Tag Archives: Kate Bush

Kate Bush – ‘Before The Dawn’ – Hammersmith Apollo – September 12, 2014

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Thousands of words have already been posted and typed and printed about Kate Bush‘s ‘comeback’ shows in London, her first full concerts since the “Tour Of Life” in 1979. Here’s a few more. When she announced the shows in February of this year – it seemed like a hoax. After all, you never can really trust some stories on the internet. I received an e-mail a little while later, with a ‘pre-sale’ code for tickets. I’ve been a big fan of her music since the early 1990s and I didn’t want to pass up the chance to see her live, especially given her reluctance to perform in concert.

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A guy I worked with has multiple laptops and said he’d scored tickets to very in-demand shows in the past, so I asked him if he could try to get Kate tickets for me. He agreed and to my amazement, got two tickets for the 12th September show!! It cost me a good bottle of wine, but to me, more than worth it. The months ticked by, rumours about special guests were floated around, as well as set list guesses. I wanted everything to be a surprise, so I conscientiously avoided blogs, newspaper articles and teevee coverage – even after the opening show, on 26th August.

Finally, the day arrived – I grabbed the tickets and met my friend in Oxford, for the trip to London. The shows are at the Hammersmith Apollo (or the “Eventim Apollo”, as it’s called now), the very same hall where “The Tour Of Life” show debuted. Kate said she was initially put off playing there, as it had become quite run-down over the years, but changed her mind when she found it was to be completely refurbished early in 2014. We arrived in Notting Hill Gate late in the afternoon and grabbed a quick lunch. We hopped on a bus down to where the venue is, but ended up walking some of the way, as traffic was pretty bad around there.

My friend is partially-sighted and had his guide dog with him. He had phoned the venue to check if they would look after her, while we were watching the show. The staff were quite nice and agreed to do so. We were able to avoid the queue outside and head in to drop off ‘Molly’ (the guide dog). While we were inside, I cheekily asked if we could check the merch table. They said it was fine and so I bought a T-shirt and programme. After that, it was time for a couple of pints in a local pub – then back to the Apollo for the concert!

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Our seats were in the upper circle, nearly at the back. The Apollo’s a small-ish venue, so there’s not really any bad seats, per se. Kate had requested that people not take photos or film during the show and it was good to see everyone around us leaving the kit shut off. The stage itself, for the opening, was fairly sparse – two drum kits, a couple of keyboards and guitar and bass set-ups. Above the stage at the back, diamond shapes were arranged in a triangular pattern. The lights dimmed, the band walked onstage and started playing. Not long after, followed by a line of backing singers, Kate sashayed onstage to the rhythm of the tune, which turned out to be “Lily” (first released on “The Red Shoes“, in 1993 – then re-recorded for the “Director’s Cut” compilation, released in 2011). Her voice is still in fine form, even if she can’t quite hit the real high notes anymore. The reception was rapturous and then she ripped into “Hounds Of Love“, the title track from her 1985 (and most well known) album – the place just exploded. She seemed to relish singing it again and the backing band were top-notch. After “Hounds”, she took things down a notch with a nice “Joanni“, from the “Aerial” album, released in 2005. “Top Of The City“, another “Red Shoes” track re-worked for the “Director’s Cut”, followed – the diamond shapes were used cleverly in that one. They were lit up to resemble skyscrapers at night. Somewhat expected, “Running Up That Hill” (also from “Hounds Of Love”) was next and yet again, the crowd were delighted and the tune cooked. I wasn’t sure what she would sing next – I was still thinking maybe “Army Dreamers” or “Breathing” (from her “Never For Ever” album, released in 1980). Instead, she chose “King Of The Mountain“, the only single from “Aerial”, released in 2005. The end section became a rave-up and the band kicked into high gear. At the very end, one of the drummers got a bull-roarer out and after creating its eerie drone sound, the stage went dark.

