Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo, gig review: Just what everyone was hoping for

5.00

The most ambitious piece of theatrical pop ever seen on a British stage

The PA plays soothing Eberhard Weber, an indication of Kate Bush’s current musical inclinations, but there’s no way it can soothe the hubbub of anticipation amongst the audience,  many of whom have been waiting 35 years for this.

Then the disembodied voice of “Lily” heralds Kate’s long overdue arrival again onstage, strolling at the head of a small group of backing singers that includes her son Bertie. Barefoot and black-clad in three-quarter length coat and long fringed fabrics, she’s like a gorgeous Gothic temptress, the former mime and dance moves reduced to a stroll and waft of material, with an occasional twirl.

For a few songs, it seems like this might be all we’ll be getting, a Stevie Nicks-style show augmented by a few cute lighting effects. The band, arrayed across the back, is as meticulous as expected,  tight and sleek as Kate glides through “Hounds Of Love” and a “Top of the City” that exemplifies the dynamic shifts between contemplative calm and euphoric release in her music.

Then “Running Up That Hill” draws the crowd to its feet, Kate’s voice clearly untroubled by the passage of time, ably holding its own against the two drummers’ tom-tom barrage. “King Of The Mountain” is similarly effective,  climaxing in a percussionist whirling a bullroarer around his head as cannons fill the air with confetti.

But this,  it transpires, is but a mere preamble to the evening’s centrepiece highlight, a presentation of the “Ninth Wave” suite that finally displays the outlandish theatrical panache that fans have come to expect from Kate Bush.

A front-screen projection of someone phoning the coastguard sets the scene for this extraordinary tale of a drowning woman’s contemplation of life. When the curtain rises, we’re on the prow of a shipwreck, sheet waves rolling across the stage as Kate, adrift in orange life jacket, bobs haplessly on a back-projection.

Two seahorses then climb out of the audience – no, really – and abduct the real Kate, leaving her backing singers (now rescuers) assailing the stage with axes and chainsaws in an attempt to rescue her from beneath the “ice”. When they pull her up, she’s berated by a priest before sinking back.

This is but the first of several coup de théâtre including a “helicopter” flying over the audience, aswirl in smoke and spotlights, a buoy bobbing across the stage, and a tragicomic sitting-room tableau set in a submerged room of cockeyed Caligari-esque angles.

Accompanied by music ranging from polyphonic choral harmonies to folksy minstrels,  it’s quite stunning, undoubtedly the most ambitious, and genuinely moving, piece of theatrical pop ever seen on a British stage. Which is just what everyone here tonight was hoping for.

Read more: Previously unseen Kate Bush photographs
Kate Bush tickets selling for £1,000 on resale sites
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at London gigs
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, finds himself at the centre of a media storm when his wife is reported missing and assumed dead

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lindsay Lohan made her West End debut earlier this week in 'Speed-the-Plow'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Artist Nathan Sawaya stands with his sculpture 'Yellow' at the Art of Brick Exhibition

art
Arts and Entertainment
'Strictly Come Dancing' attracted 6.53 million viewers on Friday
tv
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant plays Detective Emmett Carver in the US version on Broadchurch

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor goes undercover at Coal Hill School in 'The Caretaker'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ni , Rock of Rah, Vanuatu: The Ni live on one of the smallest islands of Vanuatu; Nelson flew five hours from Sydney to capture the 'isolation forged by their remoteness'
photographyJimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style
Arts and Entertainment
David Byrne
musicDavid Byrne describes how the notorious First Lady's high life dazzled him out of a career low
Arts and Entertainment
Sergeant pfeffer: Beatles in 1963
booksA song-by-song survey of the Beatles’ lyrics
Arts and Entertainment
music'I didn't even know who I was'
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl was left in a conundrum with too much talent and too few seats during the six-chair challenge stage
tvReview: It was tension central at boot camp as the ex-Girls Aloud singer whittled down the hopefuls
Arts and Entertainment
Kalen Hollomon's Anna Wintour collage

art
Arts and Entertainment

TV Grace Dent on TV
Arts and Entertainment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

music
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer is believed to be playing a zombie wife in Patient Zero

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Gatiss says Benedict Cumberbatch oozes sex appeal with his 'Byronic looks' and Sherlock coat
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Clothing items bearing the badge have become popular among music aficionados
musicAuthorities rule 'clenched fist' logo cannot be copyrighted
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson will star in Seth MacFarlane's highly-anticipated Ted 2

film
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in 'Gone Girl'

film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
    Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

    Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

    Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
    Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

    Education, education, education

    TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
    It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

    It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

    So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
    This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

    Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

    Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
    We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

    Inside the E15 'occupation'

    We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
    Witches: A history of misogyny

    Witches: A history of misogyny

    The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
    Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
    'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style