Wednesday, 1 October 2014

KATE  BUSH : BEFORE THE DAWN, HAMMERSMITH ODEON

The Ones Least Likely To. The Concerts We Thought We'd Never See. Fifteen years must have passed since I last interviewed this artist. She had a baby boy then. Bertie is sixteen now, and performing live with mamma. What struck me was, for all Kate's bonkersness and weird reclusiveness, how happy she seems.

She 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. The elfin face has been filled by time. Face or figure, ladies. The locks are undoubtedly augmented. The simmering sex kitten has boiled over, into an earth mother. She stomps, barefoot, widening ample arms to a predominantly English audience (as she acknowledges), in this freshly-painted but ancient monument of a theatre where we lived when we were young  (I spent the night there, more than a few times), in which you know 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 can't imagine she would have got away with this show anywhere else.
Kate fills her stage with a confident army of tight musicians, singers, dancers and actors, with props and projections and laughter. Lots. Black-clad and sailing about, a robust little boat dressed up as a ship, her  expressions, gestures and speech are those of a child. 
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)'. '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 proggy, there are shades of Dublin diddly-diddly. Then 'The Ninth Wave', Kate life-jacketed and drowning, gulps of Golding's 'Pincher Martin' and refusing to be dead, swathes of fabric billowing out across the stage, seahorses and fish skeletons and the treacle of the deep. Kate is not rescued from the ice, and yet emerges, belting it out. Giant doors and birds, puppetry and mannequins. Bertie rigged out as a foul-mouthed Vincent van Gogh, brushing blue into a mushrooming sky. All torment, all food for thought, all magic. Kate's no nutter, she's an artist, daring herself, giving birth to herself, dredging her innards. Pushing her envelopes. It's not a rock concert. It's huge. I was submerged.

There was deliverance. I long to go back, but she wraps tonight. I probably don't have thirty five more years.


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