Originally written immediately after the gig, I didn’t post it because I was never really happy with it. It hadn’t quite captured how I felt. Re-edited and published for the anniversary of the gig – and still waiting for that DVD!
Kate Bush, Apollo Hammersmith, London 16 September 2014
Like every other fan who missed out on the 1979 Tour Of Life, I was reconciled to never seeing Kate Bush perform live. Or so I thought.
When her residency at the Apollo, Hammersmith was announced, I was uncertain. What if – dare to think it – it wasn’t much good? What if it destroyed my decades of admiration for this woman’s work? In truth, there was no way that I would miss out on the chance to get tickets. Stalls, mid-run and on one of the nights being filmed for DVD – and our wedding anniversary, to boot (which helped me feel better about the ticket cost).
Even the months of anticipation became part of the performance. I squealed with excitement at photos released of Kate in a lifejacket – that could only mean The Ninth Wave, the second side of the Hounds Of Love album and one of my all-time favourite pieces of music. Set lists and reviews were scoured as soon as they were published. Spoilers be damned, I wanted to know exactly what to expect and look out for: I didn’t want to miss a moment of this rare experience.
Suddenly, my husband and I found ourselves in a smartly refurbished Art Deco Apollo, watching a blue-lit array of expensive-looking instruments. After an eternity, Kate entered leading her troupe of singers, performers and musicians. The crowd uproar was instantaneous, stupendous and overwhelming. The first of many, many standing ovations given.
Despite my active dislike of some of the first handful of songs (I’m a fan, but not uncritical), the superb light show, the band and Kate’s magnificent, powerful voice won me over. They went all out to rock out, climaxing in a massive wall of noise and light.
A deft shift in pace led into The Ninth Wave, which was a simply extraordinary blend of film, theatricals and music. Periodically, I’d have to remember to close my mouth, as I sat slack-jawed with amazement. The suggestion of things like waves by performers waving long swathes of fabric, or the helicopter sound/light effects could all come across as a bit am-dram: the results were anything but. The costumes, the sets – all were outstandingly good and the whole thing sat together smoothly. Well, apart from an ill-behaved door, but that was just funny & well-handled by the cast.
The second half was also a conceptual set-piece, this time A Sky Of Honey from the Aerial album – a lush soundscape that I couldn’t envisage as engaging live performance. Kate, sitting at the piano, sang the Prelude. That would have been good enough, but there was much more theatricality to come, including gorgeous back-projections, puppeteers and black feathers. The final song in the set, Aerial, took a very dark turn, creating some really chilling folk-horror oppressiveness.
The Ariel set also featured a solo from Bertie, Kate’s son. This very young man stepped up before a huge audience, so it feels mean to criticise, but his slightly nasal singing and hammy dialogue were the weaker points in the show But, BUT, without his encouragement this show might never have happened. So, we were happy to be complicit in a mother’s indulgence. And it was abundantly clear that she completely adores her boy.
The whole show’s been a tour-de-force performance and entirely deserving of the applause and ovations. And so it ends. A couple of encores, Among Angels from 50 Words For Snow, and Cloudbusting. There’s something sublimely moving about an entire audience on its feet singing a heartfelt “yay yay yay yo” along with Kate.
Leaving the venue, audience members were still scouring the floor for the “golden tickets”, the paper confetti printed with Tennyson’s poem that were blasted out at the start of the Ninth Wave. My faith in humanity dips watching one group pocket greedy fat handfuls. Later, on the tube, another man handed out all his spare few scraps of these precious bits of paper to fellow travellers who weren’t lucky enough to get them at the venue. Faith restored.