Friday, March 21, 2014

Can Kate Bush still be Kate Bush?

When Kate Bush last played live she was a commercial and artistic sensation. She was a hot ticket at the time but nothing like as hot a ticket as she will be when she starts the first of fifteen shows at Hammersmith in August.

Back then she was twenty-one. She will be fifty-five when she returns to the stage. She has hardly any experience of what she's setting out to do, which is perform live. Nowadays the big live acts are immensely accomplished, because they're playing all the time. They know what the modern audience acts like, smells like, what it expects and how far you can push it. They are masters of their craft. They wouldn't dream of starting by playing fifteen nights in the same place because they would fear that gives them no opportunity to regroup, to fix things that aren't quite right.

I worry about her but what I worry about most is the audience. I worry that nobody could possibly live up to what her fans expect of her. She may not have changed that much in the last thirty five years. What has changed is the climate of expectation, which has now reached hysterical levels. It's been inflated in direct proportion to the rise in ticket prices. People won't be going along to see what kind of performance Kate Bush is going to deliver.  They're going to see her. They're going to enter the presence. They're going because they couldn't bear to miss it. They will be going along to have their dreams either fulfilled or dashed. Nobody will come out saying "that was OK".

All this crazed expectation reminds me of the quote from Cary Grant. "We all wish we were Cary Grant. Sometimes I wish I was Cary Grant."


  1. Anonymous11:27 pm

    What a negative blog! I'm sure that come August, Kate will be ready!
    I'm a huge fan but now retired and can't afford to see her show in London. ( A friend from the North)

  2. Fair points. As I understand it she requires total artistic control over the whole endeavour so things will stand and fall by her direct decisions. Also, on a slightly un-gallant point, she is fifty-five years old so I would expect a fairly sedentary performance.
    That said, I wait to be confounded and hope it's a smash all round.

  3. With a person so idiosyncratic and so far removed from live performance as Kate Bush, I find it hard to have any expectations.

    I don't have the wherewithal to attend these shows, but I would happily watch her sit in front of a piano and play her songs.

    A lot of live performers superimpose theatricality onto their music in the form of elaborate stage shows.

    With Kate Bush that element of the theatre is already parceled-up in the songs themselves.

  4. Fair enough. I know you are very big on those performers who acknowledge and understand the value of stagecraft. But my expectations have been lowered by her last two albums. Directors Cut I found unlistenable and pointless, the Snow one also did nothing for me. Pretty much all of her previous albums have astonishing moments and I'm a huge fan. So, maybe the ability to make music is a muscle she hasn't been using it much recently and it's withering away?

  5. Backwards7 "I would happily watch her sit in front of a piano and play her songs."

    Me too. A theatrical experience like Dexy's recent residency would be good too, but it's all about the songs.

  6. If I'm a little more financially flush nearer the time of these concerts, and if the opportunity of grabbing a couple of tickets arises, then I'd love to take my wife to one of these shows. However, I can't help thinking that performing 22 shows in such a short space of time is incredibly ambitious, if not downright risky. Surely there is the distinct possibility that a voice that has rarely been exposed to the rigours of regular live performance, but which has suffered under the effects of age and smoking, will be in shreds well before the end of this run of performances. I certainly hope I'm wrong.

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  8. The last time KB appeared live, the LP was the product, and the live concert was a badge of the fan's devotion. A sort of souvenir of liking the act.

    Now the reverse is true. The gigs are what matter & the recordings are something like a flyer for the festival dates.

    I hope she was been paying attention to the sea-change in the way we consume pop music. Although I'd hope that much more fervently if I'd managed to get some flippen' tickets.

  9. Anonymous8:32 pm

    I remember David interviewing her on OGWT. She was doing some sort of Australian Dirge. Very good it was too.