The Second Coming of Kate Bush has caused more feverish fuss than any other music news story this year, with tickets for her run of 22 shows at Hammersmith Apollo – the first full concerts from the reclusive genius since 1979 – selling out within seconds. If you’re baffled as to why it’s such a big deal, then here’s how to sound like you know what you’re talking about.
She’s the Female Bowie
Or, if you prefer, The Dame who’s actually a dame, at least in the American sense (although she already a CBE). In the late Seventies, just as David Bowie did earlier in the decade, Kate the shy-yet-exhibitionist Kentish teenager rewrote the rulebook of rock’s possibilities, setting off a chain reaction in the brains of a generation of music fans – particularly female ones. And she didn’t go through a dodgy Glass Spider/Tin Machine phase and never wore a mullet, so Kate wins.
Without Kate Bush, there’d be no…
You want a list? Without Kate Bush, there’d probably be no Björk, Tori Amos, PJ Harvey, Bat For Lashes, Florence And The Machine, Fever Ray, Grimes and Foxes, to name but eight. (And if Lady Gaga thinks she invented the idea of Artpop, she’s fooling no-one.) Bush is, without question, the most influential British female artist of all time, especially upon singers with a leaning towards the poetic and the theatrical.
Of course, the smartest thing to say is that without Kate Bush, there’d be no Kate Bush
There’s more to her than ‘Running Up That Hill’ and ‘Wuthering Heights’.
Listing the greatest hits on ‘The Whole Story’ will get you nowhere. To prove you know your Kate, don’t say your favourite album is ‘Hounds Of Love’ either. That’s like your favourite by Bowie being ‘Ziggy Stardust’ or your favourite Beatles album being ‘Sgt Pepper’s’ (great records though those may be).
Do say “Of course, ‘The Dreaming’ is too strange for most people, but for me it’s her most daring work.” Talk up ‘The Sensual World’ as an overlooked masterpiece, and score extra points by namechecking the finest tracks from her 1993 pre-hiatus album ‘The Red Shoes’ (‘Top Of The City’ will do). Stay on the fence regarding her 2011 re-recordings project ‘The Director’s Cut’ with a diplomatic: “Well, at least it got her back into the studio.” And if you can keep a straight face while singing along to ‘Mrs Bartolozzi’ from 2005 comeback album ‘Aerial’ you’ll pass for a next-level Bushologist. Altogether, now: “Washing machine, washing machine… splishy-sploshy, splishy-sploshy, get that dirty laundry clean!”
She’ll definitely play a mix of the ancient and the recent at these gigs
At least that’s what hardcore Kate-watchers reckon, having studied the enigmatic legend’s drip-fed visual clues. When announcing the Before The Dawn residency at Hammersmith, Kate’s website posted a photo of her floating in an orange life-jacket, similar to one on the reverse of the ‘Hounds Of Love’ sleeve and referring to that album’s side-long suite ‘The Ninth Wave’. Meanwhile the artwork on the tickets, featuring starfish and underwater stars, has been read by her notoriously obsessive fans as a reference to the lyrics of ‘Nocturn’, from ‘Aerial’.
No-one knows what to expect, but it won’t be boring
Whole screeds of sexist and ageist nonsense have been written about whether a 56-year-old Bush could, or should, reprise the flamboyant dance routines of her youth, with some pointing to her zaftig figure at 2012’s South Bank Awards, and others claiming she’s been on a crash diet to prepare for these shows.
In any case, it’s unlikely she’ll prance around in a leotard and microphone headset pretending to be a tree, which is the enduring vision of Kate Bush in the popular imagination, as parodied by everyone from Faith Brown to Noel Fielding. The dunce’s cone-hat from ‘Sat In Your Lap’ and the chain-mail bra from ‘Babooshka’ will probably stay in the closet. But this is a Kate Bush concert, and one-woman-and-her-piano minimalism would be a surprise.
Whatever happens, don’t film it. She’s politely requested a phones/tablets blackout, asking concert-goers to exist in the moment with her. Or, as one of her greatest songs has it, “Let’s exchange the experience, oh…”