Wednesday 20 February 2019

Review - Kate Bush's live comeback at Hammersmith

Kate Bush at the Hammersmith Apollo
Kate Bush at the Hammersmith Apollo

Bernadette McNulty

The weight of anticipation bearing down on Kate Bush's 5ft 2in frame ahead of her opening night must have been near unbearable.

With 77,000 tickets sold out in 15 minutes for the 22 shows, let alone the acres of column inches given over to her Lazarus-like return to live performance after 35 years, Bush, who has often confessed to stage fright, must have been petrified.

Not that any of us would know. All anyone was certain of was that the 56-year-old wouldn't be doing something as unseemly as donning the tight leotard from the Babooshka video.

She has no need. Bush has proved over the course of 10 albums to be a rare star who has gathered more fans over the decades, despite, or perhaps even because of, her singular musical path and elusive presence.

So there was something daring about returning to the West London venue of her brief 1979 three-show run, begging comparison with her younger self, or maybe trying to obliterate it.

The first quarter of the show seem determined to do the latter. Bush boldly strode out in front of her band in bare feet. There was something touchingly gauche and bashful about her as she awkwardly twirled around the stage. Her voice was an undiminished roar, surprisingly rich and powerful after the long break. The second part of the show dialled up the drama with the Ninth Wave, the second half of her 1985 Hounds of Love album, throwing in ferocious flying helicopters, theatrical skits and video segments. For the third act she played out the entire second half of her 2005 album Aerial, a languid Joycean reverie moving through a summer's day. Her 16-year-old son Bertie played a major part throughout.

Anyone hoping for a greatest hits set including the likes of 'Wuthering Heights' would have been disappointed. But with so much back catalogue that has never been played, this was always going to be a snapshot. Her adoring fans were in ecstasy.

Throughout, the pace was resolutely mid-tempo, the narratives sometimes obscure and the skits hammy.

But there was something thrilling about seeing the often bonkers but delightful imagination of Bush run free after all this time, apparently untouched by the frenetic pace of the digital world.

Perhaps that's why she asked everyone to turn off their phones, so you could experience the world as quietly and still childishly wondrous as Bush does.

Irish Independent

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