Magazine article The Spectator

Music: Kate Bush

Magazine article The Spectator

Music: Kate Bush

Article excerpt

Kate Bush

Hammersmith Apollo

It says something about Kate Bush's standing in the music world that, perhaps uniquely in the history of long-awaited live comebacks, nobody has suggested -- or possibly even thought -- that her motives might be financial. After all, this is a woman who's stuck to her artistic guns ever since, aged 19, she defied EMI by insisting that her first single should be the abidingly peculiar 'Wuthering Heights'. So, a famous 35 years after her last stage appearance, how on earth could she live up to such a fiercely idiosyncratic career, now regarded with almost universal awe?

Well, at first the answer seemed to be by doing the most unexpected thing of all: serving up a bog-standard rock concert. The lights dimmed, the cheers resounded and on she came to give us a rather workmanlike performance of well-liked album tracks interspersed with the classic hits 'Running up that Hill' and 'Hounds of Love'. At this point, even the choreography consisted of little more than a barefooted Kate shuffling about a bit, and attempting the odd gingerly twirl. But then after a rousing 'King of the Mountain' -- a definite early highlight -- the show suddenly and dramatically changed.

The widespread urge to canonise Bush in recent weeks has perhaps run the risk of sanitising her talent -- or, if you prefer, making us forget how bonkers she can be. Now, we got a pretty stark reminder. First a curtain fell on which was projected film of a man reporting a shipwreck. Then, the curtain lifted again to reveal Kate on a screen on the back bobbing about on some waves in a lifejacket. This was the cue for a performance of the whole of what used to be known as 'side two' of Hounds of Love : a seven-song suite called The Ninth Wave in which a drowning woman either dies or survives (it's never clear) to the accompaniment of music that combines achingly beautiful ballads, plenty of shouting and an Irish jig.

Here, it was duly turned into a full-scale theatrical spectacle, which took up the rest of the first half. This included -- among much else -- dancers dressed in fish skeletons, people hacking at the stage with axes and a chainsaw, a brief comedy sketch, waves evoked by flapping cloth and a kind of helicopter thing that swung around the audience emitting dry ice and blinding light. Like everything else on Tuesday night, The Ninth Wave got a huge and heartfelt cheer -- but only, you felt, because human beings have yet to agree on an audience response that signifies frankly baffled admiration. …

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