Until Tuesday night, the English singer Kate Bush hadn’t performed a concert in 35 years. To say that the Brits, and the world of Bush fans, were excited is an understatement. To read the pre-concert coverage, it’s as though Bush had not merely decided to perform again after so long, but that she’d been resurrected to do so.
Bush, whose rich, lovely pop music stretching back to the late 1970s has drawn legions of devotees, returned to the stage of London’s Hammersmith Apollo for the first of 22 concerts under the umbrella title “Before the Dawn,” making up for lost time with a typically grand gesture.
A day later, the world is still turning, fans are prepping for night No. 2 and the reviewers are assessing Bush’s return. How was the concert, deemed “the cultural event of the year” by the Daily Express, received? With both awe and a little bafflement.
For the former, the Guardian’s Alexis Petridis offered a perfect five-star review, writing: “For someone who’s spent the vast majority of her career shunning the stage, she’s a hugely engaging live performer, confident enough to shun the hits that made her famous in the first place: She plays nothing from her first four albums.” He called Before the Dawn “a remarkable achievement."
The Independent was equally effusive -- and wonderfully descriptive. “The long wait felt worth it,” read its review’s headline. Its appraisal, written by Andy Gill, described some of Bush’s surreality during the “The Ninth Wave” suite: “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.”
Gill concluded by calling the show “quite stunning, undoubtedly the most ambitious, and genuinely moving, piece of theatrical pop ever seen on a British stage.”
Others were more confused. Simon Gage wrote in the Express that some of the show “is daft, some of it willfully daft but that’s what makes English eccentricity so cherished.”
The BBC added more detail to the “The Ninth Wave": “What followed were surely some of the most mind-bending images ever to find their way into a rock concert -- huge billowing sheets making a seascape, a search-and-rescue helicopter buzzing over the audience and sailors in lifejackets brandishing hatchets and a chainsaw.” Writer Tim Masters added, “There was even a bizarre mini-play -- with Bush’s teenage son Bertie as one of the characters -- about cooking sausages.”
Billboard chimed in with a description of Bush’s stage demeanor, notable because of her long hiatus: “Onstage, Bush appeared to be enjoying herself hugely, displaying none of the nerves or apprehension you would expect of someone who hadn’t performed live in over three decades.
“‘Thank you so much for such a warm and positive response,’ she told the crowd after her umpteenth standing ovation of the night."
Bush’s “Before the Dawn” series of concerts continues through Oct. 1. All shows are sold out.
Follow Randall Roberts on Twitter: @liledit