Bit late in the day really, and not the sort of thing Phil would normally write about, but Kate Bush‘s return to the stage after three and a half decades in Before the Dawn has been described as theatre as much as a concert. Plus it’s directed by Adrian Noble and includes contributions from other theatre people like lighting designer Mark Henderson, illusionist Paul Kieve and video and projection design from Jon Driscoll. Sounds like theatre to us. And we just wanted to
brag remind ourselves we were there.
Her 22 date run is nearly over now and it opened to so much ballyhoo in what became National Kate Bush Week that we hadn’t been anticipating anything as much as this since Book of Mormon.
Andrew somehow managed to secure tickets back in March during the nano seconds that tickets were available. Phil tried too and of course failed. So there they were, 4 of the hottest tickets of the year locked away in Andrew’s panic room for 6 months giving him time to acquaint himself with her later work. Andrew only possessed her first four albums (which she doesn’t perform any numbers from), Phil had the next 4 and wasn’t overly bothered we weren’t going to get “Wuthering Heights” though he was disappointed she wouldn’t be doing “The Man With the Child in His Eyes“.
Andrew went armed with his passport for identification purposes, though we’re not at all sure how that worked for the multitude of touts lurking around the venue, how does your name match the tickets if you buy from them? And suppose Andrew had gone down with a nasty sniffle and needed to sell his ticket? We will probably never know.
Anyhoo. So much anticipation and our Pointless hero Richard Osmon in the rather splendid and buzzing circle bar. Things couldn’t possibly live up to the ecstatic reviews, word-of-mouth, or our expectations.
Initially it was a bit of a let down. Well, it almost had to be. The bare-footed Earth Mother’s first half hour, which included hits like “Running Up That Hill” and “Hounds of Love” is a pretty conventional concert (apart from ushers policing the no filming/photography request from Kate) as, like most pop concerts, we struggled to hear the lyrics she was singing. But then things started to go agreeably bonkers as she launched into the whole of the Ninth Wave, side 2 – for those of you who remember records having sides – from the Hounds of Love album.
Kate lost at sea (represented by sheets – oh dear). Kate the subject of a search by a Miss Saigonish chopper. Kate’s husband and son (played by her real son Bertie) discussing sausages whilst floating in a rolling room and attempting some embarrassingly through-your-fingers comedy. Kate pulled out of an ice hole. Kate chased by people dressed as fish. Kate saved from drowning (but still not saved from being drowned by her band). And an agreeable demonstration of sheet-folding. Very useful. If only we’d been shown how to change a duvet.
After the interval we were treated to part 2 of her album Aerial (though Phil doesn’t understand why it’s not called Ariel since it seems to be about her doing her washing). Films of birds in flight. More film of birds in flight. Bertie in a Sunday In the Park With George-ish scene daubing a canvas. A bit of puppetry, more birds and some Chekhovian trees, one of which smashed through her piano (though Andrew somehow missed that) before she sat down at it and continued playing. Just Bush and piano enabled us to hear every word and appreciate that her voice is in excellent nick. All rather hypnotic, though that might have been the wine kicking in. And not a whiff of Rolf Harris (who played didgeridoo on the album). Funny that.
Lots of filmed sequences then, which allowed Kate to leave the stage several times and change from a black outfit into another black outfit. “Where’s the sequins?” moaned Andrew.
3 hours 5 minutes later the excellent and rousingly anthemic “Cloudbusting” * encore which we could hear even over the sound of our creaking joints as we were finally allowed to stand and ovate.
We’d probably been too absurdly eager for Bush. And that’s something you thought we’d never say.
Phil, for some reason, had always believed the video for “Cloudbusting” to have been filmed on the hills around Westbury where he grew up. It wasn’t. It was filmed at The Vale of White Horse in Oxfordshire. But in a Rev Stan, six degrees of separation thingy he discovered it was was conceived by Terry Gilliam and directed by Gillam’s then film editor Julian Doyle whose flat Phil tried to purchase when he moved to London in the same year that the song was released. It was the days when vendors could name their price and Phil went round to see his bid (in a sealed envelope) opened. Phil’s offer wasn’t the highest but he did get to try on Sean Connery’s helmet from Time Bandits.
Anyhoo here’s that video.