Kate Bush live was a little like watching the movie of a dearly loved novel
*** WARNING CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR KATE BUSH LIVE IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE SHOW YET ***
I got to see Kate Bush last night. As I said to my wife as we walked towards the venue, “This is something I never expected to happen in my lifetime.”
The show is great. Kate is mesmeric and her voice is stunning. A single song played alone on the piano near the end was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen anyone perform.
But the bulk of the show was made of the theatrical representations of two lengthy song-cycles – “The Ninth Wave” from Hounds Of Love and Aerial’s “An Endless Sky of Honey”
They were imaginatively staged, at times intense and surreal, and I’ve genuinely never seen anyone attempt to pull off anything like it.
But the oddest thing I took from it was the slightly disconcerting experience of when someone makes a film of one of your favourite novels. For years you’ve had a mental image of the characters and locations. And particularly with music, your mind has filled in bits of the narrative that are missing from the record.
Seeing it suddenly realised in the flesh in front of you almost instantly obliterates that.
I still remember lying in bed in my parent’s house, listening to “The Ninth Wave” on headphones in the 1980s, with pictures in my head of how I imagined it. But, for whatever reason – I think because of the lyrics of “Under Ice” – I’d always imagined it with a young girl briefly lost in a big lake, not the mother lost at sea for a long time that the Kate Bush concerts portrayed.
For me “The Ninth Wave” slightly lost a bit of poignancy – there’s something incredibly powerful about the old lady telling a younger version of herself not to die because of the children she is yet to have. It isn’t quite the same when the old lady is effectively reminding her that she has a somewhat brattish teenage son in the house at the moment.
What I felt I lost from “The Ninth Wave” though was more than made up for by what I gained with “An Endless Sky of Honey”.
I’d told me wife in advance that it was a rather cheery upbeat piece about birds and the sky and sunlight. What I’d never picked up from the recording was the ending that Kate had clearly envisaged.
The line “I feel I want to be up on the roof” had always seemed to me to be a joyful exuberance about watching dawn. On stage, it heralded a rather unnerving transformation of everybody in the cast into semi-bird creatures and basically freaked the absolute fuck out of me.
Amazing show. Amazing.
If she puts on a run of dates anywhere else in the world, I can’t urge you strongly enough to try and go.
Good analysis… it occurred to me on the train home that I can imagine other artists staging both works as operas 10, 50 even 100 years hence – someone had to sing Mimi in Boheme for the first time, others will interpret and reinterpret.
But yes, it freaked the fuck out of me too.
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