Thursday, 2 October 2014

Kate Bush - The Second Sighting

I was lucky enough to get tickets to see Kate Bush's penultimate concert at Hammersmith on 30 September. I saw Kate at the start of September and had tickets in the fourth row from the stage so I was quite happy to have tickets in the fourth row from the back this time, still central and with a great view. I liked being able to see the whole stage without having to move my head to follow Kate across the stage. It's quite a spectacle and it's great to be able to relax into the show and drink it in since I know what to expect.

Kate played the same set as the earlier show but she seemed even more smiley and 'up' if that's possible - whether it's the 'up' of being familiar with the adulation or the 'up' of knowing she only had one more show, I don't know. But she seemed to be having a ball! And still barefoot! (I shall have to have a word about that).

The show was made up of the 'hits' to open the show followed by 'The Ninth Wave' and then, after a half-time break, the 'Aerial' sequence. Even though I knew what was happening next I couldn't help but be attracted to the details I hadn't noticed previously, to the subtle activities of the backing singers/actors doing stuff just out of sight of Kate, the musicians getting into it again and giving it some heavy welly.

What were my favourite moments? O, I don't know… Opening with 'Lily' is transcendent, a song about magic opening a magical concert, followed by 'Hounds of Love' with the backing singers imitating the yelps and barks of hounds and the sublime 'Running Up That Hill' that had my eyes moist. Then the 'King of the Mountain' that built and built until the bull-roarer took over to welcome the storm and the thunder of the cannon shooting Tennyson's words into the audience to herald 'The Ninth Wave' suite. O wow!

It started me thinking about how much rehearsal time went into this show, to perform songs Kate's never tried to re-create live before without the studio wizardry. Of course, 'Hounds of Love' was released 29 years ago and technology has come a long way since then. But what a brave artistic vision, wanting to re-create song cycles with visuals that she laid down a long time ago, and the second half of the show creating the second part of 'Aerial' with birdsong, magic and wonder centre stage. It's the vision that's astonishing, thinking 'I can do this' and pulling it off and making us all go 'wow'.

Listening to the songs Kate's chosen for her first shows in 35 years highlights some themes and for me it was how often she sings about being up high - up on the roof, on a hill, on the angel's shoulders. There's something here to think about, particularly with all the bird imagery in 'Aerial: A Sky of Honey'. What is it about being up high that Kate likes? Is it the freedom? The security of being able to see people approaching? I don't know.

The final song of the show proper is 'Aerial' in which Kate sings that she wants to be up on the roof and in the performance she transforms into a blackbird and duels with the lead guitarist in bird-form, challenging and teasing as the song mounts to a crescendo, trees crashing down onto the stage and through the piano and the stage blacks out. And then, for a split second, the lights focus on where Kate is about to be and we see her fly! But, of course, Kate Bush can fly! Why would anyone doubt that?

The encore is Kate on piano playing 'Among Angels' and the sing-a-long version of 'Cloudbusting'. She knows what we've been waiting for! I loved it, being an *official* backing singer for Ms Bush. I must also include a shout-out to Jacqui Dubois as one of Ms Bush's backing singers/ actresses who played the role of Miss Brown in 'The Harder They Come' a few years ago ('international styles, local prices').  I mean, 'wow' (again).
What happens next? After a month of live shows after 35 years this can't be the end. There'll be the DVD of course, and, I hope, a live album. But what else? We'll just have to wait patiently and see what Kate decides to do…

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