The Sainted One turns 60 this week and as a devotee who was nearly near enough to touch the hem one night in London, no further excuse is needed to dive back into a glorious evening of the music and mind of Kate Bush.
When Ms Bush returned to the stage in 2014m after a mere 35 year absence - the same stage where she had finished her previous tour though the venue had had a name change - some of us did whatever it took to get there for one of the 22 shows. The show was astonishing, moving and sublime. Of course. We’ve been promised a video of the show, which hasn’t – and may never – appeared yet, of course. But there is a live CD. Nothing will top being there though.
This review was written in the wee hours of a London night, a few hours before I got on a plane back to Australia.
Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith
September 10, 2014
“I just know that something good is going to happen”
Anticipation had us nervous and fidgety but simultaneously convivial. People smiled at each other, readied themselves, inched forward in their seats. And then exploded out of them with the first of what would by the end of the night be more than 20 standing ovations as Bush and her singers sashayed on to join the band, looking as happy as we were.
There was a palpable love affair happening in the room, reminiscent of those first shows Brian Wilson did earlier this century after decades of stage fright/mental absence. That is, an audience willing her on to not just put on a good show for us but to understand herself just how much she’s been missed, how much she’s been in people’s lives anyway during the 35 year absence from the stage.
“Let’s exchange this experience.”
We’d all read the early reviews so a good show was hardly in doubt but the powerful six song opening bracket, with the band pushed near the front of the stage, was still surprisingly exhilarating at times (King Of The Mountain a slow dance with a strong pull that became compelling; Top Of The City offering a glorious gospel ascension) and sensual at all moments (Running Up That Hill all sloe-eyed at close quarters).
And I don’t think any of us expected just how good her voice would be. Such power and delicacy together, such depth of field and yet a guttural feel when necessary. And not once all night could you say there was a single note out of joint.
Yet this was merely a preamble.
“What made it special/Made it dangerous”
Dramatic, physical, abstract and odd, the two sections of the show devoted to separate song cycles - from the second side of Hounds Of Love and from Ariel – blended dance and mime, scripted and sung narrative, filmed and live content. Very Kate Bush in other words.
So at any one time there were dancers in giant fish skeletons and the yearning for release of And Dream Of Sheep. There was a not wholly explained puppet and the seductive pull of Sunset. There were trees erupting through the piano and the smoothly rolling groove of Nocturn.
And always an emotional current which electrified and amplified each song, whether distraught or desirous, so that you could see some people in tears and others in states of bliss. And sometimes both at once.
“I’m aware I’m tearing you asunder.”
Amidst a show of such lasting imagery and potent symbolism (and let’s not forget pure nuttiness), not to mention vibrant playing and a sonic arrangement that was perfectly balanced between strength and fluidity, it was an almost “empty” moment by comparison which came near to stealing the night.
Among Angels, with Bush alone at the piano, was crushingly sad and simply devastating, her voice all that was necessary to take you in and turn you inside out. There was no fuss but there was also no air left when the song ended, almost without warning.
It would have been a sombre but killer way to end the show and I wouldn’t have complained. But then she lifted us, literally (as we finally stood not just for an encore but a whole song) and figuratively (we moved, we sang and then almost shouted the lines back at her like a fully roused congregation) with the restless movement of Cloudbusting.
Joy was felt, a communal one and an individual one. We spilled out into the Hammersmith streets bright eyed and smiling at each other again. Beaming really.
“You're here in my head/Like the sun coming out”