1978 was still a year very much gripped by the stronghold of the emerging punk scene. With critics just about coming to terms with its weird sideswipe to the music industry, Kate Bush was yet another sui generis force that they struggled to comprehend. Rather than standing out, it would appear that she was viewed as merely a fly in the ointment.
The young starlet was bashed from pillar to post by every hack in town, with The Guardian saying she had an “odd combo of artiness and artlessness,” and dismissed her as a “middlebrow soft option”.
Shortly after, NME followed that barrage with: “[Kate Bush has] all the unpleasant aspects of David Bowie in the Mainman era…. [Bowie manager] Tony DeFries would’ve loved you seven years ago, Kate, and seven years ago maybe I would’ve too. But these days I’m past the stage of admiring people desperate to dazzle and bemuse, and I wish you were past the stage of trying those tricks yourself.”
While she was certainly a peculiar new proposition, the notions put forth that she was some sort of turncoat putting on a front of artistry seem oddly wide of the mark in retrospect, particularly given performances like this one that exhibits remarkable talent even if it isn’t to your taste. Perhaps the reason for her initial criticism was because many critics had missed the mark on punk and were ironically determined to stay ahead of the curve this time and dismiss her revived retro stylings as belonging to the past.
Only a few years earlier, Charley Walters at Rolling Stone had been caught off guard by punk. “The music is overly simplistic and rudimentary,” he correctly wrote in the same way a spade review might say that it is only good for digging. Before adding for good measure, “It’s also not very good.” With everything in wild transition, but seemingly heading towards a grittier horizon, her glossy new ways seemed to be there for burnt fingers to point at.
Although I’m sure the lashing was a hurtful experience for her, as harsh criticism always is, she made it look like water off a duck’s back and gracefully continued to forge her own soulful path in music. At this live performance recorded at Manchester Apollo back in 1979, she glowingly exhibits her soul-pop otherworldliness which Bog Boi of Outkast describes as “a presentation of excellence, like a play.”
The rap icon later added in his chat with Amoeba, “Music is supposed to evoke emotion and make people feel a certain way, whether it’s happy or sad or to make you think, so I love Kate Bush.” Aside from some pretty suspect choreography, her performance in Manchester all those years ago certainly stirs up reticent stores of emotion in the way that Big Boi suggests all good music should do.
At only around 21-years-old, her confidence is dazzling and her assuredness in something so original is a refreshing thing to witness. Over the course of the two-hour performance, she twists her way through tracks from The Kick Inside and the follow-up to her debut, Lionheart, culminating a searing version of ‘Wuthering Heights’.
The performance begins at around the three-and-a-half-minute mark.