A film of a man calling the coast guard about a ship in distress started up and then I realised she was going to perform the entire “Ninth Wave” section off of ‘Hounds Of Love’. The song cycle takes up side 2 (of the LP), or the second half of the CD, if that’s what you’ve got. A screen at the back of the stage showed Kate floating in water and the image would ‘mime’ with Kate’s actual vocal, which was quite clever. During “Under Ice“, a frozen sofa, lamp and TV appeared on-stage. The back-up singers wore fish-skeleton costumes and at one point, ‘workmen’ walked out and pretended to cut a hold in the stage. “Waking The Witch” featured a priest and the fish-people. I couldn’t tell if the vocal was live, as I suspect getting that ‘stutter’ effect would be difficult in a concert setting. Before “Watching You Without Me“, a surreal living room set glided onto the stage. It looked almost like the cutaway of a ship’s cabin, and it would bob slowly back and forth, as if it were on the sea. A domestic scene was played between a father and son (with Kate’s son Bertie playing the youth). Kate suddenly appeared in the room and then the song commenced. “Jig Of Life” was a rave-up, with the crowd clapping along with the Irish rhythm. Kate’s brother John‘s face appeared on the frozen TV screen to recite the poem that features at the coda. A life-size buoy prop became the centre-piece for “Hello Earth” and for the extended coda, she was carried from the stage, down a ramp, by the fish skeleton people. “The Morning Fog” was simply stunning, the whole band lined up across the stage and when Kate sang “D’you know what…I love you better now“, the crowd roared. The interval was announced and I was still processing what I had just seen. It was incredible – one of my favourite pieces of music performed in concert – worth the ticket price alone.

The second set was also an extended suite – this time “A Sky Of Honey“, the second disc (or LP, if you’re lucky enough to have a copy without paying £200 for it) of “Aerial”. The props for this set included a massive wooden door, lowered to the stage, a wooden puppet manipulated to act like a small boy and a screen made to look like a large painting. While it’s not quite as dynamic as “The Ninth Wave”, the tempo does pick up during the “Sunset” section, which builds into a flamenco-flavoured jam and Kate even let out an “Arrrriba!”. Bertie, who played the part of “The Painter” (originally voiced by Rolf Harris on the album – but as he’s had his….troubles lately…), narrated an extra bit about the moonrise. “Somewhere In Between” picked up the pace again and then the final two sections brought back the ambient feel. The final part, the title track, was another build-up. The band donned bird masks and moved around the stage with Kate. She was chased away, then the stage went dark with the band still chugging away. Suddenly, the panels of the door opened and there was Kate, floating, with huge black wings on her back. It lasted a few seconds and the stage went dark again.

The lights came on, Kate and the band shuffled off-stage. She walked out on her own and to prove she can still do the “girl-and-her-piano” act, played a lovely “Among Angels“, the only song from the “50 Words For Snow” album in the set list. The band returned for the final tune of the night, a rousing version of “Cloudbusting“, first released on “Hounds..” The house lights came on after the ovations and applause died down and we all made our way out of the venue.

The verdict? Well, I enjoyed the show immensely. I’ve seen films of the “Tour Of Life” show in ’79 and while Kate is far less ‘active’ on-stage these days, she still has loads of presence and mostly lets her voice carry the music. She’s retained her sense of the theatrical, as amply demonstrated in the “Ninth Wave” section. For those who showed up to hear the very early stuff – you’ll be in for disappointment – there’s nothing in the set from the first four albums…that’s right, no “Wuthering Heights” or “Wow” or “Babooshka“. I suppose I can’t blame her – her voice can’t really hit the higher registers needed for those tunes and she’s probably sick to death of W.H.

I’m just glad she took the plunge and decided to play live again – mostly by encouragement from Bertie, so hats off to him! it seems to have gone well, so hopefully it won’t be another long stretch of years to see her again.

Set list – 13th September, 2014:

“ACT I”

Lily
Hounds Of Love
Joanni
Running Up That Hill
Top Of The City
King Of The Mountain

~”The Ninth Wave“:
And Dream Of Sheep
Under Ice
Waking The Witch
“Domestic Interlude”
Watching You Without Me
Jig Of Life
Hello Earth
The Morning Fog

“ACT II”

~”A Sky Of Honey“:
Prelude
Prologue
The Architect’s Dream
The Painter’s Link
Sunset
Aerial Tal
Somewhere In Between
“Moonrise Introduction” (Bertie McIntosh solo)
Nocturn
Aerial

Encore:
Among Angels (Kate solo on piano)
Cloudbusting

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We’re All Still Here…No-One Has Gone Away…

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Hey now – it’s Gregorian year 2013…we all survived the dreaded ending of the world, which was supposed to happen on 21st December, 2012. I suspect there’s some fundie Christian preachers still wiping the egg from their faces. Not only them, quite a few New Agers and counter-culture luminaries, too. Like Daniel Pinchbeck, who even wrote a book all about the coming transformation. To be honest, I’m a little gutted. I was hoping that maybe humanity would transform and get a bit smarter – could be a delayed effect, though. Maybe the intelligence level will rise in the next two years.

Ah well, I suppose it’s good the world didn’t end – it means more time for books to read and music to listen to!

Our new-ish feline arrival, Magic, is doing well and settling into life at Ooze Towers quite well, now that his brother and sister have (mostly) stopped hissing and growling at him. He’s even ventured outside and has explored a couple of the neighbouring gardens (hopefully not leaving any…er…surprises in them). He’s a happy-go-lucky little character, though he wasn’t thrilled about going to the vets’ and getting his shots. According to Pixie, he was a trooper and didn’t freak out at all.

What else can I tell ya? Kate Bush accepted a CBE from ‘her majesty’. Aaaaaargh. That really did my head in. After years of fighting the EMI bosses to do things her own way, releasing quality records despite public indifference and generally being the definition of the word ‘integrity’, she accepts an ‘honour’ bestowed by a family of parasites who are alleged to be our ‘betters’. Why, Kate, why? I suppose, being an artist, she can cofound her fans, much like Dylan and Lou Reed. It takes her down a smidge in my estimation – but I can’t help it – I still love her.

David Bowie‘s back with a new single, in case you’ve been trapped under a rock for the past few days. The song’s O.K. – sorta melancholy and harking back to his late 70s/Eno collaboration albums. I’m not convinced it’s all that the Bowie-maniacs in the press are making it out to be – but it’s cool the dude is still alive and cranking out tunes. Some American record exec guy had the gall and temerity to try and give (unsolicited, mind) advice to the Thin White Duke…and has become a laughing-stock amongst the UK Twitter muso-hipster community. I dunno – while he may have mis-fired with the “Do It Like The Mumfords” comment – some of it seemed fairly spot-on, particularly about the choice of tune for the single. Anyway, it’s not like Bowie’s going to listen to Lefsetz or me or anyone else. He’s 66 and probably past caring what anyone thinks. More power to him, says me.

I am to start working on a new episode of my podcast, The Kaleidophonic Stroboscope, soon – so I’ll have that posted when it’s done. I bet you can’t wait!! (heh heh…)

December Will Be Magic Again

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Caveat: If you don’t wish to read about pets…and cats in particular….look away…..NOW!

Pixie and I adopted three kittens three years ago. The litter belonged to a co-worker’s relative’s cat. The mother cat was naughty and got out of the house one night, met up with a tom….and well, you know the rest. There were five in the litter: three boys and two girls. Another co-worker took in two. We were originally only going to take in two as well – but one of the boys had hind legs that sort-of stuck out at angles, possibly due to being cramped in the womb. Our other co-worker was worried about vet bills and declined to take him. I thought it would be a shame to separate him from the litter, so I convinced Pixie to take him as well. We called him “Orson”, as he was the third boy, or ‘third man’, if you will.

The other boy was called “Gryphon”, after the groovy 1970s British medieval/prog-folk group – and the girl we called “Parsley”, after Howard Moon‘s hippie transformation in the Mighty Boosh episode, “Call Of The Yeti“. Sadly, Gryphon was killed by a car when he was a year old. Orson really missed him, as they used to play wrestle and explore the car park behind our house together.

We talked about adopting another male cat for Orson for ages, but couldn’t really decide on when to do so. In the last month, we’ve started looking and even made a trip to the Blue Cross centre in Burford, to see if they had any suitable cats. Our main dilemma was that we needed one of a similar age to ours and one that can live with other cats. It turns out that our description is very tough to find, as a lot of cats need to be the only one in the house. We also found many pairs for adoption, who needed to be kept together.

In a cool synchro-mesh, Pixie received a message from our co-worker who had adopted the other boy and girl from ‘our’ litter. She had adopted a couple of dogs a while back and relations between the dogs and cats in their house were getting strained. She wanted to know if we could take “Magic”, the boy, in permanently. Misty, the other girl in the litter, was tragically killed by a car as well. After a family meeting and lots of thought, we said O.K.

He arrived last weekend and has been getting used to the house and Orson’s hissing and growling (to show his ‘top cat’ status in the house), as well as Parsley’s hissing (she doesn’t like anyone). We kitted out the spare room for him, complete with litter tray, food and water dishes and scratching post. Slowly, and I mean very slowly – he’s bonding with the others. They’re able to sit and sleep on opposite ends of the sofa and Magic’s even been sneaking food from Orson and Parsley’s dishes without much repercussion. He’s not been outside yet – we’re waiting until his vaccinations are up to date. It’s been really brilliant having three cats in the house again…with their personalities.

Since the ‘jolly season’, is fast upon us – here’s a festive tune, combined with a tribute to our new family member (ooooh, aren’t I the clever one):

Kate Bush’s “The Dreaming” album is 30 years old

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The Quietus music site has posted an article about Kate Bush‘s The Dreaming record being released thirty years ago this month. Thirty years! Sheesh, the 1980s really are starting to become the distant past, or at least that’s the way it seems.

“The Dreaming” seems to be the most overlooked of her continuously pored-over canon. She went out on a limb, buoyed by watching Peter Gabriel‘s far-reaching experiments with his third solo album. Recorded over the space of a year in four different studios, the songs would almost give her nervous exhaustion, trying to perfect the sounds she heard in her mind.

The resulting melange was avoided by the punters and the singles from the record didn’t disturb the charts much. Like The Beatles before her, when “Strawberry Fields Forever” didn’t hit the top of the charts, there was doubt as to where Kate was going with her latest long-player. EMI bigwigs also expressed their doubts and called her in for a dressing-down about the budget for the LP. She was just too progressive and strong-willed in 1982. If “The Dreaming” had been released ten years earlier on EMI’s Harvest label, home to her influences Pink Floyd and Roy Harper, among others, I suspect it would have fared much better and original-press copies of the LP would no doubt be going for £100 on eBay.

In my view, “The Dreaming” continues on from the path set in Kate’s third LP, “Never For Ever”, released in 1980. She yearned to move on from the ‘girl with the piano’ image and exploit the possibilities of more rhythm and technology in her music. “The Dreaming” just gets more overtly psychedelic (albeit a kind of dark, claustrophobic psychedelia) and multi-faceted. As the article points out, between Kate’s record, Siouxsie & The Banshees’ A Kiss In The Dreamhouse and Danielle Dax‘s Pop Eyes and The Jesus Egg That Wept, formed an almost alternate dark psychedelic early 1980s, at least in the UK. It seemed a world away from the pomp and frills of the New Romantic scene and the robotic glam of techno-pop like the newly souped-up Human League and Gary Numan.

After the album’s cooled reception, Kate high-tailed it out of the city and set up a home studio at her parents’ place in Kent. She was able to work at her own pace and keep recording costs down. By the time she returned in 1985 with arguably her finest record, Hounds Of Love, the musical landscape had shifted again. This time, though, possibly because the songs were more radio-friendly, the punters were more receptive. While “The Dreaming” remains her ‘difficult’ album – surely without it, “Hounds Of Love” wouldn’t be quite the masterpiece that it seems.

You can read the Quietus article here.