Somewhere in Between

Go to sleep little Earth…

I have mentioned my excitement in various places at being able to see Kate Bush in concert. Well, Friday was the day, and frankly nothing about the evening failed to deliver. It was an evening of considerable revelation. Some of it, all told, I actually found rather uncomfortable. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself too soon.

I resisted the Selfie option ^^

Friday was gorgeous: hot, sunny and as a result I decided to walk from home to the station to catch a train and meet my husband for the trip into town. It’s been a while since I’ve been to the Apollo (Vic Reeves Big Night Out, 1991) and it’s not even known by that name any more, sponsored as it is now by Eventim. Hammersmith’s pretty much completely changed too, except for the flyover. There was already a sizeable queue when we arrived 30 minutes before the doors opened, so we went and ate and then gained entry. Yes, I was asked for my passport to enter the building, which would have been interesting if you were trying to sell a ticket outside the gig. Once inside, I’m pleased to report that the complete refurbishment of the building is magnificent, it looks nothing short of stunning and I’m really pleased I’ll be seeing Elbow here again in February.

Then we got inside, and stuff got really interesting.
Yes, I took a picture.
Kate got an unsurprising standing ovation as she took the stage, and began with range of songs that should have kept most people happy (including Hounds of Love and King of the Mountain.) Then everything went bang, literally and figuratively, and from a conventional setup above (and some absolutely unbelievable lighting effects) everything turned full-on on concept album. When the picture above of Kate in the water (which is actually a tank at Pinewood studios where live action sequences were filmed to slip into the theatrical experience) appeared, many people suggested we’d see the 1985 album sequence The Ninth Wave, and here it was, finally imagined after nearly thirty years.

Boy, was it ever immense.

I was in floods of tears by the denouement, which was a masterclass in how to use music and theatre to tell a story. The whole space came into play, with brilliance in both lighting, sound and visuals (the final sequence that accompanies ‘Hello Earth’ was staggering) sticking Bush very much at the centre, with a voice that sounds as good now as it does on that album. From someone who spent many, many evenings listening to this ‘concept’ and who was undoubtedly inspired by such works to experiment herself with words, it was everything I could have hoped for from a story I’d told in my own head. There are moments that stick in my mind even now: using the lighting rig to signify the rescue helicopter searching for Kate in the water, the way she used physical effects and projection to show white horses in the ‘waves’ on stage… an awful lot of thought and effort was placed into this production. There was a remarkable amount of love too, and Kate’s son Albert (Bertie to her) was front and centre in the action. I wonder what it must have been like at the end of that half to see the entire theatre give a second standing ovation to his mother.

By the time the lights came up, I was exhausted.

Part Two however was quite a different affair.

Interesting…

The whole of the second half of the evening was taken over by A Sky of Honey, the nine song concept that forms part of the album Aerial from 2005. What was immediately apparent from the moment the curtain came back up was this was as important a production as Ninth Wave had been, perhaps more so, but it was a very different journey. This is Kate listening to sounds in a different way, her son being an important influence on her life. There is a lot less storytelling and a lot more reflection and personal importance in these songs, that they literally paint a picture in sound of a twenty-four hour period inside the mind of our ‘narrator’. This is all well and good if you can grasp the picture that is being painted, but for me this album has sat pretty much unplayed since I bought it because… well, I always got the impression this was a piece that Kate Bush really wanted to make for herself. This isn’t commercial or easy to grasp or often even what some people might consider as accessible, per se. This is the album you earn the right to make when you’ve been a massive influence on huge parts of the music industry since your late teens. This is the music you only get to make when you don’t need to worry about paying the bills.

Part two of the evening was every much as visually stunning as the first. It was clever, and elegant and utterly compelling, and undoubtedly it meant just as much to many people there as the first half of the evening had. However, I was left cold. I could be impressed at watching the sun actually set on stage at the right moment, how an artist’s brush flicked could paint stars onto the canvas of night. It is easy to be able to identify with the accomplishment of a production when it is so well done, as utterly brilliant as this was, but when music is involved there is a subtle difference in impact, how the individual mind processes the journey when the aural clues aren’t immediately pointing towards a visual path. As we walked out of the theatre we caught a snatch of conversation from two younger fans behind us: the first half had been brilliant because there had been hits they identified with, but the second half went on too much about birds. I suspect the decision to stick Cloudbusting into the Encore was a deliberate move as a result, and this goes to prove that however good your concept might be in your mind, it isn’t ever going to please everyone.

I can’t take anything away from the evening however, because what was overridingly apparent was how much of a labour of love this clearly was for the singer. She looked relaxed, happy and genuinely amazed at the reactions she got. For 35 years there had been no way for fans to tell this woman how much they appreciated her work, and here she has it, in spades. Even if I may not enjoy her later works they need to be considered in the overall output, and (I believe) the mark of a good person is to not just see what they want from an experience and to take everything as a whole. This will make me go back and try Aerial again, because clearly the significance it has to the singer is considerable. It also makes me understand how easy it is to overlook what makes us uncomfortable sometimes for the sake of convenience. For me it will, I suspect, make me reconsider why it is I actually listen to music: is it simply pleasure, or entertainment, or is it theatre? Of course, it is all three, but it is at the borders where the concepts meet that the most interesting revelations are to be found. As a result, I’d like to thank Kate Bush for making me think WAY outside my comfort zone, and for providing the most profound piece of artistic entertainment I’ve seen for the best part of thirty years.

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