Kate Bush, upon arriving on the music scene in the late seventies may have had the world at her feet and all the potential in the world, but there was one thing that she was already clearly gifted with – her performance. By 1980, this had been honed to a theatrical perfection, moving what a musical act on TV could look like up several levels with every performance.
While her later performances would showcase her deep-set emotion and power of conveying her feelings and the ethos of the track, it is in her somewhat earlier performances where her vast theatrical training sees her flourish. Her work with Bowie collaborator Lindsay Kemp adding extra gravitas to every single movement. One particularly brilliant showing of this stylish showmanship is in her 1980 performance of ‘Babooshka’ from a performance in Venice, 1980.
Performing the track with dancer Gary Hurst at a song festival called Gondola d’oro, which was then aired on Italian TV in September 1980. It is a decidedly eighties video and not only features an awkward entrance for Bush and Hurst but also some deliciously brilliant backdrop. It’s a performance rooted in theatrics and true, pure and wonderful intent to perform at her highest level whenever she took the stage, no matter the scenario.
In fact, Bush took to her Fan Club to share her thought on the experience and it is just as brilliant as the video: “‘Babooshka’, again, was to be performed abroad, this time in Venice. Venice is an extremely beautiful place, and if you ever get the chance to see it, please do, it really is magical. Water is the way of everything there–even lampposts are on water. I took lots of photos, and we’ve included one of a canal. The hotel that we were staying at was beautiful, with an incredible view of the ocean out of my window.”
“For this TV show Gary [Hurst] and I had rehearsed a duet which we had made up the night before. Often this has strangely good results; maybe it is due to adrenalin. Gary had hired a suit from Moss Bros. the day before, and I’d pulled out an old dress which I used to wear when I was in the KT Bush Band and we performed in pubs. This TV show was live, and as the studio was only across the road (the other side of the hotel backed onto one of the few pieces of dry land in Venice), every performer dressed and made up at the hotel and walked to the TV studio fully equipped.”
“Our turn came, and as we hit the street we saw silver-suited spacemen; red-, blue-, green-haired people; electric guitars; pantomime horses; one yellow submarine and two dancing bears spilling in and out of the TV centre. We squeezed past the various brightly coloured suits and smiles, did our bit and squeezed past them again on the way back to the hotel. In many ways it reminded me of Noah’s Ark: two of every kind in a place on the water.”
“Just as we entered the hotel we met Peter Gabriel, plus band, who were also on the same show and were on their way out. We exchanged very English greetings on foreign land: “Break a leg, old chap!”; and Peter headed on his way to the bizarre circus. Meanwhile, we had heard that there was a TV room upstairs, so we rushed up to a mini-circus where all the artists that had already performed were sprayed around the floor, glued to the television, expressing kind words of comradeship in the relevant language to whomever was on the screen at that point in time; an unusual live, friendly feeling. Peter’s performance was powerful and stood out amongst all the others, and the viewing-room certainly seemed to agree.”
Watch below as Kate Bush performs ‘Babooshka’ in Venice, 1980