Wednesday, August 27, 2014

First night: Kate Bush

I suppose those of us with tickets for subsequent nights of the return of Kate Bush have one thought as we turn to the reviews this morning - 'dude, don't fuck it up for us'. Ridiculous, of course, to worry that she might be scared away by the harsh glare of the critics.

Ridiculous because she's a grown-up woman and not a kitten.

Ridiculous because, having built the event up over the last few days, how could the reaction be anything other than a warm embrace?

(It's understandable how the media have hugged Kate's return so close; her, and the new Doctor, have been the two pieces of light in what feels like a never ending month of despair and gloom. Who wouldn't seek out some comfort?)

So... what did people think? Did they like her?

Kate Bush comeback greeted with huge cheers
Okay, Tim Masters on the BBC News website, that tells us all we need to know. Let's move on.

Oh, alright. What else?
There were no songs from Bush's first four albums, which meant fans did not get to hear early classics such as Wuthering Heights, The Man with the Child in his Eyes or Babooshka.

But fans did not seem to mind missing out.
Tim then speaks to two fans who seem keen to insist that they didn't mind missing out:
Julie Beynon, from Glasgow, told the BBC: "That was really surprising. I noticed she played a lot from Aerial which I didn't have a problem with. I think it might reference the fact she was much happier in that period of her life. It felt quite joyous and celebratory."

She added: "I'm not disappointed - I thought it was stunning comeback. To me it was like musical theatre but with Kate Bush songs. It was a a weird hybrid of different styles, and completely innovative."

Elizabeth Hobson, from Enfield, said: "She does what she wants to do. We might have liked to hear some of the songs we love from a while back - but hopefully everybody's going to be really nice about it and we might see some more of her at a later date."
Okay, Elizabeth from Enfield doesn't explicitly say "well, it's fine that she's done all this tonight, providing she comes back at Christmas and does some of the Top Of The Pops ones." But she kinda does.

The Telegraph's Bernadette McNulty enjoyed herself, although possibly not quite as completely as she might have hoped:
Throughout, the pace was resolutely mid-tempo,the narratives sometimes obscure and the skits often hammy - in one artists' scene from the Aerial segment, literally as exciting as watching paint dry.
But apparently it was still thrilling.

The Daily Mail sent Jan Moir. Presumably had she not been invited, there'd have been a chance she'd have cursed the entire Apollo to sleep for a hundred years. Her copy is, as you'd expect, poorly banged together:
Bush had asked that no one would film her performance on their mobile phones and iPads. There was one request to do this before the show started – an announcement that was cheered by many in the stalls.
It's not clear whether Jan is telling us that there was a request not to do this, or if they were asking that any photography be done before the show.

For The Guardian, Alexis Petridis got the tickets:
Her voice too is in remarkable condition: she's note-perfect throughout.

Backed by a band of musicians capable of navigating the endless twists and turns of her songwriting – from funk to folk to pastoral prog rock - the performances of Running Up That Hill and King of the Mountain sound almost identical to their recorded versions - but letting rip during a version of Top of the City, she sounds flatly incredible.
And Hannah Ellis-Petersen didn't, so was stuck outside getting fan reactions. But this was an evening when even the fans milling about on the streets of Hammersmith were kinda starry:
Daren Taylor, drummer for band The Airborne Toxic Event, had taken a similar journey to make it to the opening night.

"I've flown in from Los Angeles today just to see Kate Bush," he said.

"It's not easy to express what Kate Bush means to me. Her music touches me, and I'm sure everybody here, in very unique ways. I don't think any two people will tell you the same thing that her music means to them."
The New York Times' Ben Ratliff gets off to a clunky start:
Kate Bush Returns to the Stage, and Her Fans Are There to Welcome Her
'Ticketholders turn up to gig'. Okay, Ben, I'm holding the front page.

He has taken the trouble to find out the name of some of the other participants:
The songs use repetition, much more than her earlier work, and slow, hypnotizing grooves; the drummer Omar Hakim found the center of them, and Ms. Bush finally began to move to them like a dancer.
Meanwhile, Claire Rutter in the Mirror was, erm, reading Twitter. Now, you might laugh, but how else would we know what Boy George thought?
Poor Culture Club star Boy George couldn’t make the show tonight, as he sadly tweeted: "Had to miss Kate Bush tonight but hopefully I will catch one of the shows."
The Mirror, there, sharing the view from someone who doesn't even have any solid plans to go to one of the shows later.

Billboard chips in with a setlist:
"Hounds of Love"
"Running Up That Hill"
"Top of the City"
"King of the Mountain"
"And Dream of Sheep"
"Under Ice"
"Waking the Witch"
"Watching You Without Me"
"Jig of Life"
"Hello Earth"
"The Morning Fog"
"A Sky of Honey (prelude)"
"An Architect’s Dream"
"The Painter’s Link"
"Aerial Tal"
"Somewhere in Between"
"Among Angels"
And although there were no fan photos, DigitalSpy gathers some of the official shots.
Louder Than War's Dave Jennings, like many reviewers, consciously echoes Imperial Smash Hits' parody of old school rock writing:
The whole show was like a religious revival, a west end blockbuster opera and a rock show as one. She carried on from here with Top of the City which was followed swiftly by Joannie and a simply brilliant, nay, breathtaking even, version of Hounds of Love.
I hope that "nay" was a conscious echoing, anyway.

The Daily Express sent Simon Gage:
The second half sits halfway between the early set and the conceptual with Kate's hippy side coming to the fore on tracks from Aerial with giant projections of birds in flight, characters playing painters, an artist's dummy the size of a child...

It would be easy to laugh just like it's always been easy to laugh: some of it is daft, some of it wilfully daft but that's what makes English eccentricity so cherished.
What Gage nearly captures - and what hangs over most of the reviews this morning - is a slight sense of unspoken awareness that if this had been a theatre, rather than a rock venue, and the name on the tickets an arts ensemble rather than Kate Bush, there might have been a temptation to shout 'get on with it' at some points of the show.

But, generally, the reviews are positive, and warm, and it's more than a 'dog walking on hind legs' approval for something you'd never expect to see.

Are there no dissenting voices? Not many; they keep pretty quiet. Only one brave head put above the parapet on that hotbed of counterthought, Mumsnet:
Shrieking, arm flapping and mincing.

What am I missing? I'm sure she's a lovely woman but good lawd I cannot see the appeal.
A bit of a kicking later, the poster returns, bruised, to the keyboard:
Blimey this thread might be the most contentious one I've ever started on MN
In short, then, the world is (mostly) chiming with that classic Smash Hits letter:
Oh Kate, Kate, Kate, Kate
It's love I feel for you, not hate, hate, hate

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