Sitting in my seat admiring the art deco splendour of the Hammersmith Apollo, I really had no idea what to expect from Kate Bush’s return to the stage after 35 years. As she walked onto the stage the emotion in the audience was palpable and she was clearly delighted by it and responded graciously and gratefully. Any worries that she might be nervous or stiff performing were soon dispelled as she launched into an energetic and evocative rendition of Hounds of Love, note-perfect and immediately, amazingly bringing back all sorts of happy emotions from my childhood – a kind of musical muscle memory.
I found myself wondering, how did she get to be so confident? This woman who was writing songs like The Man With the Child In His Eyes and Wuthering Heights as a teenager and bringing them to life with such fearless vision. Where does that imagination and absolute conviction come from? All the snide comments about how she’s – gasp, clutch skirts – grown older makes my blood boil. No, she isn’t a teenager anymore, she’s a grown woman with a teenage son of her own (who performs with terrifying confidence, he is truly his mother’s son). But you can easily see the ghost of that eerily precocious, creative girl in the woman today – there’s the same strength and sweetness in her face and that haunting, unique voice remains pure and clear as a bell.
**I didn’t break the ‘no photos’ rule btw, this is an official pic!**
It also struck me that Kate Bush is totally, absolutely English and this performance – right down to the ever so slightly am-drammy bits – could only ever happen in England. You could’t imagine Kate Bush shakin’ her booty ‘in da club’ – she’d more likely be striding across bleak grey fells in a stout jersey or hamming it up in a unitard. She’s goofy, eccentric, never cynical or arch and I think that’s part of the reason people are bewitched by the music she makes – her lyrics and those dreamy soundscapes are often challenging, sometimes downright weird, but because she offers them with such honesty, you have to respect her. That and she writes a bloody good pop song.
In that respect she makes me think of other ‘out there’ female artists – the likes of Bjork, Tori Amos, Paloma Faith – they charm their fans because they are unselfconscious, there’s no pretension. They couldn’t care less about being ‘cool’ or ‘sexy’ – and by virtue of that fact (and because they are insanely talented) they are infinitely more attractive than any sad pop puppet. It’s not about age, size or whether someone is or isn’t conventionally attractive – it’s an innate quality, some charisma that you just can’t manufacture or fake.
I can’t really put into words how I felt seeing songs that are such a part of me performed live before my very eyes. Kate Bush has been an icon in the truest sense since I was small, reassuring me that it’s not only ok to be a bit weird and to stand apart from the mainstream, it’s actually something to embrace and celebrate. I will remain forever grateful to her for that knowledge, which I clung to like a lifebelt through choppy youthful waters, and for giving me a truly unique experience to treasure one night in Hammersmith.
Oh and some thoughts on gig-going etiquette:
If you have to go to the toilet three songs into a show maybe don’t drink so many pints?
And if you really need a drink so badly you have go to the bar in the middle of a once in a lifetime show you paid good money to see rather than wait til the intermission then you definitely have problems. FFS.
Also, please don’t ‘sexy dance’ at the Kate Bush concert. Or anywhere for that matter, but definitely not ever at the Kate Bush concert.
Co-founder and co-editor of Pamflet. Bookworm, bluestocking, Brown Owl. Loves Garconnes style, reading, writing, ranting and raving. Gin snob.
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