Kate Bush: Wow — unbelievable.
I was one of the very lucky ones present at the opening night of Kate Bush’s ‘Before the Dawn.’ Five or six years ago I subscribed to the mailing list for her Fish People website so became eligible to make an attempt to get a fan presale ticket. Yes, there is an element of Kate Bush nerdiness here but I’m actually a relative Johnny-come-lately to the KB phenomenon.
Growing up, I was aware of her stuff but I moved from being very tightly focussed on Heavy Metal to being very tightly focussed on arty, post-punk bands — no room for KB in there, I thought. It wasn’t until I was properly grown-up and I happened upon a copy of Aerial that I realised what a towering talent and elemental force of nature I had been missing out on. The penny, as they say, dropped. I glimpsed the breadth of her vision and recognised the deftness with which she deployed her multi-faceted genius to communicate it. I heard some of the audacious and ambitious musical meanderings from the proggy end of the heavy metal spectrum. I heard her pulling remarkable elements into her work like Eastern European harmonies and operettas as well as folk music, dance music and, yes, pop music all in the service of what is unmistakably and elementally Kate Bush music. Her songs cut through to such powerful themes. Her take on her subjects always so unapologetic, sensitive, powerful and righteous. Her voice… need I mention her voice? That she chose, for whatever reason, to shun celebrity in order to concentrate on her art and her family represents to me a bold protection of her integrity.
In my mind Kate Bush shares a pedestal with Joni Mitchell as the greatest woman artist of our age. Her influence cannot be overstated.
So yeah, I was looking forward to her gig.
As I mentioned, I’d gotten a ticket for the opening night. I was so glad that I’d got that night. Seeing her step out onto stage for the first time in decades was going to be both a thrill and a privilege. Also, I knew that as soon as she stepped out on stage, media and the internet would explode with pictures, set-lists, commentary, videos, opinions, speculation etc. and the mystery, the enigma, would have gone.
I hadn’t quite prepared myself for the surge of emotion I felt when she did step out onto a fairly straightforward stage and kicked off the show with ‘Lily’ — a song where she turns to her mother for support as life has blasted a great big hole in her and her mother responds by imploring her to protect herself with fire and invokes the angels who protect all humanity. The straightforward stage did not stay that way for long and after a few ‘stand alone’ songs the show unfolded into two halves, each devoted to one of her amazing, sweeping and epic concept pieces. We all expected a significant visual aspect to these shows — hers being more akin to Greenaway and Jarman than Luhrmann, listing as it did from blissful, tranquil beauty to unsettling weirdness and back again. Here was a supreme artist in full flow, orchestrating a wild imagining of her most compelling visions. Her performance glorious and unlike anything else that’s around just now.
There are now countless reviews of the show available so I’ll not try to describe it any further. Suffice to say it blasted a great big hole in me — in a good way.
People coming to see a frizzy haired waif with blue eye shadow in a leotard trilling out Wuthering Heights would be not only disappointed here but would possibly be terrified or just plain bored by the outpourings of this artistic colossus before them. I’m dismayed that some were disappointed by this show but such folk will never be pleased and, deep down, I’m glad that she pissed off a few folk by not doing a ‘Greatest Hits’ show and instead remained the vibrant, daring and unapologetic artist I’ve grown to love and admire.
I’d give ‘Before the Dawn’ a whole dark-sky-ful of stars.