sat 25/05/2019

Kate Bush, Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith | reviews, news & interviews

Kate Bush, Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith

Kate Bush, Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith

It's the most hyped gig of the year - but how good is it really?

Bush: mainly dazzling©Noble and Brite. Photo Ken McKay

Ms Bush walked on in a black, tasselled tunic with the slight air of an aging hippy. Her feet were bare and her tousled hair was half tied-back. And that – for anyone who had managed to avoid the papers all week – answered the first question: what she would look like. That just left us to see for ourselves what she would sing and do.

One would have thought a couple of days’ distance from the first night hype would have made it easier to appreciate the concert for what it was, rather than how people felt about her. But, from the moment Kate’s silhouette appeared in the wings and the entire crowd leapt to its feet, it was clear she could have played nursery rhymes on a ukulele and still they would have roared. 

Having been recast as musical theatre the piece also came with the inevitable side-order of hamAfter the cheering eventually died down, Bush began proceedings simply: just her and a rock’n’roll band. She was in fine voice, relaxing into a low, soulful alto with an almost gospel quality. The backing was funky and tight. Yet it was still tricky to separate the music from the atmosphere. The first half-hour, for instance, went, in order: ovation, “Lily”, ovation, “Hounds of Love”, big ovation, “Joanni”, no ovation, “Top of the City”, no ovation, “Running up that Hill”, massive ovation, “King of the Mountain”, ovation.

The clapping was finally brought to an end by the sound of a bullroarer and a blast of gold confetti from two large fans on either side of the stage stage. On one side of the paper was written a poem from Tennyson, about a shipwreck. Everyone knew The Ninth Wave was about to start; a deceptively emotional song cycle from Hounds of Love about a woman’s thoughts as she drowns.

A short film followed and then finally the stage was transformed into the ribcage of a broken boat. Behind it was a screen where images of a shipwrecked Kate would occasionally appear. Usually, though, she was singing on stage – with the bony “fish people”, or under the “helicopter” light rigs, or as a ghost in a huge living-room-on-wheels where she tried to connect with her family.

For the most part it was dazzling. But having been recast as musical theatre the piece also came with the inevitable side-order of ham. Still, when Bush tugged at the heartstrings with the mother’s love of “Watching You Without Me”, acted out with her real-life son Bertie, you couldn't help but go misty-eyed.  

No one was ever going to forget Kate Bush running around dressed as a raven for the finaleBertie also featured heavily in The Sky of Honey, the art-rock hour. Originally this was a subtle, ambitious evocation of a not-very-eventful afternoon and the night that follows. Now, however, there were projections, giant paintings and mimes. Bertie played the role of an artist (it was Rolf Harris on the album). His "paintings" and the songs that accompanied them were frequently lovely. But there were also times when the visuals were just baffling.

Still, Bush Jr was in fine voice for “Tawny Moon” written for him for this show. And if elsewhere the song series didn’t always fully captivate no one was ever going to forget Kate Bush running around dressed as a raven for the finale. 

That just left the encore. First Kate sang “Among Angels” from 50 Words for Snow before finally returning to one of her mega-hits: “Cloudbusting”. For the last half an hour I had thought I’d been missing the hits. But now hearing everyone singing along I realised I was wrong. Too many would have run the risk of being cheesy. Instead, as bewildering as it often was –  and although suffering from an near-impossible amount of hype – "Before the Dawn" had never stopped being giddyingly original and charmingly warm. 

Overleaf: watch Kate Bush performing "Wuthering Heights" at Hammersmith in 1979


She could have played nursery rhymes on a ukulele and still they would have roared

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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This review from Russ is true and balanced. After 5 months and many sleepless nights trying to get tickets I was thrilled to see Kate Bush’s amazing opening show. Seeing Kate dancing barefoot with her child-like look of awe and wonder was magical and beautiful. It was fabulous hearing Hounds of Love and Running up That Hill. The 'drowning woman' was well-staged and imaginative, but the subject matter was upsetting and often weird - I didn't like that segment at all. I was disappointed not to hear a few more songs from the first part of her career (I would have LOVED just one of either Army Dreamers, Sensual World, Wuthering Heights, Babooshka, Man with the child in his Eyes) BUT finishing with Cloudbusting was wonderful. Overall it was an awesome spectacle and I’m so happy that I got to see this legend of British music.

I have been puzzled over the adulation of her 'cat-in-a- bag' voice and performance until I watched the TV Documentary when all was revealed -It's pure arm waving Lindsey Kemp ! Thanks to Lindsey - and for Bowie!

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