Kate Bush And The Art Of A Comeback

DIY explains why Kate Bush’s first shows in thirty-five years probably won’t be backed by festival slots and extra baggage.

Comebacks aren’t usually reserved for one-off occasions. They tend to expand, pick up a head of steam. Neutral Milk Hotel started off by announcing one show - now they’re touring the world for a year. Prince hitched up to North London on a supposed whim but after that it was easy to lose track of the number of gigs he was playing.

With Kate Bush announcing this morning intentions to play her first shows in thirty-five years, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the buck stopping at Hammersmith Apollo. She’s an exceptional case.

The central location of her last tour (“Tour of Life”), Hammersmith is a mainstay for a reason. There’s no doubting that Kate could, given the demand, sell out the O2 in a second. Or headline Glastonbury. Or stay at the Hammersmith for a whole bloody decade. This comeback, however, could be one that finishes as soon as it starts.

1979’s now-famed tour is one defined by a couple of things: The sheer audaciousness of it, the fact that it could hardly be topped without years of work. There’s that, plus Kate’s famed nervousness. Big occasions coupled with flights were too much for an artist that was only twenty at the time. It’s not beyond Bush to change her mind, but the Hammersmith residency suggests she’s keen to re-live the ‘Tour of Life’ but on a bigger albeit more central scale.

Perfectionism was at the core of the last show. At the time it was revolutionary, an example of planning and perfect execution for live performance that’s barely been matched ever since. Talking Heads remain standard-bearers for big, conceptualised shows. Every tour would be the direct opposite to the last. David Byrne is a great believer in flicking a switch and creating a spectacle. Few festival headliners in the present day bow down to such a motto. Muse bring satellites on stage. Beyonce claims a pop crown in the most spectacular fashion possible. Lady Gaga invites vomit, 3D lasers, mind-boggling lunacy. And on a lesser scale, the likes of St. Vincent and Future Islands are picking up praise for inventing personas on stage.

But Kate Bush turned up in a three-dimensional egg, all those years back. It could be rolled on and off stage. It had meaning, too - linking to the female womb, the beginning of life itself - but the ambitiousness of it all was another thing altogether. Months of planning, rehearsing went into shows that were anything but conventional ‘turn up and play’ affairs. Some songs relied on a backing track (a complete novelty at the time), and more emphasis was placed on dance, poetry and theatre than run-of-the-mill tours.

The point being: Hammersmith won’t be displaying something non-conceptualised or minus extreme attention to detail. This is going to be a spectacle designed for the venue, meaning it can’t be transferred willy nilly to a Pyramid stage or the back of a tour bus. There’s every chance - given Bush’s history - that she’s going to do exactly the same as last time: Reinvigorate and remodel the format of a live show, play those fifteen dates and then bugger off again, retreating back to the studio where she expresses herself best (albeit not that often). Otherwise the actual magic of this amazing event might simmer out.

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