Thursday, 25 September 2014

I made a deal with god

Dear blog fans... as you probably know, I am the indoorsy type. I'd rather watch a sitcom than go surfing. I'd rather cook by gas hob than by camp fire. I'm as delighted by a beautiful sunset as the next person, but do tend to think they're best viewed through restaurant windows, with a delicious cocktail in hand.

My brother, however, has a dedication to staying indoors that makes me look like Steve Irwin, so I was more than a little surprised when he rang me up about six months ago, asking for my tips on how to buy concert tickets that are guaranteed to sell out in seconds. When it transpired that the tickets in question were for Kate Bush, I was delighted. I had been planning on trying to get a ticket for myself, naturally, but a poor girl's seat at the back, and possibly on my own as even the poor girl tickets were too expensive for most of my recession challenged friends.

When my brother does do something, however, it is clear that he does it in style - he planned to buy the most expensive, best seats in the house... and after thinking about it for a few minutes (and securing the promise of a loan from said brother), I remembered countless years of peering round poles, cursing myself for forgetting my binoculars and promising myself that next time, I would get a better seat... and I decided to join him.

Fast forward to last night at the Hammersmith Apollo, with the ticket money a dim and distant memory (after all, what else would I have spent it on? Probably only cola bottles and glitter), it became crashingly apparent that we had made the right choice - and in fact, that our choice had been even better than we had realised. We were in row H. However, for reasons unknown, there were no rows A-D. Seating started at E. We were almost close enough to touch her - and indeed, I did have to mentally straightjacket my arms a couple of times to resist trying to pull her off the stage for a cuddle. She seemed so good natured that I couldn't be certain she'd mind, even. But I'm pretty sure the burly security guards wouldn't have liked it too much.

The only time I've ever been approaching being that close to a genuine musical deity was when I saw Prince at Ronnie Scott's earlier this year (see my blog from February 2014), which obviously was in itself a dear diary moment of epic proportions. Ronnie Scotts, though, had been standing up and kinda shovey, and people's heads were in the way. Plus, Prince could get lost under a milk bottle lid, so you've got to be good looking, cos he's so hard to see, as Macca once said. This was entirely different. Kate, in all her gothic glory, was elevated above us on a huge stage. Her audience was well-behaved, watchful - and, for what it's worth, overwhelmingly white. They stayed still and so you could position your head between the heads of those in front and see perfectly.

She opened with Lily, one of my favourite songs from the Red Shoes, which is one of her best albums - followed by the Hounds of Love, which made me shout and bounce around in my seat until I suspect my seat mates became concerned for my health. It was a little unusual being surrounded by people whose appreciation was shown by gently tapping their knees rather than screaming out the words and throwing their arms wide, as I am used to, but I think I mostly managed to camouflage myself into looking like I belonged.

Watching Kate so close up was endlessly fascinating. She's bigger than she used to be, but damn, she wears it well. She looked like statuesque royalty, composed and serene. The Platonic ideal of a Very Important Person.

Kate Bush is two people. The eerily tortured singer who seems to belong to a world of vampires and velvet... and the completely unpretentious, overwhelming lovely woman who thanked us effusively for every round of applause and couldn't contain her joy at our voracious love.

At some point during King of the Mountain, complete with backing singers (one of whom was her adorable, baby faced, ginger topped son Bertie, of the eponymous song fame, fact fans!) imitating the wind that is whistling through the house, I wondered if she might throw in a costume change or two, or if she was a bit above all that kind of frippery.

What followed on almost immediately from that thought was a sensory overload of frippery of the very best kind, the likes of which I have never seen before and doubt I shall ever see again. Kate and her band played the whole of The Ninth Wave, the difficult second side of The Dreaming, a bizarrely beautiful fever dream of distortion and dancing.

But more than just playing these songs, they were performed in a play in which Kate was stranded in a sea populated by skeletal fish, where her rescuers (aka backing singers) had high vis vests on their chests and long, whip-like rats' tails hanging from their behinds. As she sank beneath the water, her husband (pretend) and son (actual) were haunted by her presence in a rocking house prop worthy of Michel Gondry, with razor sharp, aqua coloured lasers created the illusion of the ocean all around. A helicopter made up of sound effects, moving search lights and flares interrogated the audience, searching for Kate and her crew. The story culminated in Kate's death, as she clung to a buoy in a dark and stormy sea that genuinely gave me the fear - but her body was carried by the skeleton fish within feet of our seats, almost close enough to kiss, so I quickly recovered.

As, thank god, did she! The first half closed with The Morning Fog, and with Kate thanking us again and beaming all over her still stunningly beautiful face.

The second half of the show utilised the second half of Aerial, 'The Sky of Honey,' a 45 minute experimental concept string of songs which features a very bizarre rhyme about paintings not drying. I have to say, I didn't dig this half of the show quite as much. Being a Bad Fan, I didn't really like Aerial that much the first time round (I could never get past that bloody song about the washing machine) and had only listened to the Sky of Honey a couple of times since securing the tickets. It is beautiful music, but I missed The Dreaming, and The Sensual World, and You're the One, and This Woman's Work, and Army Dreamers (all unplayed) really quite badly.

I also found it a little harder to make sense of the accompanying theatre for this half of the show. Was it about her art being her child and breaking away from her? Or was it about Kate turning into a bird? I was a bit confused, but still, it was sumptuous music, and there is something very reassuring about realising that pop stars don't get any less mad the older they get. And let's face it, mad pop stars are always the best. (With the exception of Lady Gaga. How I wish she'd make music that had even half the kick of her frankly thrilling visual image.)

The show ended with Kate playing a grand piano had that seemingly been smashed through by a silver birch tree and then leading us all in the 'yeah-ee-yeah-ee-yos' of Cloud Busting. We were at a show right near the end of the epic 22 night run, so I don't know how she managed to still look so genuinely thrilled that we all knew the words and were eager to scream them back at her, but she pulled it off so convincingly that it bought tears to my eyes. Kate, you are the very definition of a lady, and I shall love you until the day I die. Never get normal. 


  1. Oh Jo! You have almost brought tears to my eyes, not only because you write so gorgeously readably, but also because you have brought me a little bit closer to one of my gods. Though torn apart to have missed this delight, I feel consoled by your words and glad that you were there to share the love. Kate would be proud.

    PS: When I turn Cloudbusting up really loud in the kitchen and sing along to the yeah-ee-yeah-ee-yeah-ee-ohs, I cry. I can't imagine how I would've held it together if I were singing along with Kate the Great and hundreds of people at a concert. So, well done for keeping your dignity in the presence of a real lady xxx

  2. Aww, thank you Vikee! What a completely gorgeous comment, I'm so happy to have made you happy! She really did seem to be loving it, and clearly a LOT of work had gone into the show, so I personally be would surprised if she didn't do it again somewhere else. Or at the least, if a DVD didn't come out. I hope you will get to see her one day! And yes - the end was extremely emotional!

  3. There are reports of film cameras at the shows on the 16th and 17th September, so hopefully a DVD is now being wrangled.