Although it’s front page news everywhere in the United Kingdom today, there wasn’t much mention here of Kate Bush’s return to the concert stage last night in London after a 35 year absence. I suppose that makes sense, as she is one of England’s greatest living musicians, but I still thought it would get a little bit more play here in the States. I think we’ve got our own fair share of Kate Bush fanatics.
What’s worth remarking about, I thought, was how The Telegraph’s reviewer decided to allude, not subtlly at all, to the 56-year-old’s weight in the subtitle of their review (”Singer defies weight of expectation on her comeback live performance to thrill audience with her theatrical imagination and undiminished voice”) and then DO IT AGAIN in the opening sentence (”The weight of anticipation bearing down on Kate Bush’s 5ft 2inch frame ahead of her opening night must have been near unbearable.”) Coincidence?
What’s unbearable is this… shitty prose.
Who does the Telegraph’s Bernadette McNulty think she is to write about the great Kate Bush in this manner? Even if her review is, overall, a positive-ish one, I will admit to a sleepy, pissed off, lemon-faced reaction when I read that this morning. What sort of fucking idiot writes such a thing about a major artist, revered the world over, returning to the concert stage after decades and thinks that they’re being clever? And coming from a female journalist, yet? LAME. Whether Bush is dressed in a leotard or a kaftan, McNulty isn’t of sufficient stature to kiss the hem of either…
Thankfully, The Guardian’s Alexis Petridis was there and offered up something more intelligent than McNulty could muster:
Over the course of nearly three hours, Kate Bush’s first gig for 35 years variously features dancers in lifejackets attacking the stage with axes and chainsaws; a giant machine that hovers above the auditorium, belching out dry ice and shining spotlights on the audience; giant paper aeroplanes; a surprisingly lengthy rumination on sausages, vast billowing sheets manipulated to represent waves, Bush’s 16-year-old son Bertie - clad as a 19th-century artist – telling a wooden mannequin to “piss off” and the singer herself being borne through the audience by dancers clad in costumes based on fish skeletons.
The concert-goer who desires a stripped down rock and roll experience, devoid of theatrical folderol, is thus advised that Before the Dawn is probably not the show for them, but it is perhaps worth noting that even before Bush takes the stage with her dancers and props, a curious sense of unreality hangs over the crowd. It’s an atmosphere noticeably different than at any other concert, but then again, this is a gig unlike any other, and not merely because the very idea of Bush returning to live performance was pretty unimaginable 12 months ago.
He goes on to say that the likes of Bush’s “Before the Dawn” theatrical spectacle hasn’t been seen since Pink Floyd toured The Wall. The concert includes helicopters, skits and a video of Bush seen floating in a sensory deprivation tank.
In anticipation of Bush’s shows at the Hammersmith Apollo, the BBC recently aired The Kate Bush Story: Running Up That Hill, a portrait of the enigmatic artist with comments from St. Vincent, Big Boi, John Lydon, Elton John, Peter Gabriel, David Gilmour, Tricky, Neil Gaiman, Stephen Fry, Viv Albertine and others. Of particular interest is Elton John’s anecdote about how when Kate Bush came to his civil partnership ceremony with David Furnish, even in a room full up with hundreds of famous people, they all wanted to meet her.
Don’t expect to see much footage of the 22 London shows surfacing on YouTube. Bush is asking all concert attendees to turn their phones off.
“I have a request for all of you who are coming to the shows,” she wrote on her site last week:
“We have purposefully chosen an intimate theatre setting rather than a large venue or stadium. It would mean a great deal to me if you would please refrain from taking photos or filming during the shows. I very much want to have contact with you as an audience, not with iphones, ipads or cameras. I know it’s a lot to ask but it would allow us to all share in the experience together.”
Anyone dumb enough to pull out their iPhone is likely to be kicked to death by rabid Kate Bush fans. [Nope, I stand corrected, someone did and lived to tell, or at least sell it to Gawker.]
Thank you to DM’s editor-at-large Marc Campbell for sending me this one!