KATE BUSH : BEFORE THE DAWN
The Ones Least Likely To. The Concerts We Thought We'd Never See. Fifteen years must have passed since I last interviewed this quiet storm of an artist - she had a baby boy then, he's sixteen now, and performing live with bursting-proud and tearful mamma on stage - and what struck me was, for all Kate's bonkersness and apparent weird reclusiveness, how warmly human and happy she really seems.
So Kate did not reach for Wuthering Heights. What did they expect? Fifty six is fifty six. Not even the blindly adoring fan could have hoped for a wailing waif in lycra and legwarmers, swirling dervishly while lamenting love. The elfin-ish face is filled out by time - face or figure, ladies. The urchin locks are undoubtedly augmented by a hairdresser's hand. The simmering sex kitten has boiled over into a voluptuous earth mother. She stomps, barefoot, widening ample arms to a predominantly English audience (as she acknowledges), in this quirky old, freshly-painted but anciently dusty monument of a theatre where we all lived when we were young (I spent the entire night there, more than a few times), in which you're well-aware that you're inhaling Debbie Harry's old eyelashes, Kid Creole's desiccated coconuts, the dried-sweat flakes of Asia's and Bad English's feet. I don't think she'd have got away with this show anywhere else.
Kate goes not gentle. She fills her stage with a confident army, of tight musicians, singers, dancers and actors, with props and projections and laughter, lots. Sombrely black-clad and sailing majestically about the stage, a robust little boat dressed up as a ship, her facial expressions, gestures and speech are those of a child. She's delighted to see us. We too.
It's no Greatest Hits excursion. No Stevie Nicks-esque 'Look How Good I Used To Be (though I strain to hit the high notes now). Kate does hit them, though she chooses to indulge in the more obscure. Hounds of Love and Running Up That Hill, King of the Mountain and Top of the City are banged out bravely. It gets folky and prog-rocky, there are shades of diddly-diddly in the best Dublin bars. Then the Ninth Wave, Kate life-jacketed and drowning at sea, gulps of Golding's Pincher Martin and refusing to be dead, great waves of emotion emulating the swathes of rippling fabric billowing out across the stage. Seahorses, fishy skeletons, overwhelm. The terrifying treacle of the deep. Kate is not rescued from the ice, alas, God help her, and yet she emerges, living it large, belting it out. Her notes are true. Giant doors and birds and puppetry and mannequins. Her son Bertie rigged out as a foul-mouthed Vincent van Gogh type, brushing blue into a mushrooming clouded sky. All torment is here, all food for thought, all magic. Kate's no nutter, she's an artist, daring herself, giving birth to herself, dredging her depths, pushing her envelopes. Scaring her most secret insides out.
It's no rock concert. It's the most unfathomable, gorgeous expression of what it really means to be an artist that I might ever see.
I was submerged.There was deliverance. How I long to go back. But she wraps tonight. I probably don't have thirty five more years.