us, the audience, for making ' an old girl very happy' and gave us 'You Came' followed by a stomping 'You Keep Me Hangin' On'. At the end of that she strode off stage while the band kept playing and Scarlett kept singing only to re-appear wearing bunny ears and with hands full of antlers to hand out to the audience. Then she introduced Rick Astley to join her singing 'Winter Wonderland' from the new album.

We then had the biggest surprise of the evening when Kim introduced two songs by saying they weren't hers but that we've all grown up listening to them - 'Merry Christmas Everybody' by SLADE and 'I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday' by Wizzard. They were amazing versions and Kim clearly was having the time of her life singing them. By that time Nik Kershaw was back on stage playing guitar and dancing Santas appeared on the video screens at the back of the stage. During 'I Wish' the snow started flying from the roof over the audience and, with the spotlights swirling, they made it look like it was storming around the place. The show closed with her new version of 'Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree' with Nik Kershaw.

But that wasn't all. After a minute of darkness the stage lit again and the band came back with the introduction to 'Kids In America', with Kim in tight leather jacket giving us an extended and heavy version of her first hit single written by Marty and Ricky and wow, what a version! By now everyone was standing so I didn't get a great view of the stage but the sound was fantastic. Wow! After 'merry christmas's and 'thank yous' Kim hinted that she might see us next year. I certainly hope so!

And that was it for Kim's party. Kim was on stage for nearly two hours, running round, striding across the stage, exhorting us to sing along (and we did) and giving us everything we could want and more. It was quite possibly the best and most satisfying gig of the year - I loved it!

Come back soon Kim Wilde, my Pop Star of choice!


Stan said...

A great review of a superb show. It was about the most fun I’ve ever had at a gig. She was able to create a real party atmosphere – we were still smiling all the way home on the tube!

My wife bought the WWSongbook and we’d been listening to it a lot but unlike you we only found out about the concert that morning so rather than keenly anticipated, it was a brilliant surprise for us. [We must have arrived just before you as we got about the last seats in the balcony at the middle back where we could stand up without blocking people.]

Let’s hope she does another show next year!

Owen said...

Thank you, nice of you to say so! I'm hoping for more Kim gigs this year!