Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo, gig review: Just what everyone was hoping for
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.
TV reviewBroadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair
Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere
TVThe Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 Frank Lampard's face drops when Holly Willoughby introduces him as a 'Man City legend'
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 4 Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
- 5 General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour
Fast & Furious 7 overtakes Frozen to become 5th highest grossing movie of all time
Poldark, series 1 finale, review: How a costume drama became a Sunday night swoon-fest
Avengers: Age of Ultron: Nearly 700 German cinemas refuse to show film
Al Pacino admits he was nearly fired from The Godfather and it's still his most 'difficult role'
Warner Music owner Len Blavatnik tops Sunday Times Rich List
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia
HSBC review into moving headquarters from UK 'underway